The top House Republican said Tuesday that the liberal bills being pushed by President Obama and congressional Democrats make him “want to throw up” and that Mr. Obama’s first 100 days in office have shown he has “no plan for keeping America safe.”
Minority Leader John A. Boehner of Ohio said in an interview that decisions such as closing Guantanamo Bay prison and releasing classified memos on CIA interrogation techniques reflect a dangerous, “piecemeal approach” to national security.
“I’m just looking at some of these tactical moves that they’ve made, and I don’t see how they fit into a larger picture,” he said in an interview with editors and reporters at The Washington Times. “They have no plan for taking on the terrorists, and they have no plan for keeping America safe. What is the overarching strategy here?”
He attacked Democratic initiatives such as a “hate crimes” bill being considered this week in the House, which would boost the federal government’s authority to go after “bias-motivated violence.” Conservative critics say the bill amounts to a gag rule for preachers and other religious figures who do not support homosexuality.
The bill “makes me want to throw up,” Mr. Boehner said, blasting the idea of going after someone for “what we think they were thinking as opposed to what they did.”
The 10-term lawmaker criticized Mr. Obama’s bid to shut down Guantanamo before figuring out where the high-risk terrorist detainees would be placed.
“We have a fabulous facility in Cuba. It is state of the art,” he said. “I have no confidence that any detainees we send back to Yemen are going to be in prison for a very long time, and then they’re right back on the battlefield.”
Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said Sunday that the administration is “relatively close” to making a decision on what to do with the prison’s 240 inmates, who come from Azerbaijan, Algeria, Afghanistan, Chad, China, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.
Mr. Boehner also criticized Mr. Obama’s release of Bush administration Justice Department memos approving “enhanced interrogation techniques” such as waterboarding, saying it “handcuffs our intelligence professionals.” He also challenged the premise that most of the information had been reported, arguing that an official government account is categorically different than a press report.
“They should have fought this court case all the way to the end instead of rolling over for their friends in the [American Civil Liberties Union],” Mr. Boehner said of the lawsuit that prompted the disclosure.
But now that the administration has made the memos public, the White House should also release records showing how the techniques were used to obtain valuable information, to “give the American people a fair picture,” he asserted.
As several Democrats in Congress press for a “truth commission” to investigate the Bush administration’s war on terror, Mr. Boehner and Michigan Rep. Peter Hoekstra, ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, are calling on the White House to release a timeline of which lawmakers were briefed by the CIA about how the interrogations were conducted.
At least one Democrat who wants an investigation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, was briefed by the agency in 2002. Mrs. Pelosi has said she had no recourse to object to the methods and that the CIA believed they were legal.
“When they begin to realize how many of their own members were in the midst of this, I don’t think they’ll want [to air it out] in public,” Mr. Boehner said.
As for his thoughts on Mr. Obama’s first 100 days in office, Mr. Boehner said, “I think it can be summed up in three words: spending, taxing and borrowing.”
“The sheer size of their effort to move this government to the left as quickly as they can,” he said when asked whether anything has surprised him. “The left is in the midst of doing everything they’ve ever wanted to do for the last 30 years. And they want to do it all.”
Despite the Democratic majority’s easy defeat of just about every major Republican idea thus far, Mr. Boehner defended his party’s performance.
“I think our team’s doing fairly well, considering the barrage that’s coming at us,” he said.