msnbc | December 05, 2012
>>> okay so in washington today an all-out battle is playing out for the heart and soul of the republican party . first the war of words over the fiscal cliff with hard core conservatives pushing boehner to hold firm on tax cuts and yesterday a livid or vivid illustration of the split was on display when bob dole wheeled himself on to the floor he once led that would ban discrimination against people with disabilities but the world war ii vet saw his efforts go down in bitter defeat due to several members of his own party voting know. joining me is congressman j.c. watts of illinois. what happened to the unity once displayed in the party not just the tax issue but not being able to pass something that was a republican idea like the u.n. disabilities treaty championed by folks like former senate majority leader dole, former president george h.w. bush what happened?
>> thomas , i've been traveling the last couple of days and i've not seen all the details of what happened there, but obviously the republican party we're at a time of trying to reorganize we've had our heads handed to us a couple of times and national elections 2008 and 2012 and you know, there's some wounds, some sensitivities and right now i think the party 's trying to navigate a day at a time, and the policy arena, in the policy arena a lot of those sensitivities come out and in a sense i think the party is trying to find its way now.
>> john boehner has been getting pushback from mcconnell over tax cut issues. if tax cuts for the wealthy is the president's red line and doesn't appear to be willing to bend on that and just had an election where the american people used a federalized voice to send a mandate that they wanted the leadership president obama would commdemonstrate in a second term because he ran on the issue, isn't it something speaker bainer can get through, get enough republicans to stomach this and avoid pushing everyone to the cliff, all the drama that surrounds this?
>> speaker boehner is obviously in a tough position and trying to provide leadership in a sensitive and difficult time in the party 's history, and there was surely, i surely agree with you, thomas , that the president was reelected, but also re-election happened for the republican majority in the house of representatives , and there's a world view out there in terms of what the president believes that says that we need more spending, we are are government is the solution but i also remind you there's a world view that says we don't have a revenue problem. we have a spending problem, and that we should bring spending under control, obviously when you send proposals to the white house and the white house sends proposals to the house, there's no detail in those proposals, then we're still in the batter's box. we've not even gotten on base so i would encourage the president to send some details if he says $1.6 trillion more in revenue and we don't want to do anything on the entitlements and we'll do something on entitlements but don't want to propose or tell you what they are, then that makes it awfully difficult to come to the negotiating table and i remind republicans and democrats it's awfully difficult to, you know, get an agreement or to have confidence in handshake if you're trying to do it with your fist closed.
>> trust but verify is the old phrase.
>> that's true.
>> this morning minority leader nancy pelosi highlighted the diversity of the committee chairs on the democratic side of the house, women and minorities well represented there. last week republicans were lambasted for appointing all white nearly all male committee chairs. has the republican party learned the lessons from the election or do they risk paying the price in the next one?
>> well, thomas , forget about the committee chairs. i think the diversity and inclusion and outreach, i think it begins at the grassroots level and i've been pretty critical and vocal over the last two or three weeks and i think that every single republican in this country ought to be concerned about what's happened to us in the last two election cycles in the presidential race , and we lost with every -- we have lost with every demographic out there except for white men and i've been saying for 20 years that we've got to do a better job with nontraditional constituencies and we can't expect to have diversity in our committee chairs when we've got our republican party chairman that i don't know, that i don't have a relationship with, and so if i don't know him, how do we expect joe six-pack black guy or joe six-pack working white guy or joe six-pack working hispanic or joe six-pack small black business owner, small white business owner , i have no confidence they know him so those things should happen, those type of initiatives and establishing deeper relationships with those demographics or non-traditional constituencies should happen at the republican national committee . when you see it happening there i think you will eventually see it filter through in those committee chairs. i have concern about the committee chairs but i have a concern we don't have deeper relationships with nontraditional constituencies through the republican national committee which is where this should happen.
>> do you not support reince priebus if he were to run to be chairman again and is that a job you're interested in and you would run for the top job at the rnc?
>> well, i would submit to you that this is much broader than j.c. watts or chairman priebus, but at the same time i would say to you, thomas , if any ceo or any head coach or any pastor would have delivered the results that we got on november 6, where we were wrong in every category, we lost with every single demographic, we actually lost ground, that ceo would be fired, that head coach would be fired so i don't think that the republican national committee can run. i'm not so sure i understand the chairman has 120, 140 votes out of 168 votes. that tells me that the rnc probably isn't ready for the kind of change that i would be proposing. it tells me that we continue to grade our own test and if you continue to grade your own test, you continue to make a good grade, and so i think we've got to take a serious look at where we are as a party and look at what has happened to us in the last couple elections and i think there's enough fault to go around for everybody, but at the same time i do believe that the republican national committee , the place where all of these things, these type of outreach efforts, these type of relationships where they should be built, i think it should be in that institution.
>> we shall see how it goes. just to shorten your answer, i think that's a no, i don't support priebus and no, i'm not running.
>> well -- i've kind of found myself in a whirlwind over the last five days and this thing has taken on a life of its own.
>> that's how these things do.
>> i am speaking to you as a republican, not as a candidate for rnc.
>> thank you so much for your time. i appreciate it.
>>> i want to bring in our power panel, perry bacon, ari melber and republican strategist alice stuart . alice, i want to jump in straight off of the remarks of j.c. watts . doesn't seem he supports reince priebus in the head of the rnc, they have a diversity issue of what the brand the republican party needs to march into the future. do you agree there might need to be new leadership at the top of rnc?
>> that was a great interview with korngman watts. he made a great point not so much with leadership but the lessons we learn from this election in terms of reaching out to grassroots. there are meetings under way what the party can do specifically with regard to immigration and including more women and minorities and young people . those are the key things reaching out in terms of the grassroots level that's critically important to do. reince priebus had success in terms of the relationships that were built in washington and across the country, on the down ballot railses and the successes we had in congress and some of the down ballot races, those are just as critical as what we saw at the top of the ticket.
>> your reaction, what do you think should happen at the rnc? watts pointed out reince priebus has a majority of the votes to stay put but watts could emerge.
>> j.c. was speaking as diplomatically as he could and you shortened his answer. if you read through the tea leaves of what we heard on your program he was saying very clearly as a republican, we cannot continue the same failed policies, that starts with priebus and extends out to a lot of other leadership in the pear so you got to do that. to alice's point, representation and policy have to go together. it is a huge problem in america in 2012 the way it looks today to have what you put up on the screen, all those committee chairs. i'm not casting apersians on any individual one but sooner or later when you look at thing agapt even if we didn't do this on purpose we have to take a step back. the republican party practiced a type of affirmative action , because it has recruited candidates from diverse backgrounds from more women for political benefit. great. they have to meet that with policy, talk about immigration or affirmative action , up before the supreme court this year where they've been silent or giving other people a chance. it's not enough to welcome women and minorities in political leadership positions because it helps you if you don't open the doors to them throughout society.
>> perry, seems like the last couple of days the story picked up steam for j.c. watts . what do you hear from sources inside washington , d.c., whether or not reince priebus is the person to head up the rnc or do they need somebody that brings diversity?
>> my understanding is priebus is popular so far and has the majority of the folks. priebus starts out with a lead, people like him. the republicans had a black chairman in 2009 and 2010 , michael steele , of course who our viewers are familiar with. the thing is he had plenty of ideas diversifying the party and the republicans more broadly ignored him. it's not clear to me if picking j.c. watts matters if they ignore his advice, getting more young and hispanic and black votes and listen, it's not just the party chairman . the party chairman is a weak office in and of itself. the party has to make more strides in a lot of ways on policy, on candidates, on tone, no chairman the candidate like mitt romney giving gifts to people that's a big problem the chairman can't solve.
>> you can lead an elephant to water but can't make