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What Republicans Hope To Hear During Trump's State Of The Union Address


The controversy over Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has managed the near impossible in politics these days. It has united Democrats and Republicans. Across the political spectrum, there is almost universal condemnation of a racist yearbook picture and revelations that Governor Northam used shoe polish to darken his face for a party back in 1984.


Meanwhile, here in Washington, Democrats and Republicans are gearing up for one of the key rituals of the political calendar, the State of the Union. We're going to put questions about both these topics to our next guest, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. Ronna McDaniel, welcome to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

RONNA MCDANIEL: Thanks for having me - great to be here.

KELLY: Great to have you with us. I saw your tweet today. You said it's time for Northam to face reality and step down. You don't see any path forward for him.

MCDANIEL: I don't. I think even with leaders of his own party calling for his resignation, it's just going to be hard for him to heal his state. And he's had a past. This isn't just one isolated incident. We saw him remove Fairfax from his literature when he was running for governor. We've seen other instances from Northam. And I think it's time for him to go.

KELLY: I want to allow you to respond to something that DNC Chair - Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez told me when I interviewed him today. Here he is.

TOM PEREZ: One thing we have done as Democrats is we have not hesitated to hold accountable people who violate our values, whether they're Republicans or Democrats.

KELLY: He's suggesting, Ronna McDaniel, that there's a double standard, that Republicans have been a lot quicker to call for a Democrat to resign than they have for any of their own.

MCDANIEL: Well, I would disagree with that completely. When we had a candidate in Illinois who was running, he got on the ticket, clearly did not exemplify Republican views. We found a third-party candidate to run against him. Steve King was stripped of his committeeships (ph) with his egregious comments. We've...

KELLY: But continues to sit as a member of Congress.

MCDANIEL: But we have acted immediately. And you see with the Democrats with...

KELLY: But not called for him to resign.

MCDANIEL: ...Rashida Tlaib...

KELLY: Sorry. I'm just trying to parse...

MCDANIEL: ...With Rashida Tlaib and...

KELLY: ...What the difference is.

MCDANIEL: Well, with Rashida Tlaib and others in the Democratic Party, with Keith Ellison, for example, the DNC co-chair, as they have engaged with Louis Farrakhan, who is a known anti-Semite, who has called the Jewish people termites. They have continued to sit in their offices...

KELLY: This is Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.

MCDANIEL: ...And not - yeah, and not be removed. In fact, you have many Democrats who have engaged with Louis Farrakhan. He sat on the stage next to Bill Clinton recently at a funeral. I mean, this is somebody who should be absolutely reviled by the Democrat Party. He is a known anti-Semite. He has said horrific things about the Jewish people. And yet the Democrat Party continues to have their leaders engage with this gentleman.

KELLY: But just to press you on this - and then I do want to move on to the State of the Union - I'm asking you a question about whether Republicans would be as quick to ask a Republican to step down. And you're giving me examples of Democrats who you say should resign.

MCDANIEL: I'm saying Republicans have been quick to remove people from committees. We've been quick to denounce candidates running for office who don't exemplify our values. We're quick to denounce candidates who say bad things. That's what we've done.

KELLY: I'm going to jump in because we could go back and forth on this for our full time, and I do want to get to the State of the Union with you...


KELLY: ...The State of Union which of course follows the longest government shutdown in history and a shutdown that exposed deep fractures within your party. What are you hoping to hear from the president tomorrow that might go - get us to the starting point of starting to heal those fractures?

MCDANIEL: Well, our party agrees with the president that we need border security. We see the increase of drugs coming across our border. We know that 90 percent of the heroin, for example, comes across our southern border. We have 300 deaths from heroin a week. We know human trafficking's an issue. We know asylum claims are up 1,700 percent in eight years. So our party agrees on this.

Democrats used to agree on this, too. Many of them voted for commonsense immigration reform under President Obama. I think it's time for us to come together and really solve problems that get kicked down the road far too often. And the president's going to strike a bipartisan tone and extend his hand to Democrats to come work with him on these issues.

KELLY: So just in the moments that we have left - we've got about 30 seconds - are you expecting to hear a message from the president that will reach beyond his base?

MCDANIEL: I do. I think the president has worked in a bipartisan manner. Even with the shutdown, he said to Nancy Pelosi, let's put DACA on the table. Let's find a fix there. This is something that we can compromise on.

KELLY: He's refused to budge on his key demand for a wall - given no ground.

MCDANIEL: Well, he - first of all, I think some of that's been misrepresented. He has set a barrier.

KELLY: Right.

MCDANIEL: And he's taking his lead from the ICE agents and the CBP.


MCDANIEL: I think most of us would listen to the experts on the front line.

KELLY: That's RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel. Thanks so much.

MCDANIEL: Thanks for having me.

KELLY: And you can hear my interview with Tom Perez, chair of the DNC, elsewhere on today's program. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.