Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Margo Jefferson joins Kojo to discuss her new memoir and explore how her experiences growing up in Chicago frame her perspectives about race and opportunity in the United States.
Republicans from around the country and the Washington region gather in Florida for their national convention. Meanwhile, candidates in an independent race for D.C. Council wage trench warfare over their rights just to appear on the ballot. Join us for our weekly review of the politics, policies and personalities of the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.
- Tom Sherwood Resident Analyst; NBC 4 reporter; and Columnist for the Current Newspapers
- Tom Davis Director of federal government affairs, Deloitte LLP; Vice Chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority; President, Republican Main Street Partnership; Former Member, U.S. House of Representatives (R-Va, Dist. 11).
- Michael Steele MSNBC Political Analyst; Founder, Purple Nation Solutions; Former Chairman, Republican National Committee; Former Lt. Governor, Maryland (R)
Politics Hour Video
Former Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va, Dist. 11) talked about the potential for D.C. budget autonomy language to appear in the Republican platform. “I’d like to see it in the law of the land,” Davis said. He said Paul Ryan would likely give D.C. a “second look” if Ryan were elected vice president.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5 in Washington and the studios of WMNF in Tampa, Fla., welcome to "The Politics Hour," starring Tom Sherwood. I'm Kojo Nnamdi. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. He's been in Washington during the course of the week when we have been in Tampa, Fla. So, Tom, we haven't been really keeping abreast of everything that's going on in Washington, depending on you to do that. First, how are you, and have you been keeping track of the Nationals' games?
MR. TOM SHERWOODWell, I'm in charge here at the studio in case there's any worries out there in the listening audience about somebody who's not in charge back here at the White House and the studio.
NNAMDII seemed to remember a former secretary of state...
SHERWOODYes. Something like it.
NNAMDI...saying the same thing that didn't do well for his career after that.
SHERWOODWell, you know, my career is almost over, anyway, so it doesn't matter. Here's the deal. The Nats scared the heck out of me with that three-game loss to Philadelphia, but they've come back. They've now shown that they didn't forget how to play baseball. I'm very happy. And as for the rest of the news this week, you know, you basically are gone, so no one is trying to make news to get on your show.
NNAMDIWell, it's my understanding that D.C. at-large Councilmember Michael A. Brown overcame two challenges aiming to throw him off the November ballot. What happened in that situation?
SHERWOODWell, I think this is another example to -- similarly to the Initiative 70, corporate contributions petition. It's very difficult to read those petitions. You'd think they'd just go in and look at them. Yes, you're a registered voter. You get counted. No, you're not. You don't get counted. But it's just very difficult to read some of those names, and so when the challengers want to challenge Michael Brown, he said I think collect that many, but I got the 3,000 to be on the ballot. And sure enough, he did. There are very few ballot challenges. And, Kojo...
NNAMDII seemed to think -- and I seemed to notice that your guest in the studio seems to be already ready to join the conversation.
SHERWOODWell, I know.
NNAMDIHe was known here in Tampa -- he is known here in Tampa, Fla., as the chauffeur for Jeannemarie Devolites Davis. Tom Davis, he's a former member of the United States House of Representatives. He's a Republican who held a seat in Virginia's 11th District and chaired the House Government Reform Committee. He's now the director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LLP and the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Cong. Davis, thank you for joining us. You seemed to be ready to join the conversation.
MR. TOM DAVISWell, I always find it ironic that the city under its charter has to have two members of different parties.
DAVISThey're not with the prevailing party. And Michael Brown, who I admire and respect and like and think he's an earnest young man, but when he goes on CNN, the caption underneath says Democratic political consultant.
SHERWOODRight. It is the world's smallest fig leaf that he's an independent on -- in the ballot in the District of Columbia.
NNAMDIWell, guess what, gentlemen? Here in Tampa, Fla., the mayor and the city council all run in nonpartisan elections, so they are not identified by party. Colbert King, yours truly and others have been advocating that for the District of Columbia, Tom.
DAVISI agree -- let me just say I agree with Rahm Emanuel was elected mayor of Chicago.
SHERWOODYou know, when you say you're Tom, I don't know whether you're asking me or -- well.
DAVISHe's talking to me, Tom. You get that.
NNAMDII call him Mr. Congressman. I call you Tom.
SHERWOODNo. He's a has-been.
DAVISBut I left undefeated and unindicted.
DAVISLook, let me just say Rahm Emanuel was elected as an independent as mayor of Chicago. Los Angeles, Dallas, Milwaukee, where Scott Walker was county executive, independents. Fairfax -- I think they all ought to be independent at that level. Bringing partisanship into local government is the worst thing that ever happened. And let me just say we used to say there's not a Republican or Democratic way to fix a pothole.
DAVISThat was when I was starting out in local government. Nowadays, the Republicans want to privatize it, and the Democrats want a PLA. It's just one of these things that's gotten silly.
SHERWOODThat's private labor agreement.
DAVISA project labor agreement.
NNAMDIWell, Tom Sherwood, is there a Democratic or Republican way to fix a cracked Capitol Dome? You wrote about it this week. The New York Times wrote about it this week. The Capitol Dome, the nation's grandest symbol of federal authority, has been dinged by three years of inclement weather, and its exterior is in need of repair. The dome has 1,300 known cracks and breaks. Why is not being fixed, Tom?
SHERWOODWell, before we get to the partisan standoff, which the congressman can speak to about, I want to know who counted the 1,300 cracks. I mean, who -- what your cracks said -- there were 1,300 cracks in the dome. How -- I mean, how do they know that really? But really -- but seriously, I was up there. You know, it's a gorgeous place. No matter what your -- if you're turnoff on politics or worried about the partisan divides, you only have to stand in that rotunda and look up 180 feet to see the history of the country laid out there in its really glory.
SHERWOODAnd the fact that it needs $61 million in repairs is a sad thing. I did my story yesterday. I went down to the Lincoln Memorial for which, you know, they took the fence down this morning. That's being done. They're doing a $34 million -- that was a $34 million rebuilding that was sinking into the ground. I did the National Mall where the grass is going to be ready for whoever is inaugurated on January 20th.
SHERWOODBut Congress has the, you know, the Senate and the House, Republican, Democratic divide, they've been unable to agree to the money, and so it's been hung up. It is ridiculous.
NNAMDIThey're saying they simply don't have enough money, but apparently, Cong. Davis...
SHERWOODNo, it's not they don't have enough money. It's just how it's going to be done. The Republican side and -- on the House side has been reluctant to say, yes, let's go ahead and put the money in. The supplementary budget is going to carry the government through to next March.
DAVISYou know, Kojo...
NNAMDIIs this an indication how deep the divide is, Cong. Davis?
DAVISYes, yes, it is. You know, they're afraid of the ads saying he spent $60 million to do the Capitol Dome, raised his own salary, but he wants to, you know...
SHERWOODHe wants to cut your Medicare, but he wants to fix the dome.
DAVISExactly. They're just worried about, you know, this stuff has gotten so ridiculous. It insults thinking people.
SHERWOODIt is a great...
SHERWOOD...if you haven't been there, it's a spectacular place to go and ...
SHERWOOD..as long as it doesn't fall on you.
DAVISAnd if -- yeah. And if it collapses, we would be laughingstock. I mean, you have to fix these things.
NNAMDIFrom Washington to what's been going on here in Tampa, Fla., if you have comments or any questions about what has been taking place at the Republican National Convention, you can call us at 800-433-8850, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, email to email@example.com, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers.
NNAMDIOur guest analyst is Tom Davis, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He's now the director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LLP and the vice chairman of the metropolitan...
SHERWOODDoes that mean he's a lobbyist? Excuse me. But does that mean he's a lobbyist? You keep giving him that grandiose title. Does that mean you're a lobbyist?
NNAMDIHe's sitting next to you. Ask him.
SHERWOODI am. That's why I interrupted you.
SHERWOODOK, good. We'll check if it's registered.
NNAMDI800-433-8850. As to what's been going on here at the convention in terms of the District of Columbia, Tom Sherwood and Tom Davis, we talked with the chairman of the D.C. Republican Party, Bob Kabel, about what happened in the platform committee that didn't allow language even favoring budget autonomy to get into the committee -- the Republican National Committee platform. And here is what he had to say. We have a clip.
MR. BOB KABELWell, you know, I've worked with -- I've been on the RNC for eight years, and he has been as well. I think the good news for us and dealing with this issue is he's no longer going to be the national committeeman from Indiana. But he is typical of a lot of the people who strive and, you know, really sort of live to be on the platform committee. He has a small group of dedicated conservatives who just -- they have a knee-jerk reaction to D.C. And so with him gone and I think some others retiring, the -- we're going to see some significant changes in four years.
NNAMDIHe's talking about Indiana Republican Cong. James Bopp who blocked any language about budget autonomy going into the platform committee -- delegate. I'm sorry. He was a delegate. Cong. Davis, do you think that there's in the future hope of getting more language about D.C. budget autonomy in the RNC platform?
DAVISWell, I'd like to see it in the law of the land, and I think we're working on that. Majority Leader Cantor has supported it. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the committee with responsibility in the House, has supported this. The irony here is everybody is putting -- nobody -- first of all, nobody cares what's in the platform that -- in the governing class. This is basically for the activists.
DAVISIt's important to some of the conservative goers. But at the end of day, ask yourself, Democrats control the House, the Senate and the presidency for two years, where was it then? Why didn't they get it done then? How come I was in the House we got through D.C. voter rights in the House? Clean shot, blocked by a, you know, a filibuster in the Senate. I left. They get it through the Senate, and they can't get it through a Democratic House. You've got to ask yourself, what's going on here? What are the real priorities, or is D.C. being played?
SHERWOODWell, you know, the whole effort for D.C. vote, Cong. Davis did in fact craft the one possible compromise that had any chance in the last 30 years.
DAVISWhich Paul Ryan voted for, I just want to point out.
SHERWOODWell, we'll get to him in a moment. But the whole...
DAVISYou know, well, I want to give him a good introduction, that's all.
SHERWOODThe problem in the city is that we are a city filled with powerful people who have direct line of access to Congress to get things they want done. They don't have to go through a state -- a U.S. senator or a member of Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton. They can simply go up the Hill, to the Hill and get what they want done. There is no thirsting for political power like a senator or in this city by the people who have the power to change it.
NNAMDIWell, you said...
SHERWOODBut, you know, for example, Jack Kemp, who is a -- whose name has been mentioned any number of times in the past week at the convention, was a moderate conservative Republican, proud of that label, I believe, who supported voting rights for the city of Washington. I don't think he supported statehood, but I don't know. I can't remember. And then I would like to ask, you know, Paul Ryan, the vice presidential nominee, is a student of Jack Kemp's...
SHERWOODA -- his mentee. Yes, OK. Always sounds like a whale or something. Will Paul Ryan give the city a second look if he's vice president of the United States?
DAVISSure. And Paul is a very fair guy. His economics are very conservative, as are mine. But on these kind of issues that go beyond that, absolutely.
NNAMDICong. Davis, you know a thing or two about Northern Virginia. We've got a chance to talk to another Northern Virginian, Gov. Bob McDonnell on Monday night here in Tampa. He says he's told Mitt Romney that if he focuses his energy on offering solutions and talking about jobs, he'll have a message that plays well in Northern Virginia. Do you think that Romney and his surrogates offered potential voters that kind of a message during this convention here?
DAVISWell, yeah, but in Northern Virginia, just remember our unemployment is way under the national average...
DAVISIt's not to say it's not a job because we're used to 2 or 3 percent. Say, you drive it up to 5 percent, it looks comparatively not as good. I think, though, we have to understand that government bashing is not popular in Northern Virginia. We have hundreds of thousands of people either work directly for the federal government or are federal contractors. I would go after the sequestering hard.
DAVISPresident Obama signed this into law. If this goes into effect January 2nd as the current law allows, it's going to lead to a lot of layoffs and a lot of job loss in the whole Washington area, as well as, you know, California and some other key states. We've got to come in and try to find something that can displace that at this point, find other offsets, or our economy can go into a tailspin pretty quickly.
NNAMDIBob, you know, I think Bob McDonnell, the governor, is giving Mitt Romney the same advice that Bob McDonnell followed that he -- Bob McDonnell did not run on social issues that are red meat for the right -- the most right part of the Republican Party. He ran on getting things done, and that is an appeal for people in Northern Virginia.
NNAMDIGlad you mentioned Bob McDonnell because Washington Post columnist Bob McCartney said that McDonnell seemed workmanlike this week that he showed a disposition better suited for someone angling for a Cabinet post rather than a springboard for a national campaign. Cong. Davis, what did you make of Bob McDonnell's performance this week? Do you think he's lined up for a Cabinet position?
DAVISWell, I don't do -- think he's doing it with that in mind. I mean, he'd make a great attorney general or secretary of commerce. I don't think there's any question that he would be an addition to the Romney administration. I don't know if he would take it or not. I will tell you this: If he were to move in to the Cabinet, Bill Bolling moves into the governorship, the dynamics for next year's gubernatorial race completely changed at that point with an income but -- and the attorney general challenging him. I don't know how that works out at the end of the day, but it'll be interesting for political observers to write about at this point.
SHERWOODWell, since you've just been to the Republican convention and you've seen the base and the activists in the party excited. Mitt Romney's speech, even the Democrats are acknowledging that it was a good speech, no gaffs, no horrible things. But how much is Virginia a battleground? It's almost cliche now that everyone says Virginia is one of the battleground states, most of 10 of them in play. How do you see the race coming out here going into the Democratic convention or what Obama's people will do to try to get the attention of Virginia voters?
DAVISWell, I think that President Obama has some unique attributes that may put Virginia and North Carolina -- we call it elevated African-American turnout, elevated student turnout the last time. The turnout model for Virginia was completely changed over what had been done previously. We don't know what the turnout model will be this year, Tom. But the poll show it's pretty close at this point.
DAVISNorthern Virginia, a key area for Democrats, cast 28 percent of the vote statewide for the presidential race in the last three presidential elections that's been pretty consistent. Democrats have gone from breaking even up here to carrying it last time by 233,000 votes. Republicans have to basically put the tourniquet on Northern Virginia, stem their loses here. And it revolves around government, the workings of government, the fact that we have a law large multi-ethnic population.
DAVISAnd the Romney campaign is targeting these groups this time. It has a different strategy, and I might add a different wind at their back this time. Obama last time running as a challenger to an -- with an unpopular Republican president, two unpopular wars and economic collapse and had a 2:1 spending advantage. This time, he's had to govern for four years and spending advantage, Romney. So this gonna be a different dynamic. Whether it'll be enough to swing the state or not, I think, remains to be seen.
SHERWOODWhat about -- if I could just -- on that one more point, the women voters who tilt fairly strongly at this moment towards Obama, does that play at all in Northern Virginia or in the state?
DAVISWell, it's probably more pronounced among college-educated women and working women, which you find a lot in Northern Virginia than other parts of the state. Surprisingly, Romney's doing better there than McCain did, but he's got to do considerably better. Look, I think they are looking around at this point. People are not happy with the outcomes, with this administration. So they're looking around for Romney to make the sale, and he started last night with his acceptance speech.
DAVISThe build up to that, as you can see, they're not writing off women as a class. I think he's gonna do better than McCain, and we'll see how it plays out. He's doing very well among men, by the way. So these things even out.
NNAMDIAmongst -- among several Republicans who are noticeably absent from this week's festivities, and we'll be talking with one very shortly, another one, however, was George Allen, the former governor and senator who's running to get his seat back this fall. Congressman Davis, what did George Allen stand to gain or lose, if anything, by sitting out this convention?
DAVISWell, it's interesting to note that lieutenant governor and attorney general, who are both running for governor next year, were both there because they're gonna be in a convention which will be determined by party activists, your activist leaders or delegates and alternates and others that are going to the convention. And so that was to their advantage to work that crowd. But George Allen has a different issue. He's got to work independents.
DAVISAnd you don't know how this convention is gonna turn out, identification with that. So he's better off at this point. Now, he's got the activists. They're already for him. He's won his primary overwhelmingly. He's going after independent swing voters, and you don't get those hanging around conventions.
SHERWOODAnd Tim Kaine on the Democratic side next week, his folks have told me, he's gonna be there only on Tuesday. He's gonna go down, visit with the Virginia delegation and some of the national. I think he speaks briefly in one afternoon or something. And then he's coming back to the city. That truly is a close race, that Senate campaign.
DAVISRight. And for a guy who is Democratic national chairman...
SHERWOODI knew that would come up.
DAVIS...to come in and out, he's trying to put some distance between himself and his own party.
SHERWOODWell, he did pick Charlotte. He was part of the team that picked Charlotte.
DAVISYeah, so does (unintelligible)
NNAMDISpeaking of Democratic national chairman and part of teams that picked locations for national conventions, joining us now is Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who was the chairman when Tampa, Fla. was picked for this convention. He's the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. He's a founder of Purple Nation Solutions, a strategic communications and public affairs firm. He joins us by telephone. Michael Steele, welcome. Good to talk to you.
MR. MICHAEL STEELEHey, it's good to talk with you, Kojo. Hope you're doing well, and you're all rested from a wonderful week here in Tampa.
NNAMDINot rested at all. They kept me going. I saw you on TV at six o'clock this morning. I saw you at night. You've been working 24/7 here. But anybody who was not watching MSNBC this week wondered where is Michael Steele. Why do you think you were not included in the festivities at this convention? After all, you were the chair when the Republicans won the House back in the mid-term in 2010. You were the one who selected Tampa or have most -- much influence and selected Tampa. Why were you not included in the festivities?
STEELEYou know, I don't know. I was a little bit surprised or stunned by it. It is not like I didn't, you know, tried to seek out, to figure out if, you know, what I couldn't be -- could be included in and how I could help. You know, we put a lot into the process of getting us a convention site and, you know, working with the members, selected Tampa, got a unanimous vote from 168 members of the RNC to come to Tampa.
STEELEAnd knowing all of the particulars with respect to weather and the concerns related to weather and everybody has figured that we have break their contingency plans in place. So we worked hard, and I was very proud to be here obviously and very excited about it. You know, first of all, decisions are made by, you know, individuals and that's their thing. I don't have time to worry about it. It was just a pleasure to be here.
STEELEAnd you know, we got done what we needed to get done. And, you know, the one disappointment was, you know, in the beginning, people sort of ragging on being in Tampa. It's not about me. It's not about, you know, a single decision. It's about what the party thought would be the best place to be, to host and hold this convention. And I really felt bad for the folks who worked so hard for two years to get us here.
STEELESo I wanted to make sure nothing else that I personally had a presence in the local media to let them know how grateful we were for their leadership, their effort in what would be ultimately a successful convention.
SHERWOODMichael Steele, Tom Sherwood. Thanks for being on the program.
SHERWOODWell, you got more airtime than Sarah Palin did. I didn't notice that. But I have a question about your appearances on MSNBC other than that station, that network's forward-leaning approach to political reporting. How come all of you are not wearing socks? Is -- that's like the Tampa, Fla., thing to do?
SHERWOODAll of you are sitting there with your ankles showing, like the ankle brigade. What was that about?
STEELEWell, I don't really...
SHERWOODThey tell you not to wear socks?
STEELEThat was -- there's no MSNBC requirement. No, it's just the way the fellas kind of roll, you know. You -- it's hot, man. You want your feet to be cool. It's hot. You're running around all day, you know, 'cause I had my sneakers on, I didn't have my hard shoes on.
SHERWOODI didn't see anybody on the Fox channel or CNN or C-SPAN not wearing socks. I just thought maybe you're just trying to send a special message to like teen-age boys or something.
STEELENo, no, no, no secret messages. No...
DAVISHey, Michael, Tom Davis. They used to have a famous populist congressman from Kansas called Sockless Jerry Simpson. It was a symbol.
SHERWOODLike Shoeless Joe.
DAVISLike Shoeless Joe Jackson, this was a...
DAVIS...you know, blending with the people who couldn't afford shoes and the like. And so Mike's just trying to bring us back to the proletarian (unintelligible).
SHERWOODNo, those shoes you're wearing are way too expensive. I don't know much about shoes.
STEELEWell, these are hard times.
NNAMDIOnce again, it falls...
SHERWOODYou didn't buy them -- you didn't those on Amazon, I know.
DAVISWell, you buy those shoes, you can't afford hosiery.
NNAMDIOnce again it falls to me to raise the level of the conversation. Michael Steele, we talked at this convention. We talked of this convention four years ago in Minneapolis about your -- in St. Paul about your efforts at GOPAC to bring more diversity into the party. But this week, there's a conversation going on about whether the convention gave a platform to overt race baiting on issues like welfare.
NNAMDIAnd let me say this before you do, Joe Biden speaking before an audience including a large number of African-Americans making the statement, they wanna put you all back in chains, is clearly a legitimate part of this race-baiting conversation. But how do you feel about issues like welfare and the accusation that Republicans are speaking in code right now to appeal to voters who harbor racial biases?
STEELEWell, I don't accept that because, number one, there's no evidence of that that, you know, whether this is the code for racial bias. Number two, my problem is, and it's one that I've had for a very long time on this subject irrespective of this current debate is that every time we talk about welfare in this country, people immediately jump to black.
STEELEYou know, the images of, you know, African-Americans that to melt racism and I think that's harmful in and of itself. It is sort of the stereotype about my community that I just reject particularly given that 6 percent of people who are on welfare in this country are white. And so it's a matter of I get the whole, you know, political dimension here in how race and welfare and life issues have been used in the past.
STEELEBut, you know, knowing the Mitt Romney team, particularly Mitt Romney, I know that that was not whether we're going. His emphasis was on the idea that in the last four years, there has been a concern with the increase in the number of people who have to go on welfare which speaks to the lack of economic opportunity and job creation in the country which is part of the narrative and the conversation he wants to have.
STEELESo, you know, I'm not insensitive to the racial overtones and aspects of it. Absolutely, and, you know, even with the Joe Biden comment, I didn't inherently, you know, instinctively take that as a racial tack of playing the race card although I think he was trying to affect something to racially connect with the African-Americans in the audience. I just think any conversation that borders on driving people away from voting or, you know, creating messages that are, you know, subliminally racist has no place particularly now that people are hurting for far more reasons than a TV ad.
SHERWOODThis is, Mike, this was the first, like, Twitter convention. How much different is it for, and Mr. Davis know this too, how much different is it for the political operatives who have to be surfing and keeping up with all the Twitter war that goes on, you know? We had the Clint Eastwood event last night and then instantly there's a Twitter account for invisible Obama and things like that. It seems to me that there is the -- there's -- the news cycle now is second to second.
STEELEYeah. Oh, it is. It is.
SHERWOODAnd so anything you say might be construed as racially insensitive, it just goes out immediately to millions of people.
STEELEWell, as this -- as we are talking here now, gentlemen, those who are listening, who are tweeting about the conversation to folks who are not listening because they're not in this listening area or whatever, but yet they're getting the information of this conversation. Last night, the Eastwood episode was averaging about 9,000 tweets.
SHERWOODThat's a kind word.
STEELEYeah, it's gotta be -- it was a mess. But, you know, 9,000 tweets an hour. So -- I mean, a minute. So you've got that kind of infusion of participations which for political operatives, absolutely, we got to be very mindful of it. In fact, one of the things that, you know, I had my team consider at the time we were considering Tampa because of the weather was the idea of creating a virtual convention.
STEELESo that when members arrive, they would get an iPad, and if anything happen where we'd have to suspend a meeting or activities, we could still convene virtually to carry on the business so we wouldn't lose the day and have all the other expenses that would go with that. So social media, the current use of Twitter and blogs and Facebook, are all new outlets for these types of happenings in politics.
STEELEAnd it really requires you to step up your game if you want to not only to get your message out but to defend against some of the messages that you have no control over.
DAVISMichael, can I just...
NNAMDIIn case you're just joining us, that's the voice of Michael Steele. He is a political analyst with MSNBC, former chairman of the Republican National Committee. He joins us by phone. Joining us in studio is Tom Sherwood, our resident analyst. He is an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. And Tom Davis, former member of United States House of Representatives. He is a Republican who held a seat in Virginia's 11th District.
NNAMDIHe's now the director of Federal Government Affairs for Deloitte and the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Congressman Davis, Michael Steele and Tom Sherwood, we're talking about Clint Eastwood last night. I know a number of our listeners want to hear you and others weigh in on this.
NNAMDIBut about in general, the proceedings last night, there was a lot of discussion about the fact that Sen. Marc Rubio didn't spend a great deal of time talking about the Romney candidacy as did not Gov. Chris Christie the other night. But, Tom Davis, I like to hear you take on the events as they unfold it last night.
DAVISYou know, thanks. Look, the Republicans had one hour of primetime. The networks don't cover this 'cause they understand the conventions are basically just messaging events for the two parties. I actually found the Eastwood hilarious. I mean, it was very entertaining. I wouldn't call it high policy at this point, but this was Dirty Harry, this is the outlaw Josey Wales. To hear him do his improvise up there, I thought it was hilarious.
DAVISBut, you know, the question is, what do you do, and how do you feel about that? You couldn't have been feel better. There's a lot of second-guessing at this point that maybe they could have use this to drive the message about the -- how Romney was humane and everything else. Delegates seem to like it.
SHERWOODWhat about the fact that, I think Kojo's question, is that people were shocked, shocked that there's some self-promotion going on by Rubio and Christie? I wasn't...
DAVISWell, there was, there was. But I think they also try to tell the American story about how immigrants can rise from nothing, and Republicans aren't the anti-immigrant. In fact, that's the Republican story. That's the American story. It can be a Democratic story as well.
SHERWOODBut no one talked about immigration policy and what to do about the 12 million illegal immigrants.
DAVISWell, very rarely do you get high-level policy discussions at a convention. This is all about symbols.
NNAMDIIndeed, Michael Steele...
NNAMDIIndeed, Michael Steele, one got the impression that there was so much talk about people being descendant from immigrants at this convention that it was a way for the Romney campaign in this Republican National Convention to address the issue of immigration without dealing with the whole issue of illegal immigration. Is that correct?
STEELEOh, I think there is some truth to that. I take a slightly different nod on this whole hour that -- the last hour of the convention that we saw. Number one, that the video that -- that's kicked off the primetime, which actually was not seen by people around the country because the networks didn't cover it because it was before 10 o'clock, was powerful.
STEELEIt was just an explosive way to really kind of set up those narratives that -- of the individuals who lost their children and how Mitt was compassionate for them and cared for them should they've been a part of kicking this off. The whole thing with Clint Eastwood was just bizarre, and it had no place leading up to the introduction of Mitt Romney.
STEELEI agree that -- with the congressman that it had its humorous moment, but I thought it's detracted from what was the central point at that moment was what -- this is Mitt. This is leading up to the man who's gonna be, who we want to be the next president of the United States. So the humor was misplaced. It should've come long before.
STEELEMarco Rubio gave one heck of a speech, powerful and he told a very dramatic story. But, again, I thought the emphasis was too much on people -- on himself or others not Mitt. And so those elements to me were distracting 'cause I think that moment leading up to that speech that Mitt gave was -- I would give a solid A to without hesitation -- required a kind of respect and a kind of entrance, if you will, that would sort of set up those -- the words that he would then speak.
DAVISKojo, it's Tom Davis again. Let me just note. I mean, I think if you go back eight years or so, what Eastwood did might have been viewed as disrespectful of the office and he's -- you probably wouldn't have seen it. But in a year where you have Stephanie Cutter, the president's spokesman basically calling Romney a felon, and, I mean, politics has now been a race to the bottom. I thought it was, you know, we have -- we got to put it in perspective.
SHERWOODWell, and I think that's the perspective we are in. We have Bruce DePuyt from News Channel 8 has already tweeted you, Michael Steele, saying Clint Eastwood's appearance was a mess. And so -- and that's instantly out to all the, you know, whether it's two or three people...
SHERWOOD...two or three people who listened to Bruce. But any event, we -- it's the race to the bottom in terms of who's gonna be the most negative ads going forward that people keep telling us, and it's instantaneous. It seems like there's an onslaught rather than a campaign.
NNAMDIWell, Michael Steele, the one Republican...
NNAMDIPlease go ahead.
STEELENo, no, no. I was just gonna agree with that. I mean -- and I just think that, you know, keep in mind, folks, what we'll -- what we were talking about coming into this convention, it was all about who is Mitt Romney. I mean, you know, people and particularly the left portraying him as wooden and disconnected, he was a plutocrat, he was, you know, above us all, and, you know, he doesn't have the gravitas to understand how we walk and how we live our lives.
STEELEAnd then you have these sort of disjointed messages or images of, you know, leading up to his moment. That's my only point. They were good in and of themselves. And in the case of Marco Rubio, extremely powerful. But I would have had all of that happen before the video that then, you know, fade to black and the lights come up and there he is standing and those words come out of his mouth. The first words, I accept your nomination for president of the United States, wow.
STEELEThat was in a very powerful and impactful moment that would have solidified in the minds of those independent voters that they were clearly targeting, particularly women, this sense of, oh, you know what, there's something about this guy I actually do like, and I actually do feel connected to. Then when he started to weave a story throughout his speech, it all would have made much more sense. But what happened? I was on Twitter at the time, and I could see that no one was paying attention.
STEELEThey were still caught up in what has become this episode with, as I said before, with Clint Eastwood and still sort of, you know, wallowing in some of what Marco Rubio was saying and not really fixated on the words and connecting them for Mitt Romney. That's my only point.
SHERWOODGoing -- looking ahead, what do you think the Democrats have to be worried about in Charlotte when they gather for their Clint Eastwood moment or something like that? Mr. Davis, is there something -- what should people be watching? I know Republicans, people who are against the Democrats, will watch it for gaffes. But what do you think people should be watching for from Charlotte?
DAVISWell, first of all, I think you may have people looking for gaffes and things to shoot at and talk about anything but the economy, where the Democrats are, right? It's a tough outcome. These are tough economic outcomes to defend. I wanna go on the record -- I don't wanna anger Dirty Harry. I'm buying a ticket to his next movie. I thought it was hilarious.
NNAMDIMichael Steele, here's Tom Sherwood.
SHERWOOD'Cause I was -- Michael, you -- looking at the Democrats now, setting up for Charlotte, what are you, as a Republican, hoping they'll do wrong, but -- or what do you expect -- what's the danger for them?
STEELEWell, the danger for them, I think, is, you know, just the tone of their narrative. I mean, I asked some folks this morning about this idea of how are you going to frame the conversation? And I remember this morning on "Morning Joe" asking David Axelrod directly, so how much of your convention will be consumed with George Bush? And the fact of the matter is...
SHERWOODHe -- and he had a great answer. He said, we'll give him the same amount of attention you gave him, which is none.
STEELERight, right. Exactly, exactly. And that's -- as I said, that's a fair point. That's a fair point. But the point is, you know, you have used George Bush as a whipping post for the last three years, looking backward. That was my point. And, you know, Republicans have already acknowledged, you know, yeah, there were things that were done that, you know, we paid a price for. But going forward, how will this president explain the unemployment situation in the country, the lack of capital available to businesses because it's being held by the bank?
STEELEYou know, what will you do differently that you haven't already done? And what is your expectation of what this economy is gonna look like 10 years from now? And I think that dovetails into the underlying question of the Republican Convention and the Romney campaign. It's not just, you know, are you better off than you were four years ago, but how do you feel about where you are today versus where you might be tomorrow?
DAVISMichael, let me -- I think what the Democrats...
NNAMDIHere's Tom Davis.
DAVISYeah. I think what the Democrats will do is they're gonna acknowledge that maybe they haven't met all their goals, but the Republicans are a worse alternative.
SHERWOODDon't go backwards. Go forward.
DAVISDon't -- yeah. And they'll try to -- I think they will try to tie it to Bush. They're gonna go after Romney. They will savage Paul Ryan.
STEELEOh, I know. Mm-hmm.
DAVISBut the bottom line is it's hard for them to get up with a straight face. They haven't met their own goals. They've had some bad outcomes. The stimulus didn't work the way they had hoped it would. And so they have no choice, it seems to me, in their re-election, but to make this -- this is a choice between them, who are worse than we have been. Give us -- let us keep going.
SHERWOODWell, this is a jobs election...
NNAMDIMichael Steele, I know that you have to go shortly. You got enough time to stay to discuss Condoleezza Rice for another couple of minutes?
NNAMDIThe one Republican speaker who gave a powerful speech that apparently stayed above the fray -- the speech didn't even mention the president's name in it -- Condoleezza Rice. What kind of figure and what kind of opportunity do you think she represents for the Republican Party?
STEELEOh, my goodness. For me, that was -- until, you know, last night, there was her speech, and of course Ann Romney's speech were the most powerful for me. But hers did something I thought extremely important. It opened doors for the Republican Party to its future. The question now for the party is, is it prepared to walk through those doors, where it recognizes the diversity of this great country -- that is, embraces that diversity -- and that it becomes, once again, the party of Lincoln, the party of assimilation?
STEELEAnd that's not just with respect to Hispanics, but with respect to all people, accepting folks as we find them and appreciating that they want to be a part of us, that they philosophically, ideologically align themselves willingly as Republicans. And I think that that was a very powerful moment. The way she wove that narrative together, tying it to her childhood, tying it to her success that was born out of the hardship of her parents is, you know, is not just an immigrant story.
STEELEIt's a story that touches on immigration and slavery and freedom and civil rights, and I thought she did a phenomenal job. And you don't wanna put too much on one speech, but that speech, I think, will go down as one of the great speeches of the convention for the party because it is a door opener. And now the test remains for the party to walk through that door into its future.
NNAMDII don't know about you, Tom Davis and Tom Sherwood, but it reminded me eerily of the Obama speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. There were so many similarities there. But what do you think it means in terms of Condoleezza Rice's future political career, Tom Davis?
DAVISWell, I just don't think she's interested in elective career. I think she's -- frankly puts herself at a higher plane. I think she'll be a major player. She's respectful. She's got a membership at Augusta. I mean, what else can you want at this point?
SHERWOODA low handicap.
DAVISYeah. She can work on that. No, look, she's gonna be a -- an icon and a leader and somebody people look to. But I don't think she's interested in electoral office. She's a great face for the party, and she gave a great speech. And I'll just say I agree with Michael. You have a lot of people who agree with the Republicans philosophically. They just aren't voting for it for other reasons, whether it's immigration or race or some other things. And the party has got to have different messengers, and she's top.
SHERWOODI have some friends, conservative. Basically, they are conservative on financial issues, but they're much more moderate to liberal on social issues. And I say if the Republicans would just not focus so much on social issues, I would be a Republican. And I just...
DAVISWell, in an urban environment, that makes a lot of sense. But you go out 30 miles, and what drives the party base is the, frankly, the social issues, that if you look at the counties in this country with the highest percent of Medicare recipients, the highest percent -- you know, a high percent of Social Security recipients, people depending on government, a lot of them are Republicans, but they're voting Republican on these social issues. So it's really a two-edged sword when you take a look at the whole political map.
NNAMDIMichael Steele, thank you so much for joining us.
STEELEThank you, guys. Good to be with you.
SHERWOODThank you, Michael.
NNAMDIAnd before you go, Michael Steele, it just occurred to me today that I have spoken with you at or after every Republican Convention since 1996. So thank you for your cooperation.
STEELEAbsolutely, my friend. We go back a long ways, and it's always a good association.
NNAMDIThank you very much for joining us.
SHERWOODMaybe we need some fresh leadership in the news media.
NNAMDIMichael Steele is a political analyst with MSNBC. He's the former chairman of the Republican National Committee and the former lieutenant governor of Maryland. He's a founder of Purple Nation Solutions, a strategic communications and public affairs firm. We're talking also with Tom Davis. Tom Davis is a former member of the United States House of Representatives. A Republican, he held a seat in Virginia's 11th District.
NNAMDIHe's now director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LLP and the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers. Gentlemen, we have not gone to the phones yet, so we have some time to make up for. Allow me to start with Lisa in Manassas, Va. Lisa, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
LISAHi. I'm an independent, and I'm in the 11th District, and I sorely, sorely miss Congressman Davis representing us. I watched all the convention coverage, and I haven't made a decision -- really, I haven't. I'm on both mailing lists, even, you know, the libertarian list. And last night I was going with everything, but I -- all of a sudden I -- when Gov. Romney got up there, I even forgive all his flip-flops.
LISAWe head (unintelligible) sanctity of life. I decided, you know what, I'm a one-issue person. And were it not for several Supreme Court justices that are going to retire and having more -- having those appointments, I would have voted for him. But that's -- I decided that's my one choice. I didn't get -- I just note of the speeches. I'm an African-American woman. I'm gonna be voting for Carl Perkins -- he's a Republican -- to replace Gerry Connolly.
LISABut I just -- that one issue, I don't trust. I don't give him that much trust and credence that he will go and he won't try to appoint justices that aren't for pro-choice. So -- and...
NNAMDICongressman Davis, Lisa is a supporter of yours. What can you say to her?
DAVISWell, look, if that is your issue, if you are one issue and that's the issue you believe in, if you're pro-life you could be Republican, and if you're pro-choice, you probably could be Democrat. That -- that's the way these parties have aligned over time. Lisa, I support -- I appreciate the support you've given me through time and like. But that's the fact. The parties are both carved into separate areas, and not everybody votes on those issues. There's usually a pretty -- a mix of issues that people make their decisions on. But if that's your issues, you know, I understand it.
NNAMDIOn to Perry in Brunswick, Md. Perry, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
PERRYThank you, Kojo, for this very interesting discussion this morning. And I think just listening to you and to Michael Steele, I think I -- and I'm a 70-year-old white male who grew up in a white -- basically grew up in an all-white world. And I think listening to you all talk and all the brilliance and depths you bring to the discussion, I think we -- I think I, at least personally, know why Michael wasn't included in the convention. And I'm not gonna say anymore.
PERRYYou know what I'm talking about because you certainly are aware of -- Frederick Douglass has talked about struggle and how that's ongoing and how that's a part of life. But...
NNAMDIWell, I really don't think race had anything to do with Michael being eliminated.
NNAMDIIt really had...
PERRYNo, it may not have. But he's -- I follow him on MSNBC a lot, and he's a very facile man and he's not an ideologue and he's...
NNAMDIWell, you know, his tenure as chair was extremely controversial. But it's your turn, Perry. Go ahead.
PERRYIt was. But that's -- anyway, I -- he's one of my favorite Republicans. And so anyway, I just heard the discussion Capitol dome, and I was concerned. And I heard some of the discussion earlier about that, and I was just thinking maybe we should go out to some of these billionaires and maybe one of them buy their name for the Capitol dome, you know?
SHERWOODTrump's already doing a hotel in town so he's out of the mix.
PERRYSheldon Adelson, maybe, could do it. (unintelligible)
DAVISOr maybe we could get George Soros, and we can have -- one side of the building can be Soros, and the other side are conservative.
PERRYMaybe. It's -- anyway I just think the Congress ought to just set aside their foolishness and fund it. It's like what needs to be done for the Martin Luther King Memorial, same thing, fund it.
NNAMDIOK. Thank you very much for your call. Tom Davis, speaking of your old job as chair of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee, the Republican who now chairs it is Darrel Issa. He's used it to throw his weight around on everything, from the Fast and Furious investigation to Solyndra. What do you make of how he's going about his chairmanship? Of course, he's also talked about looking at something like a commuter tax for the District of Columbia, something you suburban types don't really approve of.
DAVISYeah, I haven't had a chance to talk to him about that...
SHERWOODI bet you will.
DAVISWell, he's got to go through Eric Cantor to get there as well and gonna go through Frank Wolf and through the Democrat Steny Hoyer as well. But let me -- I think he's doing a good job. Look, it's tough when you are the committee chairman on government reform and the party is opposite of you. And you tend to over investigate in these circumstances. And when your own party is in power, you tend to under investigate. That is a 50-year history of how this committee has worked. But Darrel has shown a lot of independence.
DAVISI don't begrudge him going after Solyndra. That was a tragedy. It's a half a billion dollars basically flushed down the toilet. For ideological reasons, it didn't work, rewarding political cronies. And Darrel, I think, has been pretty responsible. And I'm very proud of the job he's doing. When I left, I felt comfortable giving him the reins. And look, Darrel's been very successful in his private life as well. He's taken a lot of heat because of just where he is, as Henry Waxman did before him going after Bush. It's the nature of this job.
SHERWOODAnd he's just raising -- I mean I just love to bring up the fair tax --reciprocal income taxes because you guys in the suburbs just go crazy whenever this comes up, that the District is short of a couple of billion dollars because everyone moves -- comes to the city and works and then they take their tax money to Annapolis and Richmond.
DAVISWell, you know, it's a two-edged sword. But, as you know, I was the one who put in legislature that ridded the city of its own funded pension liability.
SHERWOODYes and thank you very much.
DAVISOK? And I've supported voting rights. And I think if you're not gonna give them voting rights, don't make them pay federal taxes. I mean, it's not right. Tom, I've been outspoken on this. Commuter tax, though, basically says the city has a shortcoming in their budget, it's Virginia and Maryland's fault, and it falls on them. Federal government ought to fund it but not put it on Virginia and Maryland to fund it.
SHERWOODI would just say that if the city -- if we -- and I'm speaking as a citizen here of the District. If we had the ability to tax income and its source like every other jurisdiction in America and, let's say, agree to some voluntary deal, we could cut our taxes way down. We could significantly cut our income taxes, our corporate taxes...
DAVISYou could, but you wouldn't. You know, the makeup of the corporal bodies. They just spend more.
SHERWOODWell, maybe the Congress could put that in as a requirement.
DAVISWell, they put it in at the requirement. That was part of the compromise at the time, and I understand the city's argument, yeah.
SHERWOODCompromise. It wasn't compromise. It was a -- well, anyway, let's move on.
NNAMDICongressman Davis, what is your view about some of the talk we've seen from Republicans at the convention this week? The we-built-it theme was created from an Obama comment taken out of context.
NNAMDIA writer for The New Republic, Jonathan Cohn, said he thought Paul Ryan's speech may have been the most dishonest convention speech he's ever heard, that it included debunked claims about Medicare, the credit rating downgrade, the closing of the auto plant in Janesville. But a Romney poller said last week that their campaign was not going to be, quoting here, "dictated by fact checkers." What do you make of that?
DAVISWell, look, I think the truth is it's usually the first casualty of a tough race like this. Both sides have had a number of their ads kind of ruled off the wall, and I hope people are smart enough when they see these ads to look behind them and get their own information. And I don't mean off the Internet because the Internet is even worse than the ads where some of the things don't...
SHERWOODAnd Twitter is not much help.
DAVISExactly on this. So there's a lot of hyperbole going around on these. But look, I think that you didn't do it by yourself. Comment to Republicans, at least, raises the spectrum of a collectiveness where the state is -- does these things. And we're gonna equalize people that are successful, give a little more to the other side. And it I'll tell you what, it is raw meat, just read meat to Republicans when the president said that he may not have intended it in that way, but this fires up the base and -- like nothing else I've ever seen.
SHERWOODOn this issue 'cause I went back and looked at it, trying to be the journalist, and the president says at the beginning of this comment in a couple of sentences, he's talking about, there are roads and there are bridges and there are infrastructure, things that have been built that allow independent entrepreneurs to do their job, and he says you didn't build that. And he was referring -- the Democrats say -- but I admit and I don't (unintelligible)
DAVISThat's like saying the valedictorian knows it was the bus driver.
SHERWOODNo. I agree that it was poorly conceived and he's being hammered with it and he will continue to be no matter who thinks it's right or wrong. And that's what we are. We had -- this is a uniquely American political campaign. We're just gonna be just aggressive as we've been in modern times.
DAVISAnd, Tom, there are two different world views here. I mean, you talk to Republicans and Democrats, it's like watching Fox and MSNBC. These are different planets.
DAVISThese are different understandings of the way things works and for the pro-life group who feels a fertilized egg is a human being, it all makes sense. But if you don't, this stuff looks goofy.
SHERWOODI have talked to, again, conservative friends, including my brother, and he believes that if Obama is re-elected that the country is just going down for certain. Not possibly at risk of, but for certain, we'll become some European socialized state, godless state. He just believes it, and there's nothing I can say or anyone can say to him.
DAVISWell, you've got roughly 40 percent of the population who feels that way, and 40 percent feels that he's leading us in the right direction. It's gonna be up for people in the middle to sort it out. The problem the administration has is it had bad outcomes. And they get saddled with that, and they have to explain that in the closing weeks of the campaign.
NNAMDICongressman Davis, we only have about 30 seconds left. You indicated to me that you think that this campaign is likely -- both campaigns, because of the money being put in and the ads that we are about to see, are likely to get more and more negative.
DAVISI think it's gonna be -- yeah, we're gonna be getting a ton of negativity, and I'm just afraid, during the World Series, we're gonna see more of the presidential candidates than Bryce Harper and I don't like that.
NNAMDITom Davis is a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives. He's a Republican who held a seat in Virginia's 11th district. He's now the director of federal government affairs for Deloitte LPP and the vice chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Tom Sherwood is our resident analyst. He's an NBC 4 reporter and a columnist for The Current Newspapers.
NNAMDI"The Kojo Nnamdi Show" is produced by Brendan Sweeney, Michael Martinez, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff and Tayla Burney with assistance from Kathy Goldgeier and Elizabeth Weinstein. The managing producer is Diane Vogel. Natalie Yuravlivker is on the phones. Special thanks to all our engineers in Washington and Tampa who made this week of broadcast happen, Timmy Olmstead and Jonathan Cherry at WAMU, Chioke I'Anson at WMNF, who also doubled as our guide to all things delicious in local Tampa cuisine.
NNAMDISpecial thanks to the rest of our adopted WMNS family, Jake Tremper, (sp?) Sheila Cowley, Bill Brown, Cameron Jones and General Manager Sydney White. Podcasts of all shows, audio archives, CDs and free transcripts are available at our website kojoshow.org. We encourage you to share questions or comments with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, by joining us on Facebook, or by tweeting @kojoshow. Thank you all for listening. See you in Charlotte. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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