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Friday, October 11, 2013

Gov. McDonnell On Shutdown: Bad Choices And Failure Of Leadership To Blame

Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of Virginia. (

Bob McDonnell, the Republican governor of Virginia. (

A Republican plan to temporarily raise the debt ceiling didn’t pass muster at the White House last night, but both the President and Republican House leaders have agreed to keep talking.

Some Republican governors are also unhappy with how their party is handling the budget standoff.

The Republican Governors Association website features a video showcasing a handful of governors, including Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and John Kasich of Ohio, who aim to set themselves apart from the government impasse.

Virginia’s Republican Governor, Bob McDonnell, is also distancing himself from what he calls “the dysfunction of Washington.”

He joins Here & Now‘s Meghna Chakrabarti to share his thoughts on the government shutdown.




Well, given those low poll numbers, some Republican governors have tried to distance themselves from how their party is handling the federal budget standoff. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote a strongly worded op-ed in the Washington Post condemning what he calls the debacle on the Potomac.

Gov. McDonnell joins us on the line. And Governor, you've criticized the shutdown and the way the government, or governing I should say, is going on in general, saying it's not rational. So what would you do to inject rationality back into Washington?

GOV. BOB MCDONNELL: Well, it's probably even stronger than that. I said our country is broke. We're $17 trillion in debt and heading the wrong way, over a trillion dollars in new deficit spending in the last five years, and our political process is broken.

And I say, you know, it starts at the top. The president's refused to have a budget passed and can't get a budget through the U.S. Senate even when his party was in charge, and he won't have any serious discussion about entitlement reform and spending cuts, and so there's no way we're going to get our fiscal house in order until you do that.

At the same time, Republicans were very unrealistic in thinking that they were ever going to have the U.S. Senate or the president agree to defund Obamacare, which is the top achievement of the president. I don't agree with the policy, but that's - it is certainly an achievement for him, and that was never going to happen. So there's blame to go around, but it starts with the president leading.

CHAKRABARTI: It starts with the president leading, you say, but what about, you know, the now 70 percent of Americans, according to this NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll that just came out that find that Republicans are putting politics ahead of what's best for the country?

MCDONNELL: Well, I say some of that is press-driven. I mean, it's just - that's not rational, and it's just - that's the problem with Washington. Everybody wants to blame one side. (Unintelligible)...

CHAKRABARTI: Wait, just Governor, if I may, can I - I just want to be sure I understand what you're saying. You're saying that this poll finding 70 percent of Americans, basically you're saying that those 70 percent are not rational?

MCDONNELL: No, what I'm saying is that the press started, I think a month ago, just lining it up as though this is all Republicans' fault. But Meghna, think about it. You know, the president controls the executive branch, and his party controls half of the legislative branch, and somehow it's all the Republicans' fault. That doesn't make sense.

I said the Republicans, my party, to think that they were going to be successful in defunding Obamacare was just not realistic, wasn't going to happen, and of course that was leading to a government shutdown. But I'm saying the president, having no budget for the United States of America and refusing to have any serious discussion on entitlement reform, it's clearly unrealistic on his part that the United States of America is going to have trillion-dollar-plus budget deficits every year, and somehow that's the right course for the country. That's bad leadership.

CHAKRABARTI: I wonder what you would advise your Republican colleagues, then, in Washington to do now because they are of your party. I mean, I hear your criticism of the president, but what would you advise, you know, House Speaker Boehner to be doing?

MCDONNELL: Well, I've got my hands full in Virginia. So I don't - what I would say is they've got to stand up for fiscal responsibility. I think that is critically important. But you can't shut government down, and you have to pay your bills. But at the same time they've got to continue to keep the pressure on the president to get a budget. You know, no budget for nearly five years, unacceptable.

CHAKRABARTI: Bob McDonnell is the governor of the state of Virginia. Gov. McDonnell, thank you so much for joining us today.

MCDONNELL: Well, very nice to be on. It's a critically important topic for our country, and hopefully a reasonable statesman will rise up, and we'll have something done, and we'll get the government back to work.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, you heard Virginia Gov. McDonnell's prescription there, but I'm wondering how you would inject rationality back into Washington, if you do indeed think we've reached a state of irrationality in how we govern in the United States of America. Let us know at

Still to come, an investigator with Human Rights Watch documents what could amount to war crimes by the Syrian opposition. That's coming up a little later in the show. News is next, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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