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MSNBC Interview - Transcript


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MR. HARWOOD: Well, let's bring in now Congressman Eric Cantor, a Republican from Virginia who's supporting John McCain.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

REP. CANTOR: John, it's good to be with you.

MR. HARWOOD: Let me ask you, first of all, about John McCain and the broad issue that Barack Obama has used to try to frame the election choice on the economy and foreign policy for that matter, and that is that John McCain would be a third term of President George W. Bush. And you look at tax cuts, you look at health care, you look at the Iraq war, what's wrong with that formulation?

REP. CANTOR: You know, that's just grasping at straws. I think it's fighting an old battle. And I think where you see John McCain leading is in the fact that he's been a maverick in Washington ever since he came here. He is about working for solutions for working families and to, frankly, get Washington working for the people again.

That's what's the frustration right now among the voting public, is they don't see Washington doing anything for them. That's why we see today John McCain's announcement in calling for an end to the federal moratorium on drilling in the deep ocean waters so that we can begin to see energy exploration take place and, frankly, bring prices down at the pump.

MR. HARWOOD: Now, Congressman, we've also seen in the last 24 hours Charlie Crist, the governor of Florida, say that he could also do without that federal moratorium. Are we starting to see a shift among Republicans, even previously those opposed to offshore drilling, because of the gas prices? Is that what's happening here? Or is it just Charlie Crist wanting to become John McCain's running mate?

REP. CANTOR: (Laughs.) I think what you're seeing is a sort of realization on the part of the American public that we need to drill here, we need to drill now in order to pay less at the pump. And there's nothing more complicated than that. John McCain has come up with a solution for the problem facing American people.

When you're paying over $4.07 a gallon on average across this country, that is impacting the lives of the working families. John McCain has provided an answer to the working families so they can get through the summer driving season. We can send a signal to the global markets that we're serious in this country, and that we aren't going to be the only oil-producing country that puts off-limits such a significant portion of our energy resources.

MS. HALL: Obviously, Congressman, the economy is the big subject, but a lot of Democrats are hammering your presumptive nominee over a decision to keep money from a fundraiser. Clayton Williams out of Texas, he made controversial comments back in 1990. We have Mr. Williams' comments at the time. He said, "as long as it is inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it" -- he was referring to a woman being raped.

So the campaign says they're keeping this $300,000 he raised for McCain. In your opinion, should he return that money to put this issue to rest?

REP. CANTOR: No, look, you know, no one endorses such outrageous remarks. John McCain certainly rejects those remarks.

And this is just another distraction. You know, the American people right now are facing over $4 a gallon at the pump. That's the issue.

MS. HALL: But if it's a distraction, why not put it to rest by giving back this money? I know that the campaign is courting female voters out there. He's not doing well according to some of the new numbers out there: Barack Obama 52 percent to his 33 percent with some women voters. Why not just make this good-faith effort in getting some of these women voters?

REP. CANTOR: Again, it's not even credible. I mean, that's what -- that allegation's not even credible, that somehow John McCain endorses those comments. Everyone flat-out rejects such ridiculous, outrageous remarks.

MS. HALL: Right.

REP. CANTOR: I mean, what we've got to remember here is this election is about the future. This election is about trying to make sure that we get our federal government working for the American people again. People are sick and tired of the inaction in Washington. John McCain represents that brand of change. He represents the maverick approach to standing up for the working families across America. I think that's what's sending the tremors through the Obama camp right now, that John McCain is on the offense.

MR. HARWOOD: Congressman, thanks for joining us, and good luck this fall.

REP. CANTOR: Thank you, John and Tamron.

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