Reince Priebus is the chair of the Republican National Committee and will speak tomorrow at George Washington University on the subject of the principles that bind together the GOP as opposed to those few issues which divide the party. He joined me on Wednesday’s show:
HH: I begin today with the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Chairman Reince Priebus, who’s going to give a speech tomorrow that will probably be a major point in this campaign’s closing 33 days as of tomorrow, 34 as of today. Chairman Priebus, welcome back.
RP: Hey, I’m happy to be on the show, Hugh, thanks for having me.
HH: Crowded news environment.
HH: First question, you’re going to make a statement tomorrow about things that actually unify Republicans. But what’s your advice to Republicans about headlines like Ebola and ISIS as they look at the big principles that you’re laying out tomorrow that everyone kind of agrees us, but also the immediate headline stuff?
RP: Well, I mean obviously, it’s very serious stuff that’s out there right now in Ebola, and obviously beyond that, what’s happening in the Middle East. But obviously what I’m trying to do tomorrow, and I think what we’re doing tomorrow as party leaders is more of a long term game. I mean, it’s for the immediate, what do you believe in and where our country is going, and where do you think we need to be, but also where are we going to be in December, January and February when we’re the majority in the Senate, and the majority in the House, and how do we expect to govern, and what principles are going to guide us. And I think obviously, you have to understand where you fit in, in a news cycle, in a day or in a week. But over the long term, these are going to be principles that bind our party, but more importantly, principles that can help govern our country in a better direction.
HH: Now it’s been 20 years this week, in fact, since the Contract For America kind of gave a lift to the Republicans in ’94.
HH: You haven’t called this any sort of a contract, but it’s really more principles for American renewal. How many of them are there? And what are people, give us a little sneak preview of tomorrow.
RP: Well, there’s ten with a little bit of a bonus on the Constitution. But really, what it is, is it all stems from a couple things. Number one, we’re a party that believes in unlimited opportunity for everyone in this country, number one. Number two, everything that we believe in stems from three things – one, a strong economy, a strong Defense, and number three, a strong society. From there, we go into the principles for American renewal. And I will tell you the way that this is set up is number one, I think these are bold statements about where we’re going to head in regard to the budget, health care, veterans, values, immigration, but it also gives an example to the American people as to what the choice is in this country. One in particular, every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education, and no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school. Now that may seem like a pretty reasonable thing to say, but the truth is in this country, there’s a choice that people can make, and the Republicans say that parents ought to have a choice. The Democrats say no, the parents ought to send their child to the school that the zip code dictates that they send their child. That’s a choice. And it’s a bold choice for this country, and I think it’s about time that our national party and others start laying out those choices for the American people, not just for November, and going into the election in 2016. And that’s what we’re doing tomorrow.
HH: You know, out here on the West Coast, there is a tremendous upswell of opposition to the federalization of Common Core. And even one of the architects of the original Common Core, Jeb Bush, said you know, if anyone ever told me the Department of Education would be running this, he’d have been disgusted by that. So there is this education creep to the federal level, so I’m glad that’s in the talking points. But I saw today a new poll. 60% of Americans want Obamacare repealed. 60%, Reince Priebus, is that part of the game?
RP: Absolutely. And I think that we have to start over with health care reform that puts patients and doctors in charge, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington. And that’s going to be a topic tomorrow as well. I mean, there’s just no doubt about it. People, and I think it’s important for our party to articulate that it’s not just about scrapping and doing nothing. It’s about starting over and putting patients in charge. And God forbid that we would be in a place in our life, and some of us are right now, some of us know people that are, that would have to ask the question if we’re all under Obamacare, what health care am I entitled to, and how much health care am I entitled to? And if that’s really where we’re at, we’re in a pretty sad place. But that again is a choice. And I think it’s really important that as Republicans and as leaders, conservatives in this country, we need to lay out the choice for people. The choice is Obamacare, a bureaucratic-run health care system, or a system that’s better, that gives patients choices, allows them to keep their doctor, you know, have hospitals and doctors tell us what they’re charging, tort reform that drives down the costs, and gives us more choices. But there’s a choice. And I think the choice is where we need to be in talking to people across this country.
HH: Reince Priebus, yesterday I had on Cillizza of the Washington Post, James Hohmann of Politico and Bill Kristol, and all talking about the elections, which it’s a pretty good environment for Republicans right now. But it’s also a chaotic environment around the world. Will laying out principles bring Republicans together, or further complicate their ability to message?
RP: Well no, I think these are things that you know, 95% of Republicans and conservatives, and everyone in between, are going to agree with.
RP: I mean, the point of this is to lay out the principles of our party that candidates across the country, you know, they can choose what three or four things they want to emphasize, but this is about uniting our party. And I think what you’re going to see tomorrow is that people from every spectrum in our party, the most conservative and the moderate and some people in between, are all going to be on board with this. So I think people are going to be pretty impressed with the fact that this is getting support across the board. I think it’s the right thing to do. It is bold, but it’s also something that I think a lot of people have been waiting for.
HH: Where are you going to deliver this speech?
RP: So I’m going to deliver this speech at G.W. here in Washington, D.C. at 9:00 in the morning, and then we’re going to distribute the speech nationwide, and then the principles, and then we’re doing to take it from there.
HH: All right, now you mentioned at the beginning, and everyone’s ears perked up, with a bonus on the Constitution. Of course, that’s the frame of silver, Abraham Lincoln said, around the golden apple of the Declaration. So what are you going to say about that frame of silver, because right now, I mean, it’s pretty tarnished by this president and this administration.
RP: Well, I think it’s about time that not just us as a party, but as a country, get back to the Constitution, that understand that the Constitution ought to be preserved, valued and honored. And we’ve got a president that doesn’t do that. We’ve got a government, quite frankly, that doesn’t do that. We’ve come so far off the rails as to what separation of powers, and what power the Congress has, what power the Senate should have, and what power the president should have, things have gotten so far off the rails. And if any of the things that we’ve tested, that we’ve polled, that we’ve focus grouped, that we’ve interviewed people about, this has been a huge project. I will tell you, it may surprise you, but there is nothing that was more off the charts than people’s feeling about the Constitution, and the fact that whether they liked government or hated government, it was all universally understood that government is failing, and it’s failing because government has grown too big, and people have exerted powers that they don’t have. And who’s left in the cold? The average person, the average family in the middle of Iowa, and Wisconsin, and Kansas and everywhere in between, and that is something that we need to talk more about.
HH: Well, amen, and you’ll get a lot of support on that. But people will want to know how in the world does the Republican Party repair the damage done to the Constitutional structure by executive orders, for example, that waive federal law on immigration or any other issue? And how do they repair the damage when you’ve got the VA, the IRS, the Social Security, I mean, the Secret Service, they’re all visibly broken. It’s just like an enormous wrecking ball has crashed through everything.
RP: Well, for one thing, you have to win, and then the second thing you have to do is to do as much of damage control as you can over the next two years. You can pass a budget. Some things you can’t do without the president, but some things you can. And administrative rules are some things you can do without the president being involved. And then, but you have to lay, with a governing majority, you can lay out the vision to the American people so that in 2015 and 2016, when it comes time for choosing a president, we also have a legislature here in Washington that’s got its act together and it’s got its mouth straight and its message straight, so that we can lay out a vision that people can believe in when it comes down to choosing who the president’s going to be. And I’ve got to tell you, and I think people can agree with this, for one thing, I am an optimistic person. You cannot be chairman of a national party without being inherently optimistic. But I will tell you, I don’t know how you run a national party on our side if we go sixteen years out of power in the White House. I don’t know how that’s possible. I don’t know what the pitch would be, Hugh. There’s going to be a chairman on your radio show from the RNC, or chairwoman, in 2017. And if a Democrat is in the White House, I can’t imagine what the pitch is going to be to you and your listeners. It is a must-win in 2016. We’ve got a be a midterm party that wins this election, but then we’ve got to be a party that understands how to win a big cultural vote in this country, and all of this is part of it.
HH: Reince Priebus, we’ll be watching tomorrow morning, 6:00 on the West Coast, 9:00 on the East, as you deliver the American renewal speech. 20 years after the Contract With America comes the American renewal promise. Tomorrow, we’ll cover it, of course. Thank you, Chairman Reince Priebus of the RNC.
End of interview.