DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel was scheduled to debate RCCC Chairman Thomas Reynolds on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos. Entangled in the Foley page scandal himself, Reynolds ducked the debate, sending Rep. Adam Putnam in his stead.
Emanuel gives a nearly perfect performance. He easily dispels Putnam's attempts to blames the Democrats for the scandal. In the end, Putnam's attacks appear desperate and hollow.
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Full transcript via ABC below the fold
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, everyone. The Foley page scandal
dominated the Capitol and congressional campaigns across the country
this week. And a Newsweek poll out this morning shows that a majority
of Americans now believe that the speaker of the House tried to cover
it up. Here to debate that question and the rest of the fallout of
the chairman of the Democratic congressional Campaign Committee, Rahm
Emanuel, and the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee,
Adam Putnam. Welcome to both of you.
And let me tell our audience that Mr. Putnam is a substitute this
morning. Congressman Tom Reynolds, the chairman of the Republican
Campaign Committee, had agreed to be here weeks ago, but yesterday he
asked Mr. Putnam to take his place. And Mr. Putnam, that has to be
because he finds himself in quite a race because of his involvement in
this issue. In fact, yesterday he became the first Republican to
actually put an ad up on this issue, and I want to show our audience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. REP. TOM REYNOLDS, (R-NY): This spring, I was told about
odd but not explicit e-mails between Mark Foley and a page. I never
saw a single e-mail, not one. Even so, I reported what I had been
told to the Speaker of the House. I trusted that others had
investigated. Looking back, more should have been done, and for that,
I am sorry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's a pretty astonishing ad. You have the
number four person in the House leadership -- you're the number five
person -- putting the blame squarely on the Speaker's office. Do you
believe the Speaker should have done more? Did he handle this
PUTNAM: You know, looking back at what was known at the time
that they acted, three institutions had the information. The House of
Representatives had that odd, overly friendly e-mail. The Miami
Herald and the St. Petersburg Times had that same e-mail. They
decided they couldn't run with it.
They decided it was innocuous, overly friendly but not
newsworthy, and the FBI had that same e-mail. They decided there
wasn't enough to investigate. The only people who acted were the
House of Representatives.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Except let me interrupt there because a lot of
evidence has come out this week that there were a lot of warnings
before that. Kirk Fordham, who was formerly Mr. Foley's chief of
staff, also Mr. Reynolds' chief of staff, says he told the speaker's
office about Foley's problems as early as 2002, 2003. That's been
corroborated by another congressional aide.
In this morning's Newsweek magazine, one of your Florida
colleagues, Congresswoman Ginny Brown-Waite says that she learned of
an incident back in 2002 or 2003 where Foley apparently went to the
page dorm at about 10 o'clock at night. And according to Newsweek,
one of her staff aides said that Brown-Waite had talked to a House
official with direct knowledge of what had happened. So there were a
lot of indications that the speaker's office did know something about
Foley's activities before that so-called innocuous e-mail in 2005.
PUTNAM: The important thing is these revelations are coming out
now. Since ABC News broke the story about the overfriendly e-mail,
that's when the explicit e-mails have come forward. That's when other
pages have come forward. We need to move ahead with that full,
thorough investigation of members, staff using the ethics committee,
using the FBI.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So as far as...
PUTNAM: And if the minority leader will relent, using Louis
Freeh to investigate the page board.
STEPHANOPOULOS: As far as you're concerned, the speaker's office
handled this correctly.
PUTNAM: Based on the information we have today, the speaker's
office acted proactively, they acted aggressively, and within hours,
within hours of the explicit e-mails coming to light, they demanded
Foley's resignation. Contrast that to previous scandals.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you agree?
EMANUEL: George, here's what we know right now, and no, I don't
agree. What we know now, as you just said, is as far back as 2002,
2003, there were warning signs, and there were multiple conversations.
EMANUEL: And what happened since that time? Mark Foley runs for
Congress in 2004 even while they know there was problems.
2005, gets appointed to head the Missing and Abused Children
Caucus for the Congress.
When he wants to retire, they ask him to run for reelection in
2006, even knowing, clearly, that there's something amiss and wrong
And the whole -- the whole point here, let's just take one
analogy. If a high school teacher was found doing this with a child,
and the principal knew and not only said to the teacher, we're going
to renew your contract, the community and parents would have that
principal and teacher out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: All week long, there have been suggestions by --
on talk radio and by Republicans and their allies that this was
perhaps a Democratic dirty trick. And I just want to ask you plainly,
did you or your staff know anything about these e-mails or instant
messages before they came out?
EMANUEL: George, never saw them. And I'm going to say one
thing, let's go through the facts right here...
PUTNAM: Were you aware of them? Didn't have to see them...
EMANUEL: Never saw them. Let me go right through the facts.
One, Brian Ross, who broke the story on your network, said it came
from a Republican source. Very unusual to do that.
Fact two, The Hill paper said it came from a Republican source.
All the Republicans and staff people are coming forward are
Republicans. Mark Foley, who wrote the e-mails originally, at the
bottom of this whole problem, Republican. The leadership of the
Congress, from Tom Reynolds to John Boehner to Speaker Hastert, who
can't come on this show....
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you are not aware of any involvement.
EMANUEL: Never saw them. No involvement. And she said not
anything, George, and the fact is this is...
PUTNAM: Was there awareness?
EMANUEL: Never saw them. The first time I ever saw these
things, right here when Brian Ross broke this show and when the Post
had the story.
What you guys want to do is take your dirty laundry and throw it
over the fence and try to blame other people for the problems.
PUTNAM: The dirty laundry in our conference is gone. His
resignation was demanded within hours. Contrast that to previous
scandals, where, frankly, two people at this table have had to cover
for their former boss' sexual misdeeds while in office, and did not
demand his resignation. We need a thorough investigation.
EMANUEL: We're going to get...
PUTNAM: Into everything and every aspect about this sordid,
sordid affair. But Mark Foley, Mark Foley, the person who was preying
on minors, is gone. He's no longer a part of the House...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me address the double standard. First of
all, let me correct you on something. I left the White House in 1996.
Number two, this issue has been brought up by other Republicans. Tom
DeLay raised it just the other day. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM DELAY, FORMER REPRESENTATIVE (R-TX): Look at what the
Democrats did when they caught Jerry Studds from Massachusetts in the
act of having sex with a page. They censured him. They didn't kick
him out. He was re-elected and they welcomed him back to the House.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Double standard?
EMANUEL: No, I'll tell you, here's the difference. And it's
very important. Immediately when the Democratic Congress leadership
found out that Congressman Studds had done what he's done, gone right
to the Ethics Committee, and he was censured, because they thought it
was important to the institution. Dating back to -- in 2002, when
they found out, 2003, when they found out, they asked him to seek
reelection. And the difference is that every time that there is a
conflict between the majority's political interests and the
institution and its integrity, they put their thumb down on the scale
as it comes down to the political authority...
PUTNAM: Jerry Studds served 12 years after the page scandal.
EMANUEL: He got reelected.
PUTNAM: Mark Foley served for about an hour and a half after the
EMANUEL: Right. And you know who is responsible for Mark
PUTNAM: And your number two leader voted not to censure Jerry
EMANUEL: And the difference here is, you want to take
responsibility for Mark Foley, you guys asked Mark Foley to seek
reelection knowing there was something wrong.
PUTNAM: We didn't know there was something wrong.
EMANUEL: It was ABC News at first...
PUTNAM: He was gone, he was gone within an hour and a half of
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's look at the broader political
implications. Newsweek poll out this morning not only talks about the
potential of a cover-up, but what Americans believe about a cover-up.
It also looks at the various issues people are concerned about going
into this election. Let's put it up on the board.
And what you see on issue after issue, from the war on terror to
the situation in Iraq, to moral values, economy, health care,
immigration, Democratic advantages.
How serious has this blow been for the Republicans, Congressman
Putnam, and what do you do about the fact that right now, Americans
trust the Democrats on just about every big issue?
PUTNAM: Well, it certainly has put members all across the
country in the position of having to answer uncomfortable questions
about tawdry deeds by a former colleague, because he was forced to
resign. But across America, with the exception of a couple of
congressional districts that are uniquely affected by this issue, a
couple in Florida because that's where Foley was from, and a couple of
others around the country, Americans are talking about Iraq, Americans
are talking about the war against terrorism, Americans are talking
about the fact that we had three record-breaking days for the Dow last
week, and unemployment is at an all-new low, and we continue to see
prosperity in the economy, gas prices are falling, people are having a
few more dollars in their pocket to go spend on other things.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not worried?
PUTNAM: So I believe that a month is an eternity in politics,
and the fundamentals for the economy, the fundamentals for prosperity
in this country, because of Republican policies, are still very sound.
EMANUEL: George, look, I agree with Adam. And I was at my kid's
soccer game. I was out swimming. They're talking about this issue,
Mark Foley, and they're talking about Iraq.
And you guys came to power in 1994. You said you were going to
change Washington. Washington changed you. You promised a balanced
budget. You've added $3 trillion to the nation's debt. You promised
to make America more secure. We've got ourselves in a quagmire in
You promised to clean up this swamp, and you've created a deeper
set of swamps around here. At every point that you promised to do
something in 1994 with your Contract with America, you're in a breach
of contract. And the fact is that this election, the American people
know full well, Adam, that they do not want to stay on the course that
you've set for this country. They want a new direction. They want a
And that's what this election is about: a change from the
endless occupation in Iraq to a change from this wageless recovery,
and most importantly, they also want...
PUTNAM: Let's talk about what that change would mean.
EMANUEL: ... they want a different Congress using a different
PUTNAM: Let's talk about what this change in (inaudible)...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Go ahead.
PUTNAM: Let's talk about what that change would mean. That
change would mean a Speaker Pelosi, whose idea about values is to
after the Boy Scouts and prevent them from camping on federal lands.
The idea of change would be a Chairman Rangel, who said he would
strangle off funds to fight the war for our troops. The change would
be a Chairman Barney Frank in charge of the Banking Committee who's
had his own scandals in the past, for which he is still a serving
EMANUEL: A change...
PUTNAM: A change would mean that the chairman of the Judiciary
Committee whose first act, as he has said, would be an impeachment
resolution against the president of the United States. All of those
things are what change in this country would mean.
EMANUEL: Six years...
PUTNAM: Elections are about choices, and choices have
consequences. And those are the consequences of this election.
EMANUEL: It's amazing. Six years of a Republican majority in
the White House, the House and the Senate, and all you've got is fear.
The fact is, there will be a change. We'd have a middle-class tax
cut. We'd have an increase in the minimum wage. Let me just go
through it. I gave you...
PUTNAM: I'm letting you go. Go ahead.
EMANUEL: Appreciate it...
PUTNAM: ... percent of you voted against the tax cut.
EMANUEL: You guys left town with raising taxes on the middle
class as it relates to college education and the per-child...
PUTNAM: That's not true.
EMANUEL: (inaudible) according to President Bush, that would be
a tax increase. You did. Second is you'd have an increase in the
minimum wage. Third...
PUTNAM: You voted against that.
EMANUEL: No, I voted for it, and I've been a big advocate for
it, Adam. Third is you have direct negotiations for lower
prescription prices. Fourth, we take the $12 1/2 billion you guys
gave big oil, and we put it towards alternative energy sources. And
most importantly, we would have a change in tone in Congress. We
would say respect differences, welcome bipartisanship, and have a
different tone that says we need a new direction in Iraq, we need a
new direction in our economy, and most importantly, we need a new
direction in the way Congress does business.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Mr. Putnam, you get 30 seconds to answer. I
want to ask you then a final question each. Go ahead.
PUTNAM: The bottom line is that in the last 12 years, welfare
rolls have been cut 60 percent. The budget deficit in this country
has fallen by $109 billion since January alone because of our fiscal
policies. Ninety-seven percent of the Democrats voted against the
2003 tax cuts that have unleashed the economic power of this country
by reducing capital gains and dividends taxes, reducing the taxes on
the middle class, trying to end the death tax.
It was the Republican majority that tried to move the minimum
wage. It was blocked by the minority.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. No more message, just a prediction. How
many seats do the Democrats pick up, if any, in November?
PUTNAM: Not enough to take the majority.
EMANUEL: This is going to be an election about change, new
STEPHANOPOULOS: Give me a prediction.
EMANUEL: I'm not going to give you a prediction, because I'm in
the business of affecting races, not predicting them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK. We'll see you both after the election.
Thank you both for this lively debate.