Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that Republicans overreached in opposing the health-care overhaul and that President Barack Obama will be able to reframe the issue in his State of the Union address next week.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine, who joins us from Richmond. Governor, thank you for being with us.
TIM KAINE: You bet, Al.
HUNT: President Hu Jintao’s visit was the most ballyhooed state visit since the old Soviet leaders used to come, $45 billion in U.S. export deals, which everyone likes, but President Obama got nothing on the big issues of China’s currency, the stealth (ph) of intellectual property, and protectionist barriers to the U.S. doing business there. Disappointed in that?
KAINE: Well, I think the president had, you know, realistic expectations about this, that while the visit was ballyhooed because there hadn’t been a visit like this since 1997, I don’t think there was a lot of advance on, you know, there’s going to be major breakthroughs.
You know, there are advances slowly. I think on the intellectual property issues, they’re slow, but they are advancing. The currency issues still remain very, very challenging. Some of it may get taken care of to some degree by inflation in China, even without a governmental adjustment of the yuan. So, you know, you can see some of that maybe starting to happen in the future anyway.
But I think the - what the visits emphasized is, I think this is a pivotal relationship between two nations in the world for the next generation, perhaps longer. And by that account, I think both on the governmental side and then the CEO American business presence there demonstrated that we’re taking it very seriously.
HUNT: Is it unavoidable that human rights, an issue dear to you, has to be sublimated to the realpolitik of economic and security interest?
KAINE: You know, that - the economic and security interests do come first, because they are the interests that we have to, you know, care about with respect to our own country. We can’t be the guarantor of human rights anywhere in the world outside our own borders. Nevertheless, we set a strong human rights example, and it’s important that the president continue to raise that in all settings. But economic and security interests are primary.
HUNT: OK, let’s turn to domestic issues. President Obama’s State of the Union next week. What as party chairman would you like to see him lay out? Give me a couple specifics.
KAINE: Well, I think you’re going to see the president talk very significantly about the economic recovery thus far. You know, we’ve gone from shrinking GDP to growing GDP. We’ve gone from job losses to job gains. A dollar invested in the Dow the day the president got inaugurated is up over $1.40 now. So he’s going to talk about the path of the recovery, but the need to accelerate it, especially with respect to hiring and employment.
So, Al, I think what you’ll see him do is talk about a series of things, but put it in an overall framework. You know, to some degree, I think maybe we in the Democratic Party have been a little bit at fault. We’ve done a series of important things, but we haven’t necessarily connected them all together and demonstrated that these are all part of a necessary path to sustainable economic growth in the aftermath of the collapse. And I think you’ll see the president both talk about policies and programs, but connect them together.
You’re also going to hear him talk about this issue of how to deal with the deficit and how to deal with it responsibly, but without choking off the nascent economic recovery. I think those will be two of the main themes.
HUNT: How about tax reform or Social Security reform? Will they be major points of emphasis?
KAINE: My sense is - and, you know, I think the White House should do what they’re going to do. And I don’t - I haven’t read a draft of the - of the speech, but I do think this. In the Social Security taxes, it might all fit within a rubric of, you know, trying to deal with - with deficit issues and deal with them in an appropriate way that doesn’t choke off the economic recovery.
The president will, I’m sure, get into this significantly in the State of the Union, but, Al, I think the real follow-on will be when the president delivers a budget to Congress in February. My expectation is that a number of the deficit-related ideas, either from the Erskine Bowles-Alan Simpson commission or Domenici-Rivlin or others, might be embedded in the budget.
And I think he’ll say to Congress, “You say you’re serious about the deficit? I am, too. I’ve put it in a budget, and now let’s figure out how we’re going to get there.”
HUNT: You were governor of Virginia when the terrible tragedy took place at Virginia Tech. America has 100 times more gun homicides than other industrialized nations. Would you specifically like to see Congress at least set a limit on magazine clips so that a deranged killer couldn’t have fired 30 bullets before anyone can apprehend him?
KAINE: Al, I have long been a supporter of what I think are, you know, reasonable regulations, the kind contemplated, frankly, by the Second Amendment, and I think those and others would be reasonable. In Virginia, you know, we worked in the aftermath of Virginia Tech to do some important things here and nationally on the databases of folks who have been adjudicated mentally ill and dangerous so that they couldn’t purchase guns.
HUNT: So you would support the Carolyn McCarthy - you would support that proposal by Carolyn McCarthy to -
KAINE: These are - these are - that kind of legislation is legislation that I’ve long supported, back from the days, you know, when there was - when there was an assault weapons ban, before it expired.
HUNT: OK. It’s been 11 weeks since the Republicans won a resounding victory at the polls. How do you think they’re handling their mandate?
KAINE: Well, you know, I think they’re feeling their oats still in the House. You know, the good news is, I think, for the American public is, while we didn’t like election night, I think the voters clearly were saying, Democrats, you can no longer do anything just with Democratic votes. Republicans, you know, you can no longer stand on the sideline. You’ve got to get in the game and be part of the governing coalition.
Now, I think it was telling that the Republicans’ first effort out of the gate was the attempt to appeal health care reform. They said they cared about the deficit; that effort was going to dramatically increase the deficit, if successful. They said they cared about small businesses; the health care repeal effort would have taken tax credits away from nearly 5 million small businesses that are eligible for tax credits retroactive to January 1st of last year. And so they broke their deficit pledge -
HUNT: So you think they’re overreaching?
KAINE: - and they broke their business pledge. I think they were overreaching, and I think they realized it, Al, about halfway through and they decided to just rush it to a vote and move on, because as Americans experience the benefit of the health care bill, 25 million young people can now stay on family policies in that 21- to 26-year-old age range; 4 million seniors have gotten assistance with prescription drug purchases; and 5 million to 7 million small businesses with tax credits.
As they’re experiencing the benefits, the polling is getting better. The Republicans did that vote, I guess, to appease some aspect of their base, but they’re going to drop it and move on to other issues.
HUNT: OK, Governor, just this week, two members of the Senate Democratic caucus, Joe Lieberman and Kent Conrad, announced that they’re stepping down. Republicans feel good about their prospects in both states, and overall next year, 23 out of 33 seats that are up in the Senate are held by Democrats.
Now, I know you’re going to tell me a lot can happen in a year - you’re right - but aren’t the prospects for Democrats holding the Senate in 2012 really imperiled, as of now?
KAINE: Well, you took the first part of the answer away from me, because, yeah, things can change, Al. You know, here’s my sense about it. We have to play more defense than offense with those Senate races in 2012, and that’s always a challenge. But here’s what we have going for us.
We showed in 2008 that, with President Obama on the ticket, we focused strongly on field and turnout politics, and we generated a huge electoral turnout. We’re going to do the same in 2012.
I don’t know that I believe in the - in coattail theory anymore in politics, with one exception. And the one exception is, when you have big turnout elections, that advantages Democratic candidates in virtually any jurisdiction.
We’re going to have a big turnout election in 2012. We showed we can do it in ‘08, and we’re going to do it again. And I think that’s going to help us.
HUNT: Okay. Governor Tim Kaine, thank you so much for being with us today.
KAINE: You bet, Al.
HUNT: And when we come back, we’ll get a report card on the Hu Jintao visit from Bloomberg reporters.
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