GOP Chairman Steele: Reid Should Step Down
The Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele says Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) should step down as the Senate Democratic leader over racial remarks Reid made about Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Steele says if a Republican had made such remarks, Democrats would be calling for that Republican's head.
"It's either racist or its not and it's inappropriate absolutely," Steele told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday. "If Mitch McConnell had said those very words, this chairman and this president would be calling for his head and they would be labeling every Republican in the country as a racist."
In a private conversation reported in the new book "Game Change" by Time Magazine's Mark Halperin and New York magazine's John Heilemann, Reid described candidate Obama as a "light-skinned" African-American "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one."
Reid immediately apologized to President Obama for his "improper comments" and the president accepted, saying, "as far as I am concerned, the book is closed."
Democratic Party Chairman Tim Kaine says the remarks should not affect Reid's leadership position. "It definitely was in the context of recognizing in Senator Obama a great candidate and future president. And that's why they're working so well together and I know they'll continue to do that."
Meanwhile, Steele fended off calls for his own resignation. He says he's had no thoughts of resigning despite harsh criticism of his first-year performance and controversy about his recent book, "Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda," that accuses Republican party leaders of abandoning conservative principles over the past decade. However, he did apologize for not alerting Republicans in advance about the book's release.
Steele defended his record as party chairman, saying he's "very passionate" about helping the party win elections and raise money. "I'm pushing the ball. I'm raising the money. I'm winning elections. I've got the base fired up. We're out in the country every day. We're doing the things that we should be."
Earlier this week, Steele responded to recent reports that GOP leaders are unhappy with his performance, saying they should either fire him or "shut up."
Based on the political landscape entering 2010, Steele says the 60-vote super majority Democrats currently hold in the Senate will be gone after November. He also says Republicans are well on their way to take back the House, even though earlier this week he wavered when asked if Republicans were ready to do so this year.
Despite the announcement by three top Democrats that they won't seek re-election, Kaine remains confident Democrats will hold on to strong majorities in the mid-term elections. "We don't mind running up a hill. We climbed Everest in 2008 and we're going to climb Pike's Peak this year," he said.
Historically, a newly elected, first-term president's party has suffered an average loss of 16 seats in the House, 5.5 governorships, and four-tenths of a seat in the Senate. However, Kaine says Republicans cannot take the House back because they are not ready to lead.