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Location: Washington, DC

MSNBC Interview With Rep. Eric Cantor - Guantanamo Detainee Transfers And Economic Indicator Rubric

Interviewer: Norah O'Donnell

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MS. O'DONNELL: And one of the first out of the gate to slam the president, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor. He's accusing the president of moving the goalpost on the stimulus.

With me now is the Republican Congressman Eric Cantor, the House Minority Whip.

Congressman, good to see you. Thanks so much for joining us.

REP. CANTOR: Good to be with you, Norah.

MS. O'DONNELL: What do you mean, moving the goalposts?

REP. CANTOR: Well, I mean, listen, we heard cries of urgency back in January when the administration brought their stimulus proposal to Capitol Hill. And we were told that unemployment would not exceed 8 percent if we passed a stimulus bill. We were told that we would see the creation of an additional 3 million jobs.

Well, now, what we're seeing, obviously, is over 9 percent unemployment in this country, and we are seeing a massive erosion of jobs. I mean, we've lost over 2 million jobs since the beginning of the year. The American people --

MS. O'DONNELL: But it -- it slowed in this past report, didn't it, Congressman?

REP. CANTOR: Well, listen, the American people understand that we -- this is not a success story. And that's what I'm having trouble piecing together, Norah, is, how can we sit here and claim success when people are hurting out there? We already know, as of now, at the rate that we lost jobs last month, over eight people a minute in America are losing their jobs. That's eight families without a paycheck.

MS. O'DONNELL: Congressman, I think you're making a great point. But the Obama administration is not claiming success just yet, and I think that's important to point out. I mean, the president just yesterday said this country is in a very deep recession. I think that's why they had this announcement that they are going to try and speed up getting more of those stimulus dollars out there because they haven't been getting out there. And as you mentioned, the unemployment now over 9 percent.

REP. CANTOR: I think the point --

MS. O'DONNELL: So let me challenge you. How can you claim that it's already been a failure?

REP. CANTOR: I think the point is, Norah, that we were told that we could expect results. And now, with the results that we've got, we are told that we should be expecting different results.

And at the end of the day, we went in -- Minority Leader John Boehner and I went in to see the president in January, and said, "Republicans have got a better way. We believe our plan can create twice as many jobs at half the cost." And we did that, and our plan does that by focusing on the job creators, which are the small- business people and working families of this country.

We are not, I think, very supportive of a continued increase in government spending. And that's exactly what the president announced yesterday, is that somehow, magically if we just continue to prime the pump of taxpayer dollars, we're going to see magically an economic recovery. We know what -- we know what a recovery means, and that is growth in jobs. And that means the private sector needs to grow.

MS. O'DONNELL: Congressman, I think that's -- those are all important points to make.

Let me also ask you about this first Guantanamo Bay detainee that is now in the United States ready to face trial. I know you've spoken out about this. You're not happy about it, are you?

REP. CANTOR: Well, you know, Norah, it's just counterintuitive. Why in the world would somebody be so focused on the rights of a terrorist instead of keeping Americans safe? There are so many unanswered questions about bringing these detainees onto U.S. soil. We have no judicial precedents for the conviction of someone like this. It is just wrong for us to be bringing these detainees here given the current situation and the unanswered question. We ought to be putting the safety of American citizens first.

MS. O'DONNELL: All right. Congressman Eric Cantor, good to talk to you, as always.

REP. CANTOR: Thank you.

MS. O'DONNELL: Thanks so much for joining us.

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