Monitor Breakfast

Selected quotations from a Monitor breakfast with outgoing House Majority Leader Dick Armey.

Only a future politician would have the foresight to be born in Cando, ["can-do"] North Dakota, as our guest was in 1940. He earned a bachelor's degree from Jamestown College in Jamestown, N.D., a master's from the University of North Dakota, and a PhD in economics from the University of Oklahoma.

He was an economics professor at the University of North Texas for 13 years before deciding to run for Congress in 1984. He was elected majority leader 10 years later.

On who should be the Democrats' presidential candidate in 2004:

"I would love a rematch with Al Gore. I would see nominating Al Gore as tossing in the towel."

On the Democrats' position on homeland defense:

"The Democrats for the last two years have really been sort of not much other than 'aginners' and I don't think it has worked well for them. I was astounded by Tom Daschle's insistence on not doing homeland defense. I put that down as the most inept political thing done by a Democrat leader that I have seen in the 18 years I have been here. I still to this day can not understand. There is only one - I assume he is a rational and able person - there is only one explanation that I can come up with for him having done so and I think it was a bad political calculation."

On how effective Nancy Pelosi will be as House minority leader:

"Nancy is an honest liberal. Martin Frost spent all of last weekend pretending to be me. It was a lousy imitation, quite frankly. But Martin is just as liberal as Nancy. Nancy stands right up and says 'This is who I am'.

"Quite frankly, I think she represents her party better than people who feel the need to pretend to be not of their party's values. She is a decent hardworking person. She has more ability than people recognize and I think it is an unfortunate thing.

"One of the reasons Nancy's abilities are not appreciated is she is a beautiful woman. I would hate to have gone through life as a beautiful woman because they all too often get discounted by virtue of their abilities. And Nancy's got more ability than people give her credit for. I think she is going to do a good job for the party."

On the political climate surrounding Social Security:

"The fact is you have got to deal with retirement security. One thing I think came out of this election even by admission today of prominent Democrats. The days of them living off Social Security for their political livelihood are over. That is not selling in America any more. And that means it is no longer a political debate, it can be a legitimate policy debate."

On the effect of religion on his life:

"I would like to believe...that since 1995 I have been a better person. I have pretty much removed insecurity from my life. Armey's axiom is what an audacity is insecurity in light of the Lord's promise 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'

"Looking back on it, 90 percent of the mean or self-destructive things I ever did in my life were done at a time when I was feeling insecure. And when you are covered by the blood of the lamb there is no reason to be insecure. Maybe, I hope, it has made me a person of better demeanor, disposition, in doing the things I do. I hope that has been true."

On his use of newspapers:

"I am like every other person in public office. I do not read papers except to look for my name."

On whether he expects his successor, Tom DeLay, will be "kinder and gentler" in his new office:

"Tom is a very good politician. He has been effective as a whip. I think he will be effective as majority leader. In the matter of his disposition, you will have to discuss that with him...a lot of that comes with the role definition. [Former House Democratic Whip] Dave Bonior was a pretty good partisan and he was quite animated about it. He was the whip. That is what whips do. My guess is that to some extent you will see Tom leaving behind the behavioral imperatives of that office and moving on to those of another office."

On Boston's selection as the site for the 2004 Democratic convention:

"I think Gov. Romney is going to make a great host...I'm not sure what makes a good convention city. We did New Orleans and Houston in August. I didn't think that was the best choice in the world. I don't know a lot about by what criteria they make these decisions."

"If I were a Democrat I suspect I would feel a heck of a lot more comfortable in Boston than say, in America, I'm sorry, Dallas. I don't mean to be unkind. I think Boston is a beautiful city. But I do think they will feel quite welcome."

On why people think politians lie:

"Why do they feel that way? Lord have mercy. Because they do. I believe they do. They do lie in subtle ways. A great scholar from the University of Texas...once said beware of people who manufacture data for the sense of testimony. Politicans do it. There is a great manufacturing of data."

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