House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, (R-Va.) was in Williamsburg to keynote the Charter Day exercises, the 318th anniversary of the granting of the Royal Charter to the College of William and Mary.
His selection for this distinction was partly due for his meteoric rise in the firmament of American politics. After just one term in the House of Representatives, he became Deputy House Minority Whip in 2003, and by 2008 his standing in the Republican Party was such that he was rumored to be on the short-list of Sen. John McCain’s vice-presidential choices.
From early on, Cantor earned the reputation of being a staunch conservative, a consummate fundraiser for the Republican Party, and a skilled negotiator. All this made him a prime candidate for the post of Majority Leader that he currently holds.
During an interview prior to the Charter Day exercises, I asked Rep. Cantor what made him such a staunch conservative.
“Listening to my father telling how his mother’s family came to America, early in the last century, escaping persecution in Eastern Europe, and how her entrepreneurialism and hard work made her family prosper sums up what the Republican Party is all about. By giving equal opportunity to everyone, not necessarily, equal outcome. But as long as everybody has a chance it is what matters.”
Before turning full-time to politics, Cantor worked for a decade in the family real estate business doing legal work. He put his juris doctor degree that he earned from William & Mary Law School, to good use.
“My training at W&M Law School has been a tremendous source of strength to me. It gave me a perspective, taught me how think critically, and hopefully it will provide me with the ability to carry out the tremendous honor and responsibility I have in Congress,” he said.
Cantor also holds a master’s of science degree from Columbia University. This expertise, according to Politico, enabled him to formulate the so called Cantor Rule. He asks lawmakers “Are my efforts addressing job creation and the economy? Are they reducing spending? Are they shrinking the size of the federal government while protecting and expanding liberty? If not, why are we doing it?”
As Majority Leader, he has the opportunity to be not just a “personal stumbling block for the enaction of President Obama’s legislative agenda,” but be a coordinator, “working with committee leaders to develop strategy on legislative priorities.”
His deputy chief of staff, John Murray was quoted saying: “Eric has always placed a high value on policy communications. It drives our top-line strategy because we are not only talking to each other we are also speaking to American’s around their kitchen tables.”
Cantor’s demeanor reveals a lot about him. He is soft-spoken, non-threatening, but hardnosed. His philosophy and politics is anchored in the belief that “we can be leaner and smarter and have more efficient government….We have to find waste and eliminate excessive regulations.”
In the bestselling book “Young Guns: A New Generation of Conservative Leaders,” written by Cantor and co-authored by Paul Ryan and Kevin McCarthy, the three “Young Guns” espouse ideas they deeply believe in. They are economic freedom, limited government, the sanctity of life, and putting family first. Principles, they believe, that made America great.
According to the Simon & Schuster website, “This groundbreaking book is a call to action that sets forth a plan for growth, opportunity, and commitment that will propel this country to prosperity once again.”
Some observers consider Cantor, presidential timber. They see him as a leader who has the capacity to combine adherence to ideals and principles with a “common- sense agenda, for the common good” and make it work.
I asked about his aspirations for the presidency. Smiling, he replied: “No, I am not thinking about it, and I am not running.” But it did not sound Shermanesque.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.