Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that President Barack Obama can’t take credit for the state’s 5.6 percent jobless rate, though he deserves blame for the national rate of 8.2 percent.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. He joins us now from Richmond.
Governor, thank you for being with us. I want to talk about your state. There may be no more purple state in America than Virginia as we approach this year’s elections. The jobless rate in your state has dropped from 7.3 percent a couple years ago to 5.7 percent today. That’s good news for Barack Obama, isn’t it?
BOB MCDONNELL: Well, it’s 5.6 percent today, but I would say that as long as the unemployment rate nationally remains over 8.2 percent, which it has for 38 months, the entire presidency, that’s not good news.
I think there are some reasons why Virginia is doing better. It’s a bipartisan effort, I think, largely because of our state policies and our great free-enterprise leaders here in Virginia. So I guess the voters will have to decide who gets the credit, but I can certainly point to some things we’ve done that have helped in that area.
And we’re just positive about business. I think in Washington, D.C., a lot of people are talking down about business.
HUNT: But he gets - the president gets the blame in states where it’s high, but he doesn’t get the credit in states where it’s low?
MCDONNELL: Well, I think as long as you can point to a reason that there’s a national policy that has led to that decline in the unemployment rate, then I think it’s - it’s fair. But, no, overall, with the unemployment going down, I’m all for it. It’s good for America. But I just think 8.2 percent nationally, Al, is just unacceptable.
HUNT: Let me ask you this. Most of Governor Romney’s top economic advisers and his policies are strikingly similar to George W. Bush’s: cut taxes, change entitlements, cut spending. Would we be better off with Bush 43 economic policies than Obama economic policies?
MCDONNELL: We’d be better off with somebody who actually knows how to create jobs and who will actually take decisive action to get us out of debt. We’re in the worst fiscal shape this country has ever been in, $16 trillion in debt and a chronic unemployment rate. We’re recovering slower than Europe and other - other Western countries because I think our policies for jobs and energy are just anemic with this White House.
HUNT: Is that a yes or would we be better off under -
MCDONNELL: I would say Romney’s got his own policies and vision.
HUNT: - or would we be better off with Bush 43 policies?
MCDONNELL: Well, I - I would - I would say it’s Romney policies that are going to make a difference, because he believes that the way you stimulate job creation is you get the - you get things out of the way like high taxes, high regulation, more litigation, and more unionization.
HUNT: All right, Governor, let me ask you about Hispanics. They’re 4 percent or 5 percent of the vote in Virginia. You courted them in the last election, but your party has a real problem nationally. Should Republicans support proposals by Senator Marco Rubio to give non-immigrants visas to those who are qualified to stay or work or study in the United States?
MCDONNELL: I haven’t looked at the senator’s proposal. I think we ought to do a couple things. One, realize and welcome more lawful immigration to America. We’ve had these artificial federal caps that don’t make any - any sense, and we’re training a lot of great, bright people from other countries, and then they go back home, because they can’t stay here. We should fix that guest-worker visa problem.
Secondly, we should have good law enforcement in the country so people who commit crimes who are illegal go back to their country.
But, thirdly, as long as we have a vibrant economy here, we’re going to make this a good, welcoming country for people from other - other - other countries. Right now, we can’t do that.
HUNT: You are a military veteran. Military service has been very important to your family. Should those undocumented Latinos who are risking his or her life in Afghanistan, should they have a pathway to citizenship when they come back?
MCDONNELL: Well, here’s what I can tell you. Lawful immigration is what we should embrace more of, 70 million, 80 million. With regard to people that are illegal and that break the law and come here, I think that’s - the challenge is, Al, is what you - you - you get more of whatever you subsidize. And if we find ways to basically have a - a policy of amnesty on an ongoing basis, I don’t think we’ll ever solve our immigration problems. We tried that in 1986, and it didn’t work, so -
HUNT: Will you give that Afghan veteran a pathway to citizenship?
MCDONNELL: Well, you’re - you’re getting into what we call in law school hard cases make bad law. You know, of course people that have fought for our country should get some - some special consideration. I think that’s probably absolutely correct.
HUNT: And that’s a pathway to citizenship?
MCDONNELL: But - well, what I don’t think we should do is to say, if you come here for some period of time and just because you haven’t gotten caught that we should automatically allow you to become a citizen. There’s a broader problem, and the broader problem, Al, is no good border security.
HUNT: Governor, the reason I’m asking this, because as you know, your party does have a problem. NBC-Wall Street Journal poll out on Friday shows Governor Romney losing Latino vote by 69 to 22, much worse than John McCain. Now, that’s more than a public relations problem.
MCDONNELL: Yeah, but, Al, that - but I don’t think it’s because of immigration policies. I mean, we’re - I think we embrace comprehensive immigration reform, starting with border security.
I tell you what Hispanics in Virginia tell me they want. They want access to the American dream. That’s why they come here to Virginia and to America, so they want more opportunities to start small business, better schools -
HUNT: So why are they so down on Mitt Romney then?
MCDONNELL: Well, because the general election really hasn’t started yet. They don’t really know what Mitt Romney’s policies are. We’ve - Mitt Romney’s only been the - for - the putative candidate now for - our nominee for a couple of weeks.
I think that’s going to tighten up dramatically, because Hispanics in Virginia primarily are Catholic, so they’re pro- family, they’re pro-life. They’re hard-working. They want opportunities in small business. That’s Mitt Romney’s message. I think the more they hear from him, the better Mitt Romney does.
HUNT: All right. Let me ask you another subject. You signed a bill that would require all women considering abortion in Virginia to undergo an abdominal ultrasound, but not the more invasive transvaginal ultrasound. Now, some anti-abortion advocates say you got squishy, you got cold feet, and you reversed your position and didn’t sign that original tough bill.
MCDONNELL: Well, not at all. I’ve been a pro-life legislator and governor for 20 years now. I think the more we embrace the culture of life and respect life, the better that we do.
The bill that we amended this year was actually my original bill 12 years ago, to put a good informed consent bill in for abortion. And all I did was to say, look, we ought to join 23 other states that have a ultrasound law, some form of it, so that a woman gets all the medical and clinical and legal information she needs before she makes perhaps the most important decision of her life.
So I think it was the right balance. We signed the bill into law and joined 23 states that have some form of ultrasound law now.
HUNT: Well, let me turn it around then. If the TSA pat- downs are too invasive, why should the government - the government mandate an abdominal ultrasound that the state might not even pay for? Shouldn’t that be a private choice for a woman and her doctor?
MCDONNELL: Well, the truth is that, in almost all the cases already, these ultrasounds are already required for medical reasons to determine gestational age and to determine health issues. So that really wasn’t the important part of the bill.
The important part, really, is to be able to show the woman the ultrasound, along with all the other medical information. That’s what’s not being done. And that’s what can actually provide the information for fully effective, informed consent.
HUNT: Suppose she and doctor don’t think that’s necessary. You would still mandate it, though, right?
MCDONNELL: Well, again, it’s in a - it’s in a fairly small minority of cases where it’s not being performed. But this is the policy that the legislature set. I thought it was the right policy. But it was one bill out of 860, Al. Most of what we focused on was jobs and schools and roads -
HUNT: OK, fair point.
MCDONNELL: - and energy, the kitchen-table issues that men and women in Virginia care about.
HUNT: Governor - Governor McDonnell, thank you so much for being with us today. Hope to visit with you again soon.
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