Eric Cantor, the House minority whip from Virginia, went on The Daily Show two nights ago to plug his new book with Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, Young Guns. During his interview with host Jon Stewart, Cantor repeatedly acknowledged that Congressional Republicans had erred during the Bush years and argued that they were contrite, and newly committed to limited government. Stewart, who is fairly far along the other side of the political spectrum, pounced on Cantor for claiming that he would shrink the government, noting that Cantor’s record includes votes for Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, and a number of other big-government programs.
Stewart, who spoke more than Cantor during the interview, went on to argue that the Republicans would only expand government more once they regained office, and criticized Cantor’s appeals to limited government and personal freedom as mere campaign rhetoric.
Cantor defended himself fairly well, considering that he was on Stewart’s home turf and trying to match Stewart’s lightning-fast wit. But ultimately he was constrained by his unwillingness to mention any of the serious reforms that the Republicans would be in position to enact if they retook power in Congress. As the No. 2 Republican in the House, Cantor is prominent enough that he doesn’t want to do anything to hurt the party’s electoral chances, especially by alienating constituencies that would feel threatened by the prospect of specific spending cuts.
But if it had been Paul Ryan or another Republican already committed to spelling out the hard choices involved in cutting government spending, he would have had no trouble fielding Stewart’s questions.
Parts two and three are below the fold: