Menendez, Cornyn Spar Over What Republican Priorities Will Be If They Win Tuesday's Election

On This Week with Christiane Amanpour, senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Robert Menedez (D-NJ) spar over this week's election and what it will mean for America. Of course, Amanpour brings up what's on the minds of all the Very Serious People -

On This Week with Christiane Amanpour, senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Robert Menedez (D-NJ) spar over this week's election and what it will mean for America. Of course, Amanpour brings up what's on the minds of all the Very Serious People - deficit reduction! She wants to know how you can "move the economy forward" without cutting the deficit -- even though we have several prominent Nobel Prize winning economists loudly proclaiming that it will deepen and lengthen the recession. Dear God, do these TV talking heads even bother to read?

Yes, worrying over the deficit is what's driving every unemployed person I know to the polls this week!

AMANPOUR: Do you think, looking at the polls, looking at what we've just seen, do you think this is as bad as 1994?

MENENDEZ: No, this is not 1994. No. 1, in 1994, the Republican brand, its image was much better than it is today. In every poll, Democrats as a brand fare much better. And, secondly, in 1994, it was a surge at the end. We've known that this midterm election is going to be challenging, and so our candidates for the U.S. Senate have been ready for this and have been creating the contrast in each election between their Republican opponent, who wants to bring us back to the economic policies that brought us into this mess in the first place, and their own policies that are working to get us out of it.

AMANPOUR: Senator Cornyn said they don't think they will get it this cycle. But you're saying that you're blaming the economy on President Obama's predecessor, but clearly the voters are not saying that. They are taking this economy very -- to heart and very badly.

MENENDEZ: Christiane, we understand that people are hurting in this country. But our goal is to have them understand and channel their anger on election day against the Republican Party that brought us to the verge of economic collapse in November of 2008, when financial institutions in this country were ready to collapse.

AMANPOUR: So why hasn't the message got out better, then, for instance on precisely this issue? A recent Bloomberg poll found that most Americans think that taxes have gone up since President Obama took office; that the economy has shrunk; that TARP, the corporate bailout, won't be mostly paid back. I mean, all of those are untrue. Why is the messaging so bad?

MENENDEZ: It's true that all of those are untrue, and I think the challenge is, when you're hurting economically -- and we have gone from negative job growth to positive job growth, from negative GDP growth to positive GDP growth -- but if you're still unemployed, none of that news makes that much difference to you. And that's the challenge in this election.

Our hope and our message and the contrast is you want to give the power back to the people who got us in this mess or do you want to continue to move progress forward?

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you, Senator, because so many of the people we talked to say that they really want to see cooperation, bipartisanship, less of the poison, and solutions. And yet your leader, the Republican leader of the Senate, has said that if you win in November, "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." The Republican leader in the House, John Boehner, said this is not the time for compromise.

That doesn't sound like putting partisanship aside and working for the people. Is that the sum total of the policy?

CORNYN: Well, President Obama himself said Republicans have come along for the ride, but they have to sit in the back of the bus. But really what we need to be focusing on are jobs, spending and debt. That's what's created this coalition of support, disaffected Democrats, independents and Republicans that are going to sweep many Republicans into office on November 2nd.

AMANPOUR: I'll get to that specifically in a moment, but the fact that leaders of the party say that, that certainly sets the tone, doesn't it? It doesn't sound like moving forward. It sounds like another recipe for gridlock.

CORNYN: Well, I don't think gridlock is going to be acceptable when it comes to runaway spending and unsustainable debt and 9.6 percent unemployment. I agree with Bob that that's why people are reacting the way they are. I don't agree with him about accountability. The administration and Democrats, who have been in charge now in the House and Senate for four years and in the White House for two years, don't want to seem to accept any responsibility. I think that's what this election is about, is assigning responsibility, and giving Republicans a chance now to deal with the matters that concern them most.

AMANPOUR: Do you have any hope of bipartisanship? Certainly President Obama has been talking about it. Is there any hope of that coming up?

MENENDEZ: Well, I certainly hope so. You know, we--

AMANPOUR: Or is it a daydream?

MENENDEZ: We reached out to Republicans from the very beginning. It's not about being at the back of the bus. But when President Obama came to Capitol Hill when we were trying to get this economy moving on the Recovery Act, before he got to the Capitol, Republican leaders were saying dead on arrival, before he even got to engage them.

So I thought the No. 1 job that we had was not to make Barack Obama a one-term president. I thought it was about creating jobs and growing the economy.

AMANPOUR: So the Democrats, it seems, the people are saying, simply have not succeeded in removing people's suspicions about what exactly is health care, what exactly is the stimulus, all of those policies that they still are not quite sure about. The Republicans, on the other hand, have basically said no and moved on. But this has been a very specific-free, substance-free, content-free election. For instance, you talk about moving the economy. But there are no concrete proposals on, for instance, how to slash the deficit.

You look at Britain. They have, whether you like it or not, or agree with it or not, put out a really severe austerity program, chapter and verse, dollars and cents. None of that has happened here.

CORNYN: Well, there will be on December the 1st a bipartisan debt commission report that I know that we're waiting to see what they come up with. But there will be very specific proposals dealing with debt and spending and to try to get the American job engine -- get the people back to work again. Those are the three issues that concern folks the most.

And I submit that even if we have a good election, which I think we will on November 2nd, that unless we address those three issues, then we're going to have another election in two years where people will throw out those of us who haven't been part of the solution but who have been part of the problem.

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