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Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

Interview with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus

By The Situation Room - July 3, 2012

BLITZER: Let's dig a little bit deeper on what Dana just reported, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Reince Priebus, is here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Chairman, thanks very much for coming in.

REINCE PRIEBUS, CHAIRMAN, RNC: Pleasure to be here, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do I have to call you Chairman or can I call you Reince?

PRIEBUS: Just call me Reince.

BLITZER: I'll call you Reince.

PRIEBUS: If you can get Reince right --

BLITZER: You call me Wolf and I'll call you Reince.

PRIEBUS: All right.

BLITZER: And we'll be -- we'll be off to the races.

What do you make of this Rupert Murdoch, Jack Welch saying he's got to get some solid pros (ph) in there or otherwise he's not going to be able to compete with the Chicago pols, if you will?

PRIEBUS: Yes, you know, they have their opinion. And that's fine. I mean, they're respected people. They've built big businesses and empires.

But, you know, if you would have said a year and a half ago that we'd had an RNC that has more cash in the bank than the DNC --

BLITZER: That's nice for you.

PRIEBUS: -- and we'd have a candidate, but when we'd have a candidate that's in the margin or doing slightly better than Barack Obama, I think a lot of people would say hallelujah. That's number one.

Number two, I think that after eight years, when people talk about political pros like James Carville and Carl Rove, a guy like Matt Rhodes is going to be in that category. So it's easy to say who's the next Carl Rove.

BLITZER: But he's the future David Axelrod or David Plouffe or one of those guys.

PRIEBUS: All right. But, I mean, look at these guys. I mean, in Chicago. I mean, these supposed pros. I mean, they've got a candidate that has no campaign message. And his campaign is basically, look, things could stink a lot worse, I guess, if I wasn't the president.

BLITZER: Not exactly. That's not exactly his message.

PRIEBUS: But what are they proud of? I mean, what are they talking about? Are they talking about ObamaCare? No. Are they talking about the stimulus? No. Are they talking about jobs? No. All they're talking about is things could have been worse. Well, that's a pretty lousy campaign.

BLITZER: Well, they're -- to be fair, they are pointing out that they inherited a disaster from the Bush administration. The country was on the verge of a great depression.

PRIEBUS: And Obama --

BLITZER: And it has come back dramatically over the past three -- not where they want it to be, not where you and I want it to be, but it's certainly a lot better now than it was in November 2008.

PRIEBUS: Well, that's not true, Wolf.

BLITZER: (Inaudible) jobs a month we were dropping at that time, 700,000, 800,000 jobs a month. And now they may only be creating 50,000 or 60,000 or 100,000 jobs a month now, but that's a lot better than losing 700,000 or 800,000 jobs a month.

PRIEBUS: According to Barack Obama and his team, if the trillion-dollar stimulus was passed, we would be at 5.4 percent unemployment. We are at 8.2 percent. We are 8.5 million jobs short of their promise. We have fewer people today employed than when Barack Obama took office.

The fact of the matter is, Barack Obama hasn't met the mission. He hasn't met the promises. And he hasn't met the standards that he himself laid out for the American people.

BLITZER: As far as big business is concerned, remember the Dow Jones, when he took office, it was way under 7,000. It's now approaching 13,000. Does he deserve any credit for business, big business making all this money in stocks?

PRIEBUS: I think that Barack Obama's made everything worse. And I think things could be a whole lot better --

BLITZER: The Dow Jones was a lot worse than it is now.

PRIEBUS: I think that -- the Dow Jones is one indicator. But I don't think that too many people out there --

BLITZER: A lot of people have 401(k)s. A lot of people have retirement plans that are in a lot better shape today than they were four years ago.

PRIEBUS: Well, the Dow Jones is one indicator. But I don't believe that most people, after looking at where we are today on the jobs, the debt, the deficit, housing, the promises that he made as far as health care is concerned, things aren't better today.

And category after category, Barack Obama hasn't met the promises that he laid out to the American people. And I think, that -- listen, all this stuff is interesting. But at the end of the day, what people are starving for in this country are people of their word to win elections and govern like they campaign. This president isn't real anymore.

BLITZER: There's --

PRIEBUS: He hasn't fulfilled --

BLITZER: There's our new CNN ORC poll that came out today. This was the question, who would better handle the economy? Romney 48 percent, Obama 47 percent. These are registered voters. So they're about equal as far as registered voters nationwide. Who is a better handler of the U.S. economy?

So I want to move onto some other issues.

PRIEBUS: OK. Go ahead.

BLITZER: But I think -- you make some -- obviously some good points. That's your job, to make those points. But my job obviously is to do some other stuff.

PRIEBUS: You got it, Wolf. No problem.

BLITZER: Let's talk about Allen West for a moment. This is the Congressman from South Florida, as you know. He is a Republican.

PRIEBUS: Yes, I know Allen.

BLITZER: He's a military veteran. You know him. I'm sure you like him, probably, right?

PRIEBUS: Sure.

He suggested a few months ago that there were all these Communist Party members in the Democratic Party -- I don't remember the exact number, 68 or 70 or close to 80 Communist Party members in the Democratic Party and Democratic representatives in the House. And now he says this -- he was at a town hall meeting. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ALLEN WEST (R), FLA.: He does not want you to have the self-esteem of getting up and earning and having that title of American. He'd rather you be his slave.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He'd rather you be his slave. He's referring to the President of the United States. He says that he doesn't like Americans having the title of American. He'd rather see you as a slave.

What is that? You know, you can't justify Allen West saying that, talking about slavery.

PRIEBUS: Well, first of all, I'm not the police officer of the Republican Party. So Allen can have -- say what Allen wants to say. But I think what he's really trying to say is that if we become a dependent society, if everyone is reliant on the government -- I mean, listen, Barack Obama's the one that put out this life of Julia website.

I think we all know what that is. It's a life of a girl from preschool to, I think, death or near death, showing how every step of her life --

BLITZER: Is she a slave?

PRIEBUS: Well, I think she's dependent on government to the --

BLITZER: So she's a slave?

PRIEBUS: I -- you know what, listen, I mean, it's semantics. I'm not going to defend -- I don't know --

BLITZER: I know you're not going to -- I know you very well. I know you well.

PRIEBUS: Right.

BLITZER: You're not going to defend that kind of language. And I deplore that kind of language when a Democrat says it or a Republican says it.

PRIEBUS: But I say I --

BLITZER: He shouldn't be talking like this. It's bad enough, this -- the lack of civility in our politics.

PRIEBUS: Well, two things. One, Allen West is one of the most dynamic new Republican stars in our party. That's number one.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You're not going to (inaudible) this?

PRIEBUS: He's got a bright future. But let me tell you, but I'm more embarrassed about is the president that is -- that can't keep a promise, that has an American economy that's in the ditch, that somehow is trying to perpetrate some myth to the American people that he's not to blame for --

BLITZER: I'm surprised --

PRIEBUS: -- or has no role --

BLITZER: Right.

PRIEBUS: -- in where we are --

BLITZER: You called him a dynamic star.

PRIEBUS: -- in the American economy.

BLITZER: A guy who says 70 members of the Democratic Congress are Communist card-carrying members. And now he says the president would rather see us as slaves.

PRIEBUS: Allen West is an important member of Congress from South Florida. I'm not going to throw Allen West in a ditch. I don't -- that's the first I've heard the comment here, Wolf, I mean, on your show.

The fact of the matter is I think what's most important in this debate is where we are as a country, whether the very idea of America is going to continue and what Barack Obama's done about it. That's what's on the ballot.

BLITZER: One final subject I want to talk -- do you agree with Mitt Romney that the Obama health care -- that the penalty that is imposed on those who can afford to buy health insurance but don't buy it, is not necessarily a tax, it's just -- are you with Romney?

PRIEBUS: This is not --

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Are you with John Roberts on this?

PRIEBUS: (Inaudible).

BLITZER: Who are you with?

PRIEBUS: First of all, I don't know if I have enough time. But I'll tell you right now, what -- I'm on the same page with the Romney campaign.

BLITZER: On this issue of whether it's --

PRIEBUS: The Supreme Court has spoken and they have said that it's a tax. That's different than whether or not I agree with the dissent or whether I agree with John Roberts. I happen to agree with the dissent. I happen to agree that it's unconstitutional. However, that doesn't matter.

What matters is the Supreme Court has spoken. They've said that it's a tax. And ultimately, Wolf, what really matters is that less than a third of the American people, in poll after poll, don't support ObamaCare. And if Barack Obama's so confident about this, then let's put ObamaCare on the ballot and let's make this election a referendum on ObamaCare.

BLITZER: I'll tell you why it really does matter though, whether it's a tax or penalty. You know why? Because if they want to repeal it -- and you want to repeal ObamaCare, is that correct?

PRIEBUS: Of course.

BLITZER: If it's a tax, you can repeal it with a simple majority of 51. It's called reconciliation.

PRIEBUS: And I --

BLITZER: If it's not a tax, you need 60 to break a filibuster. And you know the Democrats are going to be able to --

(CROSSTALK)

PRIEBUS: (Inaudible) straight. I didn't say it didn't matter. What I said was the Supreme Court has spoken and they've said that it's a tax. We want to repeal the ObamaCare tax. We want to save middle class families from European health care. And that's what we're going to do as a party and that's what Mitt Romney will do on day one.

BLITZER: I was giving Debbie Wasserman Schultz some grief on this yesterday.

PRIEBUS: I know you were.

BLITZER: She was sitting --

PRIEBUS: It's equal (inaudible), I get it.

BLITZER: (Inaudible) THE SITUATION ROOM. That's my job. You're doing your job. Reince, thanks for coming in.

PRIEBUS: You bet.

BLITZER: Appreciate it very much.

PRIEBUS: Happy Fourth.

BLITZER: Thank you. Happy Fourth to you as well -- and everyone in Wisconsin, a state that you love very much. 

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