January 5th, 2009
07:43 PM ET
11 years ago

Candidates for RNC chair knock Bush, debate party's future

Six candidates for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee lashed out at Pres. Bush during a forum in Washington Monday.

Six candidates for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee lashed out at Pres. Bush during a forum in Washington Monday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - In an unusual moment of candor from a group of high-ranking partisans, the six candidates for Republican Party chairman offered frank criticisms of the Bush administration Monday.

Asked by conservative Grover Norquist to point out failings of the Bush administration, candidates attending a forum sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform promptly obliged.

Incumbent RNC chairman Mike Duncan, seeking re-election after a dismal performance in 2008, said the administration “failed” in their prosecution of the war in Iraq.

“I think the plans of the war and actually how it was implemented were two different things,” he said.

Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell criticized the administration’s support for the $700 billion bailout of the financial sector, while Michigan state party chair Saul Anuzis chided the administration’s penchant for “more spending and bigger deficits.”

Former Tennessee GOP chairman Chip Saltsman faulted the Bush White House for having a poor communications strategy. And South Carolina GOP chair Katon Dawson said Bush failed to deliver on certain big-ticket agenda items, which ultimately hurt Republican candidates at the polls.

“The social security debate and the immigration debate,” he said. “Those were two that tore out party apart at certain times and cost us electorally.”

Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was more generous in his criticisms: “Failure to communicate on the war. Katrina. Bailout.” Steele paused. “Um, yeah we’ll stop there.”

As Democrat Barack Obama spent his first full day in Washington as the president-elect, the group met just blocks from the White House to debate the future of the GOP and chart a course back to Oval Office and to majorities on Capitol Hill.

The showdown was the first ever nationally-televised debate for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee, according to Norquist.

The forum had the feel of an early-stage presidential primary debate: few ideological differences were revealed among the candidates, who uniformly pledged allegiance to the legacy of Ronald Reagan and promised to move the party back to its conservative roots.

“Until we actually start articulating those principles and stop being hypocritical ourselves, then we as a party will not be victorious,” said Anuzis.

But the participants didn’t waste time mourning their losses in November; instead, each pledged to reform the party structure and change the way Republicans communicate their ideas to voters.

Said Steele, a local favorite who stocked the audience with sign-waving supporters: “All that noise about this party dying or is at death’s door? Bunk. Don’t believe it.”

The candidates promised to invest in new technology to keep pace with Obama’s high-tech campaign juggernaut. They took turns listing their profiles on various social networking sites and spent time comparing the number of “friends” each had on Facebook.

There was universal agreement that the RNC needs to expand the party much like the Democratic National Committee did with their “50-state strategy,” which placed paid staffers in traditionally red states and sought to build the party up from the grassroots.

Decentralizing the party and devoting more resources to the grassroots, they argued, will keep legislators accountable and help Republicans stay in tune with voter attitudes.

“We have to reinvigorate the base and push power responsibility and resources back to state and county parties,” said Blackwell. “We must abandon the 28-state strategy that has been in place for the last presidential cycles.”

The Republicans said it would be a necessity to grow the party’s appeal among African-Americans and Hispanics, constituencies that flocked to Obama in November, in order to regain a political majority in the country.

Asked about reaching out to the disaffected supporters of maverick Republican congressman Ron Paul, Dawson said that while he often disagreed with Paul supporters, he welcomed their enthusiasm and would seek out ways to include them.

“I want people involved in my party that will hang off bridges, and paint on their cars, and make up t-shirts,” he said. “When we become the party of addition, we start winning races.”

Despite the shots at Bush, there was little in the way of direct confrontation during the forum itself, except for a jab Blackwell directed at Dawson, who has touted his record of getting Republicans elected in the South Carolina since taking over the state party in 2001.

“We all know how hard it is to win elections in that swing state of South Carolina,” Blackwell said.

After the event, Duncan said he had no trouble sitting on stage with his rivals as they offered criticisms about the current state of the party.

“I don’t take these things personally,” Duncan said. “I’ve been involved in Republican politics for a long time. I want to win, and I believe my colleagues want to win.”


Filed under: RNC
soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. JAE

    I hope the Obama kids don't crayon all over the walls of the White House. Hopefully, even though they're kids, they conduct themselves like humans and not monkeys.

    EVERYTHING IN THE WHITE HOUSE IS TREASURED BY THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, AND, IS VERY, VERY EXPENSIVE.

    In four years (oh, God) check to see if anything's missing. Blacks love to steal.

    In four years, they'll be out of there.

    January 5, 2009 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  2. leo S,

    yes all i can hear is bush saved this country from being attacked,and saved so many lives.get your head out of the sand and wake up.we have lost approx,4500 people in the service,we haveapprox, 25,000 or more service people laying in hospitals all over the country,crippled permanently,and another 50,000 or more in the service,partialy disabled,why don,t some body wake up,and see this.for the love of GOD wake up

    January 5, 2009 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  3. yota

    Obama and Oprah will put a chicken in every pot any day now. Yea, in your dreams. Please hide Bill's cigars, Hillery will be standing by her woMAN. The world will really look up to us now! The diaper heads will be camping on the white house lawn soon. Look at how the vote went and remember what Charlie said "the souths gonna do it again". All the Dems want to do is take your rights.

    January 5, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  4. John

    JAE, I'm sorry, but that was an extremely racist remark. I am appalled that CNN would publish such trash. It is people like you, JAE, that are pulling America down. Blacks do not steal, Mexicans do not steal, Gays do not steal, Jews or any other minority group do not steal. Please, open up your mind! When you do, you will realize that there are plenty of good people in every race!

    January 5, 2009 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  5. JAE how do you type with that pillow case on

    don't the wires melt with the burning cross nearby?

    January 5, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  6. Greg Hodges

    When the G.O.P. turn on one of their own, the knives come out. Where was all this truth telling over the last 8 years. Talk about your ,Profiles in Cowardice! Only now ; as George W. is exiting the scene do we get some honesty from Republicans over the screwups by their one time golden boy. A true leader would have spoken up years ago. Agree with Obama or not; he had the guts to speak out against the Iraq invasion from the beginning. That is called leadership!!!

    January 5, 2009 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  7. SAGG

    Seems to me the GOP is using Bush as their scapegoat, when they should blame only themselves for their own failures. You guys don't need to get back into the White House anytime soon...

    January 5, 2009 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. Greg Hodges

    I know Americans love to brag about their right to free speech; but the racist rantings of JAE should make even Republicans cringe. Burn any crosses lately buddy?

    January 5, 2009 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  9. Jane

    Repubs trashed the country, now they talk as if they can save it. Insanity.

    January 5, 2009 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  10. Sherrol in Canada

    @Pat 10:49 pm.........

    Those 'gentlemen' are turncoats and one of them wants to Chair the RNC. Looks like they would sell their souls for the opportunity, oops.....aahh...challenge (?!)

    January 5, 2009 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  11. SMR

    Now can The Americans that stand behind bush and say he's the greatest President ever see us dems side of the story.The feeling given by YOUR OWN PARTY MUST BE HARD TO SWALLOW. Lets move on now and you people help { Our } new President make OUR Country Great again. GOD BLESS AMERICA

    January 5, 2009 11:37 pm at 11:37 pm |
  12. Sherrol in Canada

    @JAE 11:06 pm..............

    AnyTown is calling – they've just lost their village idiot!!

    January 5, 2009 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  13. Cynthia

    You guys need to get over the fact that you are losers and stop being so angry and get behind the President to help get this country back to where it needs to be as oppose to wasting time sending out racist cds as Christmas gifts. No wonder you are such losers use that time for positive energy.

    January 5, 2009 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  14. Proud American

    Where can I find training for being a republican Idiot. I'm suprised how closed the group is. How do I join? Am I required to have an I.Q below 25?

    January 5, 2009 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  15. NJVote08

    fred michaels January 5th, 2009 10:06 pm ET

    I think that if Obama wants to help the country, that he should offer to work for a salary of one dollar a year. He should also not spend the tax payers money sending his children to private school that costs over 30,000 dollars a year. Every other parent in the United States has to pay for their own childs education. Lastly maybe Obama should try staying in a less expensive hotel while waiting to take control.

    ______________________________________________________
    Actually, he should get a huge raise with the mess that he is walking into. His children's education should be paid for the same as all the previous presidential children. And lastly, he is staying where he is STAYING. End of story.

    Peace and lots of love...

    January 5, 2009 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  16. Keith

    To little to late, that about sums up that meeting. Now I don't doubt Republican leadership wants to bring minority's back into the party but i highly doubt there base holds a special place in there hearts for us.

    So key is to hide the fringe base that hates all things they perceive as unAmerican, which cast an ugly truth about all there constituents and that is that they tolerate this ideal and loan there creditability to defend and validate this divisive behavior. well the fringe base can't and won't make good on that loan and is more then happy to bankrupt what little creditability the party has left.

    January 6, 2009 12:02 am at 12:02 am |
  17. KB in Co.

    To little to late, that about sums up that meeting. Now I don't doubt Republican leadership wants to bring minority's back into the party but i highly doubt there base holds a special place in there hearts for us.

    So key is to hide the fringe base that hates all things they perceive as unamerican, which cast an ugly truth about all there constituents and that is that they tolerate this ideal and loan there creditability to defend and validate this divisive behavior. Well the fringe base can't and won't make good on that loan and is more then happy to bankrupt what little creditability the party has left. Example "Barack the Magic Negro"

    January 6, 2009 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  18. JOE KILOZ

    there,,,,,,,,,,,is,,,,,,,,,,,a,,,,,,,,,,,vast,,,,,,,,,,,,world,,,,,,,,,,,,,of,,,,,,,,,,,,,difference,,,,,,,,,,,

    between,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,the,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,republican,,,,,,,,,,,,,,party,,,,,,,,,,,,and,,,,,,,,,,,,,the,,,,

    junior,,,,,,,,,,bushie

    January 6, 2009 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  19. T. Mckinley

    JAE is a true conservative, right wing Republican. While I deplore his rascism, I must commend his honesty. Many conservative, right-wing Republicans oppose Obama because they don't want a black man to be president, but hide their rascism by falsely accusing Obama of being, foreign-born, a "pal" of terrorists, a Marxist, a Socialist, a Muslim, inexperienced, or whatever other excuse they can come up with.

    What JAE has revealed, is what millions of us have known all along. Many people in this country simply do not want a black man serving as president, period. If you don't believe me, all you have to do is see the pictures or the video of the guy at the Sarah Palin rally with the Curious George doll with the Obama bumper sticker on it's head.

    One picture is worth a thousand words...

    January 6, 2009 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  20. Reality Check

    These RNC candidates are what is wrong with the party. The current chairman cites the war in Iraq as a Bush "failure" even though it is almost exclusively because of President Bush that we have now won the Iraq War. If our own chairman can't even keep that straight we are in trouble. History will remember Bush well and 10 to 20 years from now we will all be thankful for his leadership. Thank you President Bush.

    January 6, 2009 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
  21. Thomas5

    Proud American January 5th, 2009 11:48 pm ET

    Where can I find training for being a republican Idiot. I'm suprised how closed the group is. How do I join? Am I required to have an I.Q below 25?

    --------

    No, you're just required to be a self-hating altruist who thinks that your own interests are subordinate to the group's. That's what the Republican Party has become these days. You'd probably fit right in.

    Actually, I think a better name for the Republicans would be Democrat-Lite.

    January 6, 2009 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  22. Bob Monterey, Ca

    The picture above says it all.......This incompetent clown looks anything BUT Presidential.......

    January 6, 2009 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
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