RNC Chairman, Michael Steele, appeared on Meet The Press (1-10-2010). Complete transcript here:
GREGORY: Let me start with those remarks by Harry Reid as being reported in this new book, "Game Change," about the 2008 race. "Senator Reid was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama, a, quote, "light-skinned" African- American, quote, "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one," as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama's race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination."
Senator Reid quickly apologized. He spoke to President Obama yesterday, who, as I mentioned, issued a statement saying the case is closed on this, he accepts the apology.
Governor Kaine, is the case closed? Should there be a consequence for these remarks?
KAINE: David, I think the case is closed, because President Obama has spoken directly with the leader and accepted his apology. The comments were unfortunate and they were insensitive. They were in the context of praising the senator and acknowledging that the senator could be a great president, but they were still insensitive.
I think Senator Reid stepped up, acknowledged that they were wrong, apologized to the president. He's accepted the apology and we're moving on.
GREGORY: Michael Steele, back in 2002, Trent Lott was ousted as majority leader for racially insensitive remarks. He at that point said it's Strom Thurmond, who ran as a segregationist for president, had he been elected president, that the country wouldn't have had some of the problems over all those years. Then-state senator Obama said at that point that Lott ought to be ousted a majority leader. Do you see a difference between then and now?
STEELE: Oh, yes, there is a big double standard here. And the thing about it that is interesting is that when Democrats get caught saying racist things, you know, an apology is enough. If that had been Mitch McConnell saying that about an African-American candidate for president of the United States, trust me, this chairman and the DNC would be screaming for his head, very much as they were with Trent Lott.
And the reality of it is, racism and racist conversations have no place today in America. This term, this, you know, like he's going to pass, for example, for white America because he, you know, has got this Negro dialect that he can turn on or turn off, and he's light- skinned, that's anachronistic language that harkens back to the 1950s and '60s, and it confirms to me a mind-set that is out of step with where America is today. But I can assure you that if I had, as national chairman, said that, well, it's all behind us and he's apologized, let's move on, no one would be accepting that. There has to be a consequence here, if the standard is the one that was set in 2002 with Trent Lott.
GREGORY: Is the consequence that Senator Reid should step down as majority leader?
STEELE: I believe it is. Well, from my perspective, whether he steps down today or I retire him in November, either way he will not be the leader in 2011.
GREGORY: Governor Kaine?
KAINE: Well, first, the senator said -- or I mean, Chairman Steele said earlier this week that the Republicans were not going to win it back, so Leader Reid is still going to be the leader. But I will say, anybody looking at Trent Lott's statements praising somebody who had been a pro-segregation candidate for president, will see that there is no comparison between those comments and those of Senator Reid's.
Now, the senator did make comments that were wrong and insensitive, and he's apologized, but he made them in the context of promoting the candidacy...
KAINE: ... the candidacy of Senator Obama.
GREGORY: So you don't think he should resign. You don't think he should resign.
KAINE: Absolutely not.
GREGORY: Let me move on more generally to the politics of the country and the mood of the country right now. Chairman Steele, how is the mood around the country?
STEELE: The mood of the country right now is sour. People are angry, they are frustrated, they're scared. And I think you see and have seen certainly in 2009 elections and you will see this year the public standing up and saying they've had enough. They're saying no to more taxes, they are saying no to more government. And as we're about to celebrate this one-year anniversary of this administration, what do we have? We have no health care, we have no jobs, we have no money, and we owe $13 trillion worth of debt. That is not lost on the American people right now, and so they're going to the polls, they're going to their town halls, they're going to the streets of the country, and they're saying enough. And they're putting the leadership on notice. Pay attention to us, listen to us, we're telling you what we want and what we don't want, and yet this administration and this Democratic Party has a tin ear to the fact that people out there are hurting. We haven't created the jobs, and yet now we're going to have another conversation about jobs? That should have been the conversation on the first day, not, you know, the things that the administration has pursued.