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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Big battle over a huge budget, of course, is underway over President Obama's economic package. Michelle Laxalt joins us. She's a political consultant who has worked for several Republicans senators and for the Reagan administration. She joins us on the line. Ms. Laxalt, thanks so much for being with us.

Ms. MICHELLE LAXALT (Political Consultant): Oh, thank you very much for having me. Nice to join you today.

SIMON: And may I ask, are Republicans in Congress just throwing spitballs at this big old battleship of a massive budget, or are they offering concrete alternatives?

Ms. LAXALT: Both, as usual in Washington. Are you surprised?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAXALT: I think what you see with Republicans is that before President Bush left office and the first tranche for this - the bailout occurred, all - by all estimates there was no choice but for them to vote for, and then of course remember Senator McCain came in and - and a monkey wrench was put into it and things went into a bit of chaos.

So there's been a lingering fear that Republicans won't talk about out loud as to whether or not the trajectory that went really quickly down toward the end of the Bush administration was not in point of fact due to the fact that they seemed to hesitate about the initial bailout, which created an absence of confidence to spread throughout the world.

As to now, I think the Republicans are more in the kind of seat that I was in when I first came to Washington. I think you and I are close to being contemporaries, since we came to Washington before we were born now. And...

SIMON: I got here when I was safely an adult.

Ms. LAXALT: Yeah, ditto. I'm being a smartass.

SIMON: Okay.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAXALT: But I think...

SIMON: As you can tell, we get no seven-second delay here. Go ahead.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. LAXALT: But the point being, really, that where they are is, they're in the catbird seat. They're in the back pew of the church, being able to tell their jokes and elbow one another. And while I think on a responsible basis they have raised very serious questions about what seems to be more money poured after more problems with little results, and more of an adherence or a return to the fiscal responsibility that they seemed to have gotten away from, truly, in the last eight years, the fact is that this country needs to understand they have given the Democratic Party a mandate and quite a clear mandate. It all comes down, as Senator Long often told me when we officed together, to vote, ma'am, to vote, vote, vote. And they have the votes in the House. They have the votes in the Senate. And they have the executive branch as well.

So Republicans A) they don't get to play because they're not being shown documents. They're not being - they're not participating in, for instance, the bailout package or the stimulus package. They're not being shown the drafts of the actual bills that appear.

SIMON: Ms. Laxalt, I had a couple other questions I wanted to work in. Can I...

Ms. LAXALT: Of course.

SIMON: Can I proceed on that? You heard Dan Schorr refer to, I believe Dan Schorr used the phrase crushing failure in...

Ms. LAXALT: Yes, I did.

SIMON: ...in characterizing Governor Jindal's speech. What do you think?

Ms. LAXALT: I thought it was hokey, to be honest, to choose him. And I'm a hardcore Ronald Reagan/Paul Laxalt conservative Republican. I think Governor Jindal has a great future. I thought he did an excellent job here and he's done so as governor of Louisiana. But to use a Western phrase, I thought it was a bit hokey to choose another dark-skinned American, son of an immigrant. I just thought it seemed a little bit off, a little bit forced. It's a difficult audience...

SIMON: Well, I mean he could have been chosen 'cause he was a Rhodes scholar.

Ms. LAXALT: And do you think he was?

SIMON: And served in Congress, and you know, and as governor of - governor...

Ms. LAXALT: If that were the case, I would say that he did the best he could with the material he had to work with. Some of the material itself, on substance, was a bit loose. Some of the factual material, having been a fact checker when I worked in Senate and in the State Department, was not correct.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. LAXALT: And so there is a bit of sloppiness to it. And either they wanted to present him as another immigrant or part of the Republican Party that one hasn't seen before, namely on the heels of Mr. Steele, the first African-American black, excuse me, Republican National Committee chairman. And then now a minority with a resume, not too dissimilar from the president's, in Governor Jindal.

SIMON: Ms. Laxalt, thank you so much for joining us.

Ms. LAXALT: Thank you very much for having me.

SIMON: Michelle Laxalt, a Republican commentator and founder of the Laxalt Corporation, which is a government relations firm.

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