Chairman Donatelli on CNN’s “Situation Room” on Jack Kemp


Wolf Blitzer:

The question is can the GOP put itself back together right now. Joining me is a democratic strategist and a republican strategist who is the chairman of GOPAC. Let’s start with you, the Party’s got some problems, not the first time for the Republicans or the Democrats for that matter. What do you think about this effort to comes to grips with it?

Frank Donatelli:

It’s a very, very good thing I believe. There’s two things that we have to do. Number one, we have to realize that the majority party is going to make mistakes and give us opportunities. I think the budget cuts are unsustainable and that gives us an opening. Secondly, we do need to talk about some new things, some new ideas, we need to really connect with people and talk about things that are of concern to them, health care, security, infrastructure, talk about things that really matter.

Wolf Blitzer:

Are the faces we saw at this weekend retreat, these republicans that got together to create this new grass roots organization, are these the new faces of the Republican Party?

Paul Begala:

Jeb Bush, a very talented guy, kind of an unfortunate last name. Eric Cantor, I would also look at John Huntsman, the Governor of Utah. He’s doing the one thing that no other Republican is doing, and that is really challenging the established orthodoxy. They took on welfare, crime, reverend Jesse Jackson, that’s how he remade the Democratic Party, Barack Obama remade the Democratic Party by taking on Bill Clinton. Somebody’s got to punch.

Wolf Blitzer:

The very popular Governor of Utah is going to be here “The Situation Room” on Friday. You’re not the only one, there are a lot of Democrats who are saying you look down the road, what do you think of Governor Huntsman?

Frank Donatelli:

He’s an interesting candidate, comes from Utah, but speaks a little bit more moderately, I think it’s way too early to be thinking about individual personalities. We have Bobby Jindal, we have Meg Whitman, if she runs for Governor of California. Carly Fiorini if she runs for the senate. We’re putting the cart before the horse if we look at personalities.

Candy Crowley:

Also we’re talking about presidential people here, they have a problem out there district by district by district, and that’s where these the people you talk to on the phone say listen, you have got to look and say, it’s more important to win this district then that back sourcing totally buy into the Republican Party orthodoxy.

Wolf Blitzer:

All of us were deeply sad this weekend when we learned that Jack Kemp unfortunately passed away. I’m going to have you react. This was an interview I did with Jack Kemp back in November of 1997. This is after he was a running mate of Bob Dole. Bill Clinton was re-elected, but listen to this exchange I had with Jack Kemp back in ’97.

(Plays Audio Tape)

Wolf Blitzer:

He was saying then what could be said right now about the republicans. You’ve got to have this big tent, you got to bring in a lot of folks tell me what you think?

Candy Crowley:

In terms of actively reaching out to African Americans, for example, which he dedicated a lot of his political agenda to.

Frank Donatelli:

Jack Kemp stood for two things, number one was supply side economics, he sold that to Ronald Reagan, he was the first poll situation to do that. Opportunity and outreach describes Jack Kemp.

Paul Begala:

All about idealism, ideas, and inclusion. Three i’s that are missing from Republicans these days. There are very few Republicans you could describe as Kemp would be described in these obituaries as a happy warrior. The thing about Jack Kemp is authenticity because he didn’t come by this inclusion thing via politics, he came by it from his experience in the locker room, where of course he became great friends with African Americans so there were a number of things that brought him there.

Wolf Blitzer:

Sitting in the end zone, freezing at the Old War Memorial Stadium. Jack Kemp was the quarterback leading the Bills to championship seasons. We spoke about that just late last year when we went to a Redskins game and shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with cancer. We’ll all miss Jack.