Here is a transcript of the show:
O’DONNELL: Now you’ve said that the Republican Party and the Tea Party are ‘locked hand-in-hand’–that’s your phrase–and you have a Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska who says the minimum wage is unconstitutional. So is that now your position, Republican Party position, that the minimum wage is unconstitutional?I find this interesting for multiple reasons. Steele refuses to answer the question, which really is not about the minimum wage, but whether or not the Republicans are really "locked hand-in-hand" with the tea party - I take Steele's refusal as to answer O'Donnell's question as a "No," but Steele's avoidance of the issue is important because had he answered at all, his comments could either harm the GOP-Teabag relationship or give fuel for the Democrats.
Steele: [Laughing] What I meant by that phrase is I think around the issues that we’re fighting over this November and the debate that the nation has had about jobs and the economy, we are working together, we have a common interest and a common goal to put a fiscal discipline in place. Every candidate comes to the table with their own particular set of issues that they want to speak to the people of their state or their district about–that’s what they’re allowed to do. It doesn’t necessarily translate that that’s the position of every Republican in the United States. I know a lot of folks on the left in particular want to make that leap of faith for them but the truth is, it doesn’t translate that way. The reality of it is that the Tea Party is an organic movement out there of citizens who are concerned about the direction that the nation is going. Republicans of all stripes are also concerned, so I wanted to make it very clear that with respect to those common interests on those issues, let’s work together and let’s move forward together to defeat what we think is an aggressive agenda by government to take over big businesses and the affairs of individuals.
O’Donnell: So Michael, do you want to make a Republican Party commitment to minimum wage workers that you absolutely will not consider repealing or reducing the minimum wage?
Steele: Nice try, Lawrence. I don’t do policy, I do political, so you need to talk to our legislative leadership and ask them what their position is going to be on the minimum wage.
O’Donnell: So do you think it’s a good idea? Do you think it’s good politics to reduce the minimum wage?
Steele: It doesn’t matter to me what I think. What matters is that the effort that we put on the ground to help our candidates win this November–they are taking their messages directly to the people, the people are responding, and they’ll get the final say on November 2 at the ballot box.
O’Donnell: By the way, what is the minimum wage?
Steele: [Laughing] You really like the minimum wage, don’t you? I want to talk about a lot more things beside one issue Lawrence.
O’Donnell: I had a minimum wage job once, and I had trouble living on that.
Steele: Look, the country’s hemorrhaging jobs right now.
O’Donnell: It’s ok to say you don’t know. If you don’t care about the minimum wage, it’s ok to say you don’t know what it is.
Steele: Look Lawrence, stop the trap playing here. The reality of it is–that is not the most paramount issue that voters out there are facing. When you’ve lost your job, whether you know what the minimum wage is or not is not relevant, you’re trying to get a job back. And that’s the debate the nation has been engaged in for over the last year. That’s the reality that people are facing right now every single day. The administration has failed to create jobs–close to 3 millions jobs have been lost. And this canard that we have saved or created x number of jobs is a joke. The reality of it is that the unemployment rate in this nation is 9.7%. The reality is that a significant number of people here in California and across the nation are looking for jobs. So the debate that candidates need to have with the people of this country and amongst themselves is what are we going to do to stimulate job growth, what are we going to do to empower small business owners? And that’s the nature of the debate. Whether the minimum wage is $7 or $10 or whatever it happens to be in whatever part of the country you live in, the fact is if you don’t have a job, that number is irrelevant until you get one.
O’Donnell: Well, the minimum wage is not $7 or $10, but let’s move on to jobs.
Steele: That’ll be your headline: “Steele doesn’t know what the minimum wage is.”
Steele told O'Donnell that he "don’t do policy" and that legislative positions aren't influenced by his decisions - keep in mind that he is the chairman of the Republican National Committee. In the past, Steele had no problem commenting on policy, attacking Democrats over financial regulation or health care reform - Steele even wrote an article for The Washington Post promising seniors that the Republicans would protect their benefits.
What Steele did give up was his ignorance of the issue - federal minimum wage is $7.25 and the highest minimum wage out ther is Washington's at $8.55. This is important because we constantly here Republicans and teabaggers claim some sort of wrong, but when pressed for more information, they are either unable to answer or just completely wrong. Remember the assertion by tea partiers at their rallies that Obama raised their taxes when in reality he didn't?
Basically Steele was caught between the devil and the deep blue sea - either back the tea party and risk attacks from the left or refuse to back the tea party and risk losing their support for GOP candidates. Steele chose not to answer, but we know what the answer is...
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