LatinaLista — For months now, I’ve resisted trying to equate Michael Steele with Sarah Palin — a Republican Party choice (a.k.a. token) to appease a certain demographic. Palin was to appeal to women voters. Steele was to be the public olive branch to people of color.
The trouble is the Republican Party got more than what they bargained for with both of them. This morning’s interview between Michael Steele and Univision’s anchor Jorge Ramos, on the news show Al Punto, exemplifies the point beautifully.
Either Steele just doesn’t have the eloquence when it comes to thinking on your feet or he’s parroting Republican party rhetoric that I find hard to believe that Latino Republicans totally agree with. Either way, it makes for a bizarre exchange.
In fact, the whole interview, which touched on issues of racism and Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize, health care and the Hispanic vote, provides enough “blogger fodder” to last a couple of weeks.
But it’s one of those things that you have to believe for yourself. So, thanks to Univision’s PR dept. who sent Latina Lista the transcript of this morning’s interview, I republish it here — reserving the right to blog more about it this week.
INTERVIEW WITH MICHAEL STEELE
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2009
Jorge Ramos – Mr. Steele, thank you so much for talking to us. I really appreciate it.
Michael Steele – My pleasure.
Jorge Ramos – Let’s start talking about the Noble Peace Prize. I remember clearly that when leaders of Guatemala, Argentina and South Africa won the Noble Peace Prize most of the citizens were celebrating. That was not the case here in America when President Barack Obama won the Noble Peace Prize. Why do you really believe he has done nothing to deserve it?
Michael Steele – Well, I think the reality of it is given when the nomination process closed 11 days after the President’s inauguration it stretched credibility, certainly credulity to think that in 11 days the administration of this President had done anything to warrant such an honorable and notable distinction of service and I think that the bottom-line for a lot of Americans, and this is not about conservatives or about Republicans having anything to say. This is America across the political spectrum, kind of went and shook their head, and went wait a minute, this doesn’t sound right, it doesn’t feel right because the administration is just in its 9th month, 10th month of service to the nation. We’ve yet to see the full measure of what the President’s efforts are going to bare in term of the fruit of peace that would award that type of distinction.
Jorge Ramos – I want to get your opinion on this comment. As you know a few days ago, a few weeks ago, President Carter said that, according to him, that the opposition to President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man. Do you agree?
Michael Steele – no, no.
Jorge Ramos – For instance, when you hear commentators like Glenn Beck saying that for him President Barack Obama is a racist, with a deep seeded hatred for white people, how do you react?
Michael Steele – That’s one man’s opinion.
Jorge Ramos – Yes, but…
Michael Steele – That’s one man’s opinion.
Jorge Ramos – but should you defend Barack Obama against these types of comments? I don’t know, it’s just a question.
Michael Steele – No, no, look the reality of it is when I ran for the United States’ Senate and I was called an Uncle Tom by leading Democrats in the country, when I was called a slave by Steny Hoyer who is now the majority leader in the House no one came running to my defense and no one seemed to think that that was racists at the time. I don’t play the race card, I don’t play the race game, the way some tend to want to do. When people have legitimate and I think clear policy differences with the President of the United States, that’s not a racist issue, that is a policy based discrepancy or difference of opinion that we can have the debate about in the public square everyday, but, you know, I am sure you and I know I do, know real racism when it rears its ugly head. I rather fight that than to play the game that Jimmy Carter was playing.
Jorge Ramos – Republican Senator Olympia Snowe has announced that she will vote for a healthcare reform bill. Are you disappointed, do you expect more Republicans to vote for it?
Michael Steele – I don’t, if it’s what we’ve seen produced so far in the House and in the Senate. I don’t think we need a comprehensive overhaul of our healthcare system because our healthcare system, while it remains the best in the country and while it provides largely the services that people need and the quality of those services are very, very good, there are costs associated with this system that needs to be address more directly.
Jorge Ramos – But there are 40 or 50 million people who don’t have health insurance. Right?
Michael Steele – The President himself has said it’s not 40 to 50 number one, number two, the President himself has reduced that number to 30 and the actual number of people who legitimately need to access this healthcare system are around 12 to 15 million, but if that’s the number, I’ll take your 40 to 50 million if that is the number you want to use, the question then becomes, how much, who pays and where does the money come from and the administration continues to fail to address that issue in an honest way for the people to appreciate exactly what this cost is going to be for a complete overhaul of our system versus what Republicans have argued… It’s commonsense solution, it doesn’t require a nationalizing of our healthcare system, and it doesn’t involve or require a great government intrusion through regulation and taxation and other confiscatory policies. What it requires is applying a little, you know elbow grease, to allow those businesses, those Hispanic businesses for example, under the market place and get the healthcare that they need.
Jorge Ramos – Mr. Steele, lets talk a little bit about immigration, you’ve said that we need meaningful immigration reform. I want to find out exactly what you mean, what would you do for instance with the 12 million undocumented immigrants who are already here in the United States, what is your plan?
Michael Steele – Well, and that’s a very good question and that becomes the jump up point for any discussion among others that we need to deal with. First, I think my first view of it is; I am sick and tired of people playing the hot politics of immigration. I am hoping the administration as we get ready to go into next year and future years bring the level head to it. I am certainly arguing for Republicans to have a level head in dealing with this issue, because it affects people’s lives, weather they are here illegally or legally, it affects lives. So that is the first and foremost thing, we got to stay true to our character as a nation, we must recognize that. Number two, I think as I found with a lot of Hispanics, particularly those who have been her for several generations, they understand and respect the rule of law that is so important as a foundational principle of this country…I can sum it up for you this way, the party as I said is always the party, its been the party of assimilation and that is something that we believe in very firmly and basically what we should be saying is that there are rules that you need to get into the country, go the right door, fill out the right form, have some apple pie, hum a few bars of the star spangle banner and get to work, God bless you, and I think that that begins to set us on the right road to dealing with this issue.
Jorge Ramos – Why do you refer to undocumented immigrants as illegal aliens? I’ve spoken with John McCain and Barack Obama, to give you two examples, and they don’t use those terms they call them undocumented immigrants. Why do you call them illegal aliens?
Michael Steele – Well, if they are here illegally I got a call it what it is. I mean if you can be undocumented, look you can dress it up anyway you want the reality of it is the status is the key feature here, and if the status is such that you did not come thru the regular process, that you did not present yourself properly, to be documented then you are here illegally.
Jorge Ramos – One last question, in the last election the Republican party got 31 percent of the Hispanic vote down from 44 percent. What went wrong? And, how are you planning to get back the Hispanic vote? Especially when the majority of Latinos favor legalization.
Michael Steele – I think the key thing is, your supposition of your question assumes that is the only issue that matters (Jorge Ramos: Of course not) to Latinos, and that’s my point, it isn’t. And so, I would not. I would not say in the first instance that a drop in support for Republicans was hinged on that one particular issue. I think the Republican Party failed to engage in a creative way, or an honest way as it had done in the past with many members of the Latino community…there were a number of areas where we came off track as a party and my goal is to get us back on track. A discussion on immigration is one, engaging those 1.6 million small business owners that are Hispanic is another, by having conversations on education and healthcare is just a few others… I think this party, the Republican Party stands a lot closer to the hearts and souls of Hispanic families, Hispanic businesses, and the Hispanic community at large, that a lot of people want to give us credit for, which we may even give ourselves credit for. So I’m hoping over the next few years as we engage in debates in the battle of big ideas, to be right at that table with my Hispanic friends and neighbors making the case for the GOP.
Jorge Ramos – Mr. Steele, thank you so much and I really appreciate that you are taking the time to talk to us.
Michael Steele – I appreciate you, thank you so much.
==End of Interview===