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John Boehner on the GOP Platform, Congressional Productivity and Romney’s Speech

August 28, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Mitt Romney received 2,064 votes in the roll call, officially nominating Romney as the 2012 Republican presidential candidate. Judy Woodruff talks to House Speaker John Boehner about the relevancy of four-day national conventions in a digital age, the GOP platform and what to expect in Mitt Romney's acceptance speech.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So, Gwen, a little while ago, the man at the podium you just mentioned a minute ago, Speaker John Boehner, not long ago — a little while ago, in fact, I sat down with the speaker to talk to him about what’s happening at this convention.


JUDY WOODRUFF:  Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, thank you for coming to talk to us.

JOHN BOEHNER, Speaker of the House:  It’s good to be with you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So the convention’s already shortened from four days to three.  You’ve been saying the last few days that, you know, that in the future, four-day conventions may not make a lot of sense.  Do you think conventions are necessary at all?

JOHN BOEHNER:  Well, under the law, you have to have a nomination process to choose a candidate.  And the current law requires us to have some type of a convention.  But it doesn’t require us to have a four-day convention and the massive amounts of money that get spent putting these on.

Today, with all the technology that’s available, I do think there’s a way to shorten this process and still accomplish the goals.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You think there might come a time when they, one day?

JOHN BOEHNER:  You never know.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You never know. You also were quoted, Mr. Speaker, as saying the platform should be on one sheet of paper.

JOHN BOEHNER:  I’ve always believed that.  Back in the mid-‘90s, I was on a crusade to try to get the platform on one sheet of paper.  You put it on one sheet of paper, it requires you to make decisions, make it clear, you know, what the party stands for rather than these long documents that nobody reads.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Fifty, sixty — do you really mean that, nobody reads them?

JOHN BOEHNER:  Nobody.  Have you ever read one?

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Sure, I read them every time.

JOHN BOEHNER:  I’ve never read one.  I’ll guarantee I’m not sure if anybody’s ever read one, other than maybe the chairman of the platform committee.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mitt Romney becomes tonight the nominee of your party for president.  This is a very close race.  What does he need to say?  What does he need to do in his acceptance speech to make the sale to the American people, those people who haven’t decided yet?

JOHN BOEHNER:  I think Thursday night is Mitt Romney’s opportunity to introduce — reintroduce himself to the American people.

You know, he was introduced, if you will, during the primary process, both in ’08 and again this time.  And as a result, you’ve got opponents while you’re introducing yourself, others are tearing you apart.

And so he’s been through this now for the last year and a half.  And I think Thursday night is his opportunity to really go out and talk to the American people.  Now other than you and I and the pundit class, most Americans aren’t paying that much attention to all this.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  What is he — what is it that he needs to talk about?


JUDY WOODRUFF:  What does he need to say about himself —

JOHN BOEHNER:  Well, if I —

JUDY WOODRUFF:  — to make people — ?

JOHN BOEHNER:  — listen, he’s a humble guy.  And he’s a reserved guy.  I’ve known him for 15 years.  I mean, he’s a rock solid, good person, businessman, with a real successful track record.  But it’s hard for him to talk about himself.  But this is the moment where he has to talk about himself.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  How much does he need to reveal?  How much does he have to sort of show —

JOHN BOEHNER:  Well, I don’t know.  The viewers — the voters will figure that part of it out.  But if I were him, I’d be proud of my success.  I’d be proud of my career, creating jobs.  And take that message and then say the problem we have today as the president’s policies have failed, they’ve actually made things worse.

If we’re going to fix our economy, here are the five things that we have to do to allow Americans to get back to work again and to save the future for our kids and our grandkids.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Mr. Speaker, yesterday there was a column in “The Washington Post” by former — she’s the current senator from the state of Maine, Republican Olympia Snowe.  She and her fellow senator from Maine, Susan Collins, both quoted as saying they believe Mitt Romney must separate himself from some of the more extreme positions the Republican Party if he’s going win in November.

How do you see that?

JOHN BOEHNER:  Well, I don’t — I don’t know what these extreme positions might be that the party takes, because I frankly don’t think we take extreme positions.

You know, I’ve been a Republican now for, oh, about 30 years.  I grew up in a household full of Democrats.  And I don’t see extreme views.  Now do we have some members who are a little bit further right than others?  Yes.  But as a party as a whole, I don’t think that’s — I don’t think that’s an issue there.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Well, one of the things, both of them pointed to was the language in the platform that talks about abortion with — and doesn’t mention any exceptions in the case —


JOHN BOEHNER:  Mitt Romney, Mitt Romney, myself, others who are very pro-life, the American people today, a majority of them identify as pro-life.  But we all have exceptions for rape, incest, life of the mother.  And, frankly, almost all of my colleagues in the House have the same exception.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  There’s not just a race for — or election for president in November, Mr. Speaker.  Americans are going to be voting to pick every single — fill the seat of every single member of the House of Representatives.  You said back in April there was a one in three chance Republicans might lose their majority.  You’re sounding more confident now.

JOHN BOEHNER:  We’re doing better.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  How confident are you?

JOHN BOEHNER:  I feel confident we’ll hold our majority.  But my goal is to go out there and win every seat we can win.  I just spent 22 days in August all over the country in 38 districts.

And I can tell you, half of them were challengers and open seat candidates.  The other half were incumbents.  And we’re playing offense more so than anybody would have guessed, because I’ve always believed that the best defense is a good offense.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You were quoted yesterday as saying before the Pennsylvania delegation, the only way former Speaker Nancy Pelosi is going to get this job back is to take that gavel and pry it out of my cold stone hands.  That’s pretty strong language.

JOHN BOEHNER:  Nobody’s going to outwork me and outwork our team in terms of holding onto our majority and taking our message to the American people.  This entire election is about the economy.  The president’s policies have failed.

And I want all of my members and candidates and Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to be out there on offense about this election.  We have better ideas and we can do better for the American people.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  At the same time, as you know very, very well, the favorability ratings for members of Congress right now are the lowest, maybe that they’ve ever been —

JOHN BOEHNER:  Well, Congress isn’t on the platform —

JUDY WOODRUFF:  — 10-12 percent —

JOHN BOEHNER:  — Congress isn’t on the ballot.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  You don’t think that’s a drag on —


JUDY WOODRUFF:  — Republicans tickets?

JOHN BOEHNER:  When you look at — when you look at all of the members’ numbers, the members’ numbers are actually pretty good.  Listen, I understand the frustration the American people have with Congress, 435 members of the House, 100 members of the Senate, divided government.  And it’s difficult to get people to work together and get things done.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  It’s not just difficult, Mr. Speaker.  People look and they say work isn’t getting done.

JOHN BOEHNER:  I have passed — we’ve got 40 jobs bills sitting in the United States Senate.  We have a bill to replace the sequester that’s due to go into effect January 2nd, sitting in the Senate.  We have a bill to extend all the current tax rates, passed — all these passed the House, are sitting over in the United States Senate.  Time for them to get to work.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  So it’s all the Senate’s fault?

JOHN BOEHNER:  We’re doing our job.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, it’s very good to see you. Thank you.

JOHN BOEHNER:  Nice to see you.

JUDY WOODRUFF:  Thank you.