A few days ago Sean Spicer, the Communications Director of the Republican National Committee, made a surprising statement: he said that Mark Levin should moderate the GOP debates. Levin has formally accepted the offer. To explore this issue and a few others, I made a few attempts to get a hold of Mr. Spicer and, after a time, was able to synch up with him this evening.
Ross: Sean, thanks very much for taking the time out of your schedule to meet with us. Give us a little bit of background on yourself and how you arrived at the RNC and rose to such a key position.
Ross: Sean, a recent statement you made really caught conservatives by surprise -- and in a positive way. You said you thought Mark Levin and perhaps other conservative thought leaders should moderate GOP debates. How serious was that statement and did the reaction catch you by surprise?
Spicer: That was a very serious statement. Obviously, we're not at a point yet of picking debate forums or moderators, but we are definitely committed to energizing the conservative base. It's common sense: anyone's who listening to Rush, Levin, Hannity... they are addressing the issues that the grassroots are concerned with.
What I also find absolutely unbelievable is that in 2008 Chris Matthews, of all people, moderated two GOP debates. Yet why wouldn't we insist on the converse situation?
Ross: Mark Levin and other conservative pundits have been pretty harsh on the GOP leadership. Where, in your view, is that criticism legitimate and where do you think it's off-base?
Spicer: I'm not sure what the question is... what are you asking?
Ross: One of the many things that seems to aggravate the grassroots is the apparent disdain the RNC has for the conservative base. Is this an unfair impression and, if so, why?
Spicer: Look, we cannot win without the Tea Party, Constitutional conservatives, etc. And anyone who doesn't understand that isn't paying attention. We know the importance of the grassroots.
Ross: Fair enough, but we look at races like Dick Lugar vs. Richard Mourdock, Karl Rove attacking Christine O'Donnell, Lisa Murkowski going after Joe Miller, John McCain attacking Ted Cruz, etc. It seems as though when an establishment Republican loses to a conservative in a primary, they often do everything they can to sabotage the Republican side in the race. Yet when a conservative loses in a primary, the reverse seldom (if ever) happens. Is that accurate or inaccurate in your view?
Spicer: I would dispute the accuracy of that. Picking out individual situations involving Dick Lugar and Karl Rove... those aren't the RNC. We're not defending John Boehner or John McCain. We're not there to promote or defend particular policies or issues.
What I will tell you is that we have a huge fight on our hands and we need as united a front as we can get.
Ross: Where is the outreach to bloggers? I've been around nearly 10 years now and haven't seen much formal outreach to the folks I know. Am I missing something? Is there some formal program or platform that's needed?
Spicer: We are definitely connected to some of the major bloggers. We're not perfect, for sure, but we have regular dealings with RedState, Guy Benson, Katie Pavlich, etc. So, factually, I'm not sure that's totally accurate. Our staff is trying to reach out, and we'd like to help.
We also don't view it as a one-way street. If you need content, if you need messaging, ask us. We understand that it's not just spamming out messages, we want to help the blogosphere.
Ross: What was a very energized conservative base in 2010 now appears, in my view, very dispirited and unlikely to turn out (at least at this point) for the mid-terms. This could spell disaster for the GOP and literally could permanently eradicate the Republican Party by returning control of the House to Nancy Pelosi.
Some sample reasons for a major decline in morale:
- A year after the attack in Benghazi and despite a huge majority of Republican House members signing on for a Select Committee, the Speaker refuses to dedicate staff and funding, despite this being a very common way to address controversial tactics by an administration
- One of the articles of impeachment for Nixon related to his political handling of the IRS; yet Congress hasn't called for a special prosecutor
- Likewise, unlawful attacks on the press -- from the AP to James Rosen -- have been largely ignored
- Obamacare law is being systematically rewritten by the president, with no less a commentator than George Will labeling it an impeachable crime
So the impression of the base is that our constitutional system of checks and balances is being systematically dismantled, and there's virtually no visible efforts by the House to push back. Instead, they want to slide Amnesty -- of all things -- by the American people.
Spicer: Look, our current immigration system is broken --
Ross: And who broke it? Congress --
Spicer: But ultimately the system needs to be fixed --
Ross: And that's what I don't understand. Pew indicates that 7 out of 8 of legalized illegals would vote Democrat. Why would the GOP want to commit political suicide?
Spicer: Look, we are well aware that border security is paramount.
Ross: But everything we read indicates that there's an effort to break the Senate bill into little pieces to make it appear border security will come first, when in fact it will all end up in a conference committee and a Schumer-Reid Amnesty Bill would emerge --
Spicer: But that's pure speculation, and truly not in my wheelhouse. We know how important border security will be, we know it's critical.
As for a Select Committee on Benghazi, I've been told the normal committee process is working... that's not in my wheelhouse to be sure, but --
Ross: But a Select Committee, with an experienced prosecutor --
Spicer: Again, that's not really my area, but I can assure you there is focus.
Ross: Well, Sean, I know you're short on time, but I do want to thank you for your willingness to open lines of communication here.
Spicer: Just to reemphasize, we both want the same things. We want to get the system back under control. We may differ on some of the tactics, but we have to figure out how to cooperate, because if we don't, the other side wins. And we all know what that means.
Ross: Thanks, Sean.