Recap: A Conversation with Eric Cantor

Perhaps the best place to begin with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is where we left offai??i??when he last visited the 92nd Street Y three years ago. In 2010, Rep. Cantor was the GOP’s party whip as they tilted the balance of power in their favor at the midterm elections. He has rapidly ascended the ranks of Republican leadership since first taking office in 2001, remaining a steady figurehead of the party despite its growing Tea Party and libertarian influences. But the erudition and eloquence Rep. Cantor displayed while discussing a range of topics Sunday night make his rise hardly surprising.

Sunday’s Conversation began with the front-page question of Syria. While eschewing much of the broad-stroke grandstanding of conservative television and radio pundits, Rep. Cantor argued that he felt President Obama failed to make a strong enough case to the American people that both America’s standing abroad and national security interests are at stake in the Syrian conflict. He expressed concern over the recent international agreement, upset that Vladimir Putin made a mockery of American foreign policy. “I feel strongly about America’s role in the world,” he noted in saying that he would have granted President Obama authority to intervene.

But as many legislators feel otherwise, the discussion naturally turned to the seemingly unprecedented discord between President Obama and the Congress. After pointing out that American presidents have always received Congressional approval in the 18 times they’ve formally requested it, Forum director Prof. Thane Rosenbaum noted that the same would likely not be true if Obama were to ask Congress now. (The New York Times reports that almost 70% of Americans favor no activity whatsoever in the region.) Here Prof. Rosenbaum and Rep. Cantor discussed the fiscal cliff and Obamacare, with Rep. Cantor arguing strongly that Obamacare will result in substantial premium increases and kill jobs as employers’ bottom lines go up. Cantor also decried the way the Tea Party, which initially comprised working people who felt that they were simply being taxed too much, has been portrayed in the media.

In wrapping up the evening, Prof. Rosenbaum shifted to Rep. Cantor’s personal career, and his role as a Jewish leader in the Republican Party. Despite the practically default position of most Jews to vote Democratic, Rep. Cantor noted, the Republican Party is primarily a party of opportunity. He continued to say that his own role as GOP House Majority Leader evidences the party’s commitment to upward mobility regardless of ethnic or racial background. And considering Rep. Cantor’s steady rise in Republican leadership, it’s more than likely that up is the only direction he can go.

Below is the full video of the Conversation, courtesy of the 92nd Street Y.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aplydJIqis4

The Forum looks forward to its next event at the 92nd Street Y, a Conversation with Jeb Bush, on Nov. 18.
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