Steele Reaches

On “Meet,” RNC Chair says GOP hopes “for a better relationship” with Obama “come January.”

MEET THE PRESS WITH DAVID GREGORY
October 24, 2010

DAVID GREGORY:
And good morning well here we are the final countdown to election day 2010 and with us exclusively this morning the chairman of
the Republican National Committee, Michael Steele, welcome back to Meetthe Press.

MICHAEL STEELE:
It’s great to be back with you, David.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let’s get right to it, it’s final argument time and the president is on the campaign trail, he’s been out west, he was in the Midwest and on Friday he leveled probably his most potent charge against Republican leaders in Washington saying that they made a cold political calculation when he came into office basically not to work with the Obama White House, that they could have cooperated – decided to obstruct, this is part of what he said ….

PRESIDENT OBAMA ON TAPE:
The Republican leaders in Washington, they made a different calculation. They looked around at the mess that they had made, at the mess that they
had left me, and they said, boy, this is a really big mess. And they said it’s going to take a long time to fix. … So maybe if we just sit on the sidelines, say no to everything, and then point our fingers at Obama and say he’s to blame, they figured that maybe you all would forget that they caused the mess in the first place, and they’d be able to ride anger all the way to election time.

DAVID GREGORY:
Chairman, what’s your answer to that? Your vision of what the story of the last two years has been?

MICHAEL STEELE:
Well it actually sounded more like a pity party than a rally, I mean I can’t believe the President is sitting there with hindsight saying that we didn’t cooperate, that the Republican leaders did not cooperate with the President, I think from Health Care to the environment to the economy, the republicans in the House and the Senate had made – had made very clear this is what we’d like to do. Let’s talk about healthcare reform that includes tort reform, that includes other types of mechanisms that will keep sacrosanct the doctor patient relationship, and not put government in the middle of that. Let’s talk about job creation by stimulating small businesses and not the federal government.

And so the ideas that were put on the table, a lot of them propounded by folks like Mr. Boehner and Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan were summarily rejected and the fact, as you recall David, Republican leaders particularly specific members couldn’t even get a meeting with the
president, they tried after sending letters and requests to sit down and go through the President’s agenda to see how we could help. We’re hoping for a better relationship between the White House and the Republican Congress come January.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right, let me ask you about the landscape right now. What do you see out there? What are we looking at on Election Day? Is this a huge GOP wave that takes the House and the Senate? What are your views, at this point?

MICHAEL STEELE:
David, there is– there is a vibration out here that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I’ve been on my “Fire Pelosi” bus since September 15th. We get off the bus on October 30th. And in that time, what I’ve seen is a consistent groundswell of– of excitement– and energy towards this election.

The voters are tired of the fact that the Federal Government has not listened to them over the past two years. Has moved in its own direction, at its own rhythm. And they want to pull back on that. And I think you’re gonna see a wave– an unprecedented wave– on Election Day. That’s gonna surprise a lot of people.

DAVID GREGORY:
What does that mean? What does that mean in terms of the balance of the power?

MICHAEL STEELE:
And State Legislatures.

DAVID GREGORY:
What does it mean to the balance of power?

MICHAEL STEELE:
0Well, I think the– oh, I absolutely believe in the House, the balance of power will shift. As I like to say, we’re 38 seats, and we need to get to 39 to– to get control. But I think we’re more than there.

DAVID GREGORY:
You say the House will go to the Republicans. What about the Senate?

MICHAEL STEELE:
The Senate’s a little bit tougher. But I think we’re gonna be there. If this wave continues the way it’s going– it has been over the last– few weeks especially, I think you can see the Senate, as well.

DAVID GREGORY:
There– there’s–

MICHAEL STEELE:
Goes to the Republicans.

DAVID GREGORY:
There’s been a lot of negative attention toward some Tea Party backed candidates. And some of the statements that they’ve made, whether it’s Sharon Angle speaking to a group of Latinos in– in Nevada. Or Ken Buck’s– statements about gays on this program last week. Or Christine O’Donnell, who’s gotten so much attention, except for the fact that she’s very far behind in that Senate race. She’s had some both misstatements or– gaffs in the course of her debate with Chris Coons. Do you think she’s actually undermining the Republican brand, specifically?

MICHAEL STEELE:
No, I don’t. I mean, Chris, you know– folks make mistakes. Lord knows. I– I’m familiar with– you know, foot in mouth disease. I understand how that is sometimes. When you get in the heat of a battle. You’ve got the passion and the fire in your belly and you really want to get out there and– and– and speak to the issues and speak to the people. You say things that don’t come out correctly. You make missteps. You make– you create misperceptions.

And I think that happens a lot in campaigns. It happens on both sides. What really matters is how the voters receive that. How the voters look at those candidates. And despite those those foibles and those flaws, if you will of the misspoken word, people understand where their heart is. People understand these folks are gonna go out there and fight for them.

And as I said a little bit earlier– David, this- this reality right now for people is– is that we want a leadership that’s gonna listen to us. We want someone who’s gonna take the fight to Congress and not fight against us. And, you know, whether it’s Christine O’Donnell or Sharon Angle– who– whomever it happens to be. Who’s got this groundswell of energy behind them. I think that that’s what really matters to the people right now.

DAVID GREGORY:
Is she qualified to be a U.S. Senator? Would she be a good Senator?

MICHAEL STEELE:
I think she would be. Ya know, again, I don’t get to make that judgment. The people of her state get to make that judgment, they’re the ones who’d vote for her. They’re the ones who nominated her, and so, for the establishment in Washington or anywhere else to sit back and sit in judgment of her abilities to be senator, to be effective in the Senate is misplaced. All that matters is the people have decided, “This is the standard bearer we want.” And the real push and the fight now is the general election and the broader population of voters in the state of Delaware, California, Florida, around the country are going to make the
decision about the Republican standard bearers that we have.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me ask you chairman.

MICHAEL STEELE:
And I think, at the end of the day, we’re going to do very well.

DAVID GREGORY:
Chairman, let me ask you about the role of outside money in this campaign.

MICHAEL STEELE:
Sure.

DAVID GREGORY:
It is a big area of debate and the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, appeared on MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann this week, and she, like the President, described it as a real threat to the country’s
democracy. This is a part of what she had to say.

NANCY PELOSI:
This election is also about our Democracy. If they win, which I fully intend to stop them from doing, but if they were to win, it would mean that we are now a plutocracy, an oligarchy. Whatever these few wealthy, secret, unlimited sources of money are can control our entire
agenda.

DAVID GREGORY:
Our investigative correspondent Mike Isikoff had said that not since Watergate have we seen this kind of special interest money without transparency washing in to an election cycle. Are you worried about this?

MICHAEL STEELE:
No, I don’t know what they’re talking about. No one has produced one shred of evidence that any of that is happening. And, you know, when President, then candidate, Obama was asked to disclose some of his donors because there was suspicion of there being, you know, the foreign source of money into his campaign, they refused to do it. So don’t give me this high and mighty, you know, holier than thou attitude about special interests flooding the political marketplace. The Democrats have been dabbling in those areas and clearly disclose it. If you think that there’s something out there, disclose it, Nancy. Disclose it. And, you know, anyone else who’s got that evidence, don’t just make the charge and sit back and say, “Oh jeez, see.” Give the evidence. Put the evidence out there and then let’s have that discussion about whether or not they are in fact…

DAVID GREGORY:
But chairman, are you denying that, are you denying that there’s special interest money, that there’s outside money that’s coming in to the campaign that’s not being disclosed, we don’t know who the individuals are in some of these groups that have sponsored?

MICHAEL STEELE:
David, how would I know that? I don’t run those organizations, number one. I’m prohibited by law in engaging in such activity, number two. So I know we don’t take it. And I suspect that those organizations out there, those 527’s and others know what the law is and are complying with the law. So, if you have evidence to the contrary, produce it. Otherwise, put up or shut up.

DAVID GREGORY:
Okay, but chairman.
MICHAEL STEELE:
That– that’s it. Put up or shut up.

DAVID GREGORY:
Chairman, I– I’m putting up with this question. Which is, are you concerned that– because, as you know, there are laws that you do not have to disclose. That’s the question. Is that a problem in our politics when you can put a great deal of money into a campaign without disclosing your agenda or who you are?

MICHAEL STEELE:
David, that’s a fair question.

DAVID GREGORY:
You said put up or shut up. That’s the issue.

MICHAEL STEELE:
Then– then the– then the put up part, by the Congress, would be to change the law. But the law is what it is right now. And everybody’s complying with the law. And if the law does not require disclosure of certain individuals–

DAVID GREGORY:
I’m asking you, is that a problem?

MICHAEL STEELE:
–then– I don’t– I don’t know that it is so far. I mean, I haven’t seen any evidence that it is. Why– why are you saying it’s a problem?

DAVID GREGORY:
I’m asking whether you think– there are certainly candidates running who are Republicans, who think there ought to be more transparency. Ken Buck from Colorado think that you should definitely say where the money comes from if you’re–

MICHAEL STEELE:
Absolutely, I–

DAVID GREGORY:
–getting in a campaign.

MICHAEL STEELE:
David, absolutely. I’m always– at the end of the day, I agree with– I’m absolutely all for transparency. It– I think it’s an appropriate part of the system. It instills the trust that people have in the system. And it also avoids questions like this, because that– that information is out there. And it’s absolutely will involve– avoid– the– the allegations and the charges just thrown out there in the middle of– of– of a discussion about health care and the economy. So, I– I agree, the transparency should be there. But the law is what the law is right now. And if people are that– bothered by it, then the Congress needs to change it.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me ask you about another hot button issue this week. The firing of Juan Williams, the analyst at NPR and Fox News Channel. It has become– a point of debate in– in the course of the campaign. Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip– issued a statement on Friday saying the following, “Overreaching political correctness is chipping away at the fundamental American of freedom of speech and expression. NPR’s decision to fire Williams not only undermines that. It shows an ignorance of the fact that radical Islam and the terrorists who murder in its name scare people of all faiths, religions, and beliefs. In light of their rash decision, we will include termination of federal funding for NPR as an option in the You Cut Program, so that Americans can let it be known whether they want their dollars going to that organization.” Is this a legitimate part of the campaign?

MICHAEL STEELE:
I don’t know if it’s a legitimate part of the campaign. I think what NPR did was overreaching. I think it was a hyper-extended overreaction– to– his comments. He was expressing a personal perspective. He wasn’t giving a political analysis. He wasn’t– he wasn’t being a pundit about the matter. He was expressing his own personal– concerns– that he had. I think that the more appropriate thing would have been to– as we’ve seen in other cases– when– you know, a Tina Notan– Otenburg (PH)– made– outlandish comments about– you know– Strom Thurmond or others– getting AIDS and– and all of the this stuff.

You take them aside. You sit them down and go, “Wait a minute, that’s a line you don’t– you don’t need to cross.” I think, you know, immediately jumping to firing Juan over this was– was an overreaction. And I think you’ve seen the reaction, not just by Republicans, but by a whole lot of folks out there around the country who say, you know, “Really? This– this is not the appropriate way to– to– to really handle this.” And I think that– you know, NPR’s paying a little bit of a price for it.

DAVID GREGORY:
Should– should federal funding for NPR be cut?

MICHAEL STEELE:
That’s not my decision. I’m sure the Members of Congress who– who’ve raised that as a concern will– will address that at the appropriate time. But I think right now my focus and the focus of those of us who are on the political side of this equation– are much more interested in getting to the elections on November 2nd so we can win. And put in place a new Congress to look at questions like that.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let’s end with just a couple of points about politics. What does the Midterm result, in your mind, say about 2012?

MICHAEL STEELE:
Ah, good question. I think– I think it’s– a transitional pattern. I think– you know, puts us all in a point where, you know, you kind of look down the road at 2012 and say– what– for the Republicans, what kind of leader is gonna emerge to deal more– precisely with the economy. With our relations– overseas? With– you know, those concerns that people have about jobs here in the country? I think it may be a harbinger of a very exciting– you know– campaign– in ’12.

Particularly– if we do not take the Senate this time. The Senate would– would be in full play in 2012. You would still have the addition of– additional House seats that would be out there. As well as– some state legislative– races. So– and Governor’s races. So, I think this election cycle, in 2010– really lays an interesting foundation for how we go forward. Because you’re– you’re looking at two very different philosophical views of the country.

DAVID GREGORY:
Do you think that President Obama’s a one term President?

MICHAEL STEELE:
I don’t know that. I– again, I– you know, my job is to make sure he is. But– you know, because I– we philosophically disagree with the direction the President is going. And I think that, you know, the spending, the debt, the deficit. The burden that’s been placed on the backs of future generations is unsustainable. And– and, you know, we see that the Administration along with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are kind of whistling past that graveyard, ignoring the hard facts that we cannot sustain nor afford– the continued– spending policies of this Administration.

And there are other concerns out there, as well. With respect to, again– our relationship with– relationships with Israel. Our– our relationship with– North Korea. All of these concerns– need to be addressed. And– and I think have pretty much not been effectively by the Administration. So, you’re gonna see over the next two years, I think, the President try to, you know, step up his game a little bit. But we’ll be there step for step– on– on all of these issues– clearly delineating the difference between a government that wants to take and redistribute wealth– and a free people who are there– to create that wealth and save it for the future.

DAVID GREGORY:
And finally– Chairman, let me ask you about your own leadership. You say that you will be judged on whether the party wins this fall and whether you can raise money. Well, the hard truth is that the RNC has really fallen down in terms of raising money. The Committee is in debt. You’ve been really out-raised by the Democrats. And yet, this is such a positive environment for Republicans. And the criticism has been harsh. It’s been summed up by Fred Barnes in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. Here’s a portion of what he said. “Mr. Steele and the irrelevant RNC. Many congressional Republicans and Governors no longer trust Mr. Steele as their spokesman. They tend to work around the RNC rather than engage Mr. Steele.” Are you irrelevant?

MICHAEL STEELE:
No, I’m not irrelevant. And– and God bless Fred Barnes. If he’d only called me and talked to me, I would have shared with him some very interesting information. It’s easy to write that without knowledge. And clearly he is without knowledge here. Because the fact of the matter is, number one– yeah, we have been outraised—recently – recently by the Democrats, because they have the White House, the Congress, and the Senate. We don’t.

But yet, in 2009, we– we outraised the Democrats in like seven out of 11 months. Where we took in more than they did. We’re keeping pace with the Democrats right now. But the bottom line is this, and I– and I really appreciate the question. Because I’ve said from the very beginning, I would be a different kind of Chairman. Because this is a different time for us, for our party. I wanted us to play on all 50 states. I wanted us to be out in the communities. I wanted a grassroots, bottom up– party, that was focused on what the people want out there. So, we put in place around this country– a network now that you’re gonna see unleashed on November 2nd…

DAVID GREGORY:
So, you’ll run for reelection?

MICHAEL STEELE:
…that’s going to contribute to the win. So, I don’t know if– we’ll worry about my reelection after I get to this reelection. But let me just share with you this point. That we have smashed the records in fundraising for– for a party out of power, not having those– those White House, Congress, and Senate. We have raised to date over $175 million in this cycle, which is 34 percent more than the Democrats did in a very similar cycle in 2006. And– and– and furthermore, we have also, just to be clear about this, exceeded the amount that was raised by the D– by the RNC in 1994 in– in– in– in today’s dollars.

So, we have kept pace. And we have 360– victory centers around the country. We have made 35 million voter contacts since January this year, because of the work that the RNC has done– early. We spent the money early. We didn’t stockpile the money, David, as the old RNCs would do, so that they could have a good cash on hand at the end of the month. We wanted the money in the states. That’s where it is. And come November 2nd, you’re gonna see the effect of that planning.

DAVID GREGORY:
All right, Chairman Steele, we will leave it there. Thank you very much as always.

MICHAEL STEELE:
You’ve got it, friend. Take care.

Related Topics: Midterm Elections, News, Republican Party, Video

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