Interview with RNC Chairman Michael Steele

Interview with RNC Chairman Michael Steele

By The Situation Room - April 28, 2010

BLITZER: Jack, thanks very much.

Republicans right now divided over Arizona's controversial new law cracking down on illegal immigration. Let's talk about that and much more with the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele. He's joining us in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Mr. Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.


BLITZER: As you know, the former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio is running for the Senate from Florida. Another Republican. They are among an increasing chorus of Republicans thinking well maybe the Arizona law is a mistake.

What is Michael Steele, the former lieutenant governor of Maryland, say about that?


STEELE: Well, Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, understands that the realities right now for the country as reflected in Arizona and elsewhere is that we have as a people to come to grips with this issue of immigration. We can no longer use it as a political football.

We must keep in mind the families that are impacted by the lack of decision in this area. And the leadership has to confront what has always been the growing chorus of concern from the American people is, let's deal with border security and control. Let's put that house in order and the rest then takes care of itself.

BLITZER: Did the governor of Arizona do the right thing signing this law -- signing this bill into law?

STEELE: The governor of Arizona acted in the best interest of the people of Arizona. And you may find that the governor of another state may come to a different conclusion based on what's on the best interest of the people of that state. That's why the federal action at this time so important. And my hope is that the administration and the leadership in both the House and the Senate do not engage in some political footballry here with respect to this very important issue that has a direct impact on jobs and has a direct impact on families, and an even broader impact on --

BLITZER: But you know there are some Republican strategists -- Karl Rove among others -- who are worried this is going to alienate Hispanic voters. The Republican Party needs these people.

STEELE: I think Karl Rove is exactly right about that. And we need as a party to be mindful that our prior actions in this area and certainly our rhetoric in this area has not been the most welcoming and the most supportive of helping those who want to assimilate into the way of life of America, learning English, getting a good job.

Coming through the process in a legitimate way has not helped that. So now we have an opportunity, I think, and our leadership has pressed this fact, that we can go about this a little bit differently. And we can create a path the way that assimilates individuals who respect and follow the rule of laws, who come in through the right doors, fill out the right forms, have a little apple pie, home -- you know, sing a few bars of the "Star Spangled Banner" and get to work.

BLITZER: Here's what the governor -- the former governor of Virginia Tim Kaine who is now the chairman, as you know, of the Democratic Party, your counterpart. He announced a new Democratic Party strategy today to try to win in November, the midterm elections.

He said this. He said, "Democrats under President Obama's leadership have been a results party and that is what Americans want. The Republicans, on the other hand, have been a party of obstruction. We think Americans will reward results rather than obstruction."

All right. Go ahead and tell us why you think that's not going to work.

STEELE: Well, it doesn't work because look at the results.

BLITZER: They got health care reform and they're about to get financial reform, right?

STEELE: Wait a minute. But wait a minute. Wait a minute, Wolf. A health care reform that 60 percent of the people in the country said they don't want. That's not a result. You mean to tell me that if I force-fed you something that you didn't want, that you thought that would be a good result?

No. So look, you can call it results all day long, the reality of it is, the real result will come in November when Republicans sweep in the House and then the Senate and governorships around the country, very much as we've already seen in New Jersey, Virginia and Massachusetts.

The real result will come in the polls, you know, that are really reflective of how people feel about what this administration is doing with the leadership and the Democratic Party has failed to do. That is to create jobs. That is the bottom -- that's the result --

BLITZER: But the economy continues to improve. It's certainly better today than it was a year ago. If the economy continues to improve --

STEELE: But that's great --

BLITZER: -- between now and November, won't that help the Democrats?

STEELE: The Dow hit 11000, great. Did 11,000 get created today? Did 11,000 jobs get created this week? That's where the reality is. And folks who like that's great, we love all these other indeces out here that are doing things that are bubbling up, but they're not bubbling up jobs.

This administration has fundamentally failed to address the core concern that people have for over a year and a half now. Could you please put me to work? Would you give me the opportunity to get back into my small business, to create jobs, create the opportunity for me to go back out into the workforce so I can provide for me and my family?

BLITZER: Give me your quick reaction to Charlie Crist, the Republican governor of Florida, a man you know well. He's going to announce tomorrow he's running as an independent for the Senate from Florida.

STEELE: Well, you know, that's Charlie Crist's decision. As I've said from the very beginning, I'm looking forward to going into Florida in November and supporting the Republican nominee for the United States Senate.

We want to keep that seat in the Republican column and we are looking forward to going forward with the nominee and if Crist is not in the primary any longer, then we know who the nominee will be. That will be Marco Rubio and guess what? There will be no Senator Crist.

BLITZER: You know the polls showing a three-person race. He's very -- you know, he's potentially a winner.

STEELE: Well, that's a real possibility. It's a dynamic, that's unfortunate in my view. I think that the voters out there should be given a chance to have a clean call between the Republican nominee and the Democratic nominee, Congressman Meek.

And we're looking forward to helping carry the Republican nominee across the finish line.

What the governor -- you know, I would not want the governor to leave the party, but that's his decision to make. My responsibility is to make sure that the Republican wins the seat. And that's what we're going to be committed to doing.

BLITZER: A quick question on this Republican Party 2010 Congressional District census that was sent out with your name -- STEELE: Yes.

BLITZER: -- right on page one. You're getting a lot of criticism that this was a fund-raising device, but it looks like a real census. And people are saying this was inappropriate, this was misleading.

I want you to respond to the criticism and you've seen plenty of it.

STEELE: Well, yes, I met with Congressman Issa on this and I've talked to other leaders in the party. We've talked to our lawyers that this was within the law as written. And we were not outside of those bounds. And, you know, I can't help that the Democrats wrote a bad bill. The reality of it is we complied to what the law required. And the mailer went out.

BLITZER: Are you still enjoying your job? Are you ready to think about --


BLITZER: -- moving on at some point?

STEELE: No, no. I enjoy my job very much. I'm looking forward to bringing home victories for Republicans across the country. The state-wide level for governor and certainly other offices in Congress and the Senate.

So it's going to be a great year. We've got a lot of work to do, still, Wolf, as you know. This is a long season given there's only seven months left and still a lot can happen. But we're committed to raising the dollars necessary to win the races that we're required to win.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens and we hope you'll be a frequent visitor here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

STEELE: You know I will.

BLITZER: Mr. Chairman, thanks very much.

STEELE: Someone has got to check up on you, man.

BLITZER: I know. We love having you here. Thanks very much for coming in. We'll continue this conversation.

STEELE: All right, Wolf. You got it.


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