Interview with DNC Chairman Tim Kaine

Interview with DNC Chairman Tim Kaine

By Larry King Live - July 6, 2010

KING: Will Republican National Committee chairman, Michael Steele, survive this fire storm over his recent comment about the war in Afghanistan? Steele has been taken to task by many key members of the GOP for remarks he made last week at a fundraiser in Connecticut. We asked Steele to join us tonight, and he declined the invitation. We welcome back Tim Kaine to LARRY KING LIVE. He is the DNC chairman, former governor of Virginia. Always good to see him. Here's some of what Steele said. We'll get the governor's reaction after this. Watch.


MICHAEL STEELE, RNC CHAIRMAN: Keep in mind, for our federal candidates, this is a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.


KING: Governor, should Steele say goodbye?

TIM KAINE, DNC CHAIRMAN: Well, you know, Larry, I'm going to leave that for the Republicans, but let me say this, my reaction to the comments. The comments were outrageous to say that the Afghanistan war was a war of Obama's choosing, ignores 9/11, ignores President Bush going to a bipartisan Congress and getting their support for going after the terrorists who did us harm, ignores the international coalition that joins with us. But in another way, as outrageous the statements are, they are also, I think, a logical extensions of what the Republican Party's game plan is which was blame the president for anything and oppose him on everything.

Earlier this year, as you know, the chairman wrote a book, Chairman Steele wrote a book, the subtitle was "Ten Ways to Stop the Obama Agenda." That is the Republican playbook right now. That's why I think he actually is probably going to survive this because I don't think you can get fired on their side for saying something negative about the president. That's all they do.

KING: Yes, but he is also disagreeing with the policies supported by the Republicans.

KAINE: Right. And you have had Republican members of Congress and others who have come out and said this was an unfortunate statement, it was an unwise statement. They have called him to task on the statement. But you do not see a ground swell of support within the RNC to fire him. And again, I think the main reason is it is a logical extensions of a game plan that from day one has been, you know, break the president, make health care his waterloo, fight against him on anything he proposes.

KING: Doesn't it seem odd to you that the president -- the area he is most supported is in the Afghanistan policy where many Democrats disagree with him? KAINE: There is paradox and irony in that. The president said very plainly during the campaign that he viewed Iraq as a war of choice and it was the wrong choice, but Afghanistan is a war of necessity. And there are those who don't agree with it. But just as in Iraq where the president by August will have taken American troop strength from about 140,000 down to 50,000 in combat troops, you are going to see him pursuing the same patient and careful strategy in Afghanistan, to create a stable situation so that Afghanistan doesn't threaten other nation and then draw American troops down, beginning in the summer of 2011.

KING: Let's ask it this way, if you are chairman of your party and you make a statement contrary to what your party feels, should you be asked to leave, if it were Tim Kaine?

KAINE: Larry, I wouldn't survive something like that in my party. No I wouldn't survive it.

KING: You would not?

KAINE: No, I would not. But when the policy seems to be anything's fair game if it's blaming the president or getting in his way, I have to -- I have to feel -- my prediction is that Chairman Steele is going to survive it.

KING: What do you think of the Afghanistan policy?

KAINE: Well, I think, again, the -- you look at Afghanistan much like you look at what you look at what the president has done in Iraq. The wars were for very different motives. I think the president was right that Iraq was a wrong choice and I applaud the way he has brought the troop strength down. He has laid out a plan going forward that calls for a reduction of battle troop strength in Afghanistan beginning in 2011. He has accomplished what he said would do in Iraq and I think the American people are going to see that he will accomplish what he said he would do in Afghanistan.

KING: How do you think your party's going to do this fall?

KAINE: Larry, I'll be honest, it's going to be tough. The average midterm, I tell Democrats all over the country, since Teddy Roosevelt was president is the presidential party loses 28 House seats, loses four Senate seats and we are not living in average times.

People are hurting, the economy is tough. That makes it a volatile electorate. But I also tell Democrats this. So we assume we are running into a headwind and we assume it is tough. Nevertheless we don't mind tough and we don't mind running an uphill battle. We have a successful president who is taking huge steps with Congress to do heavy lifting, even when it's unpopular to turn the economy around.

We have signature achievements, health care, financial reform, women entitled to equal pay for equal work, I think as time wears on, the American public is more and more appreciative of our party doing the heavy lifting. So I think we're going to do a lot better than most people think but we have to assume it is going to be challenging, we've just got to outwork and outsmart the other guys.

KING: Since history is against you, obviously, what's the strategy?

KAINE: Well, I think the strategy, you know, kind of from a message standpoint is basically to tell the American people in 2009, we were in a ditch, the worst economy since the 1930s, jobs being lost at 700,000 a month, GDP shrinking. Today, a year and a half later, GDP is growing, we are adding jobs. We are not where we want to be yet but for gosh sake, we are finally climbing again. We ought to keep climbing rather than go back in the ditch. Let's not embrace the policies or the candidates who would put us back there. So that's the message.

KING: One other thing, Justice Department legal challenge filed today to Arizona's law. You agree with that?

KAINE: I do I think the Arizona law, it comes out of a frustration with a broken federal immigration policy, but the way to fix it is for senators and House members of both parties to do what they said they had been doing, they should have done years ago and come up with a comprehensive immigration policy at the federal level.

The solution isn't for states to go one-off and enact harsh policies that really, you know, show a real xenophobic face about who we are. We need to fix this, fix it at the federal level, that is what the president is set on doing.

KING: Always good seeing you, governor, thanks.

KAINE: Great, thank you so much, Larry.

KING: Governor Tim Kaine, chairman, former governor of Virginia, chairman, Democratic National Committee.


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