May 19th, 2009
05:29 PM ET
5 years ago

Steele: GOP era of apologizing is over

OXON HILL, Maryland (CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele declared Tuesday that Republicans will no longer talk about their mistakes; instead they will focus on the future and serve as the loyal opposition party to President Barack Obama and the congressional Democratic majority.

"The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over," Steele told state Republican leaders meeting in a suburb of Washington to discuss the party's political future. "It is done. The time for trying to fix or focus on the past has ended. The era of Republican navel gazing is over. We have turned the corner on regret, recrimination, self-pity and self-doubt. Now is the hour to focus all of our energies on winning the future."

Steele, who had a rocky start in his first 100-plus days in office, received a standing ovation when he took the stage. It was a public boost in the arm for the chairman whose leadership of the national committee has been called into question by some of his fellow Republicans.

Steele sought to silence those critics by noting that since assuming the national committee chairmanship he has traveled to 23 states meeting with grass-roots activists, while at the same time turning a deaf ear to the talk in the nation's capital.

"Too bad the chattering classes inside the Beltway are too busy fretting over phony disputes and intra-party intrigue to notice that a change has indeed come to America," Steele said. "But it's not the one the Obama administration wants aired on the nightly news.

"Those of you who live outside of Washington know what I'm talking about. Those of you who actually attend Lincoln Day dinners and county party events, those of you who toil in the vineyards, spending time in communities, in diners, in barber shops, and in coffee shops where real, everyday people can be found. You know it is real. You can see it and feel it. This change comes in a tea bag."

The tea reference was a nod to the rallies - which participants likened to the Boston Tea Party –that have taken place across the country to protest high taxes and call for smaller government.

Steele also made it clear that he thinks the revival of the Republican Party will come from outside the nation's capital.

"Our comeback will not begin in Washington," Steele said. "Our conversation with America will not focus on Washington. Our Republican National Committee will no longer rely on Washington. We will look to the rest of America instead."

Before the Republican Party launches an offensive it must first resolve the battle for control of what the party's steering wheel.

Republicans were thrown into a self-examination process after losing control of the White House and additional seats in the House and Senate in the 2008 elections.

So far, 2009 has proven no better. Republicans failed to win back a Democratic-held New York congressional seat despite having more registered GOP voters; Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter renounced his Republican affiliation to join the Democratic Party; and there has been a very public fight between centrists and social conservatives over what direction the GOP should head.

And then there has been the criticism of Steele, which an ally charged was not grounded in fact.

"A lot of Republicans said we needed a breath of fresh air, and I'm one of those Republicans," said Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida Republican Party. "Michael Steele came into the chairmanship as a breath of fresh air: new leadership, new ideas. The majority of Republicans in this country were looking for that. Some of the leaders in this room were seeking it because he was elected chairman.

"At the end of the day, that breath of fresh air may not have been what some wanted. They wanted to revisit the election. I think the door is closed. Michael Steele is here to say as chairman of this party. He is going to do great things for this party and that's what Republicans across this country want."

Steele delivered a speech full of red meat, serving up heaping portions of criticism to leading Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Rep. Barney Frank, and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. The national committee chairman, though, saved his most scathing critique for Obama on issues ranging bailouts and banning guns to potentially taxing soft drinks.

"The last Democrat president declared that the era of big government was over," Steele said. "Can some(one) please send President Obama a copy of that memo? Because this new Democrat president has ushered in a new era of left-wing, old school, top-down, Industrial Age, bureaucratic Big Government the likes of which our country has never seen."

The Democratic National Committee sharply rebuked Steele.

"While we welcome Chairman Steele's words that the GOP wants to turn the page on its past, we are disheartened by the party's actions that tell the opposite story," said Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan. "While the chairman talks of moving forward, the very convention he's addressing will not focus on coming up with new ideas to create jobs and setting right what the party got wrong over the last eight years, but instead will revolve around name calling and the petty politics of the past."

While Steele said that the Republican Party is now moving forward, he did acknowledge that national Republicans in recent years had compromised one of the party's main principles, fiscal discipline, and failed to follow through on their pledge to change Washington.

"In some ways, we let Washington change us and we owned up to that," he said. "We've taken some important steps to recover our values and senses, and we can say we see the world with a clearer head and a sharper vision."

The Republican National Committee meeting wraps up on Wednesday with a scheduled vote on a controversial resolution that calls on Democrats to rename their party the "Democrat Socialist Party."

(Updated at 5:30 p.m. with additional information)

soundoff (135 Responses)
  1. The Unshrub

    Excuss me, republicans have never talked about their mistakes. However, they do talk about everyone else's mistakes, even when there aren't any.

    May 19, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  2. Moderate Democrat

    You may as well stop apologizing. What you did to our country is UNFORGIVABLE.

    The GOP passionately pursues Torture, won't safe guard our buildings, advocates illegal wars leading to mass genocide, steals our money, denies our citizens better health and education, lowers the value of our homes, sends the country into economic peril while refusing to catch Bin Laden. With americans like the GOP, who needs terrorists?

    May 19, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  3. Roy Arellano (San Antonio, TX)

    Unfortunately; until those who've committed mistakes, crimes, and any other failures must be brought to justice. There must be consequences. Politicians are not leaders...they should only be advocates for the People. And as such, they should be mindful when trying to "tell" us when they're done apologizing. DEMS are in the hot-seat too (just incase my Neo-Con friends have anything to say). They are just as vulnerable and should be held accountable.

    May 19, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. John

    This guy is going to be gone before the year is out.

    "The GOP honeymoon with President Obama is over" – The GOP was ragging on this guy, right after he won the election, through to today. WHAT HONEYMOON? Are these idiots serious?

    President Obama is partisan? He has made compromises on every major bill put forward, and still the GOP has largely voted against every bill. Who is being partisan?

    What a joke the GOP has become.

    May 19, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  5. Nathan,

    Shouldn't Steele wait until the suffering caused by the Republicans is over before declaring that they're finished apologizing. If this guys brains matched his chutzpah he might be able to get these knuckleheads to make some real changes.

    May 19, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  6. Tulsa

    Give me a break. The Republican party or any of it's members have never taken RESPONSIBILITY for any of the bone headed and in some cases criminal things they have done.

    Steele needs to step up and be a man. grow a pair and tell the Country what happened over the last 8 years and how we came to be in 2 wars, a financial catastrophy and have dirtied our name world wide by engaging in torture and abuse of prisoners.

    Oh, yeah, and "Pelosi knew!" is not a valid excuse or an apology.

    May 19, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. sean

    When did they admit guilt? I thought their strategy was to blame anybody (everybody) else!

    May 19, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  8. Justin Motion

    When will the era of whining be over?

    May 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. ME

    I guess i missed the apology......ONE MORE TIME PLS...lol

    May 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Bud Burgoon-Clark

    Sackcloth and ashes, climbing the Capitol steps on their knees, self-flagellation ... those might BEGIN to atone for the horrors which the Republican Party visited upon our great, wounded nation during the HATEFUL, INFAMOUS and NEVER-TO-BE-FORGOTTEN BuschReich (sic). I hope they have NIGHTMARES about the THOUSANDS (millions?) who DIED as a result of their actions. May they be cursed with ETERNAL political EXILE.

    May 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. Chicago Zak

    They've never talked about their mistakes in the first place...

    May 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. The Broker.

    Temper!!! Mister Steel.

    May 19, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. Jane

    Mr Steele, go ahead & stop talking about it – most of the country is suffering for it and dont' think it will be forgotten any time soon! Did Rush write or approval your speech? Just curious.

    May 19, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  14. Rob in Detroit Mi.

    bring it on steel you want some of the prez. he will bury you with your party.

    May 19, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  15. Jim

    " ... era of apologizing is over ... "

    ?????

    when did they apologize for anything?

    May 19, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  16. JANIE

    Steele:
    Get a WIG!

    May 19, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  17. WhoCares?

    Did I miss something???

    When have they ever APOLOGIZED?

    May 19, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  18. Peter (CA)

    Republicans apologize? When?
    Is that what Cheney is trying to do on TV?

    Please! They and their friends have turned this country upside down and still have mindless drones supporting a return to such politics. Promise small governement but never deliver and then want the government involved in your bedroom. Make all the rules "business-friendly" and then find someone else to blame when the businesses run amok and destroy the economy.

    May 19, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  19. Donna from Colorado Springs

    Mr. Steele says that the Republican party is through apologizing? There aren't enough years left in this world to fill with their apologies! It would take forever to even begin to cover the eight years with Bush, and Mr. Steele has the nerve to smile and say enough is enough? What a moron! He is certainly the GOP poster boy for stupidity! I just consider the source!

    May 19, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  20. Karen - Missouri

    Republicans are ignorant and Steele is no exception. Instead of coming up with good ideas and doing actual work, here they are once again whining and crying. No REAL work...just attack, negativity...as usual. The Republicans SHOULD apologize. Apologize for ignoring the needs of Americans. Apologize for doing nothing but whine. They show absolutely NO intelligence, ideas, or anything else for that matter.

    We're tired of the Republicans always acting like they're campaigning instead of working for the next four years.

    May 19, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  21. Once You Vote Black

    You may no apologize, but you are sure sorry.

    May 19, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Not even close, Michael

    Finished apologizing? There's not enough space here to list everything the Republicans should be apologizing for. They've all but ruined this country, and their trickle-down economic nonsense is simply a starting point.

    May 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. Carolyn

    The Bush Administration did what it felt was necessary at the time. Was it right ?was it wrong?....I just hope President Obama will not have to make these choices, because I am afraid he will second guess himself. The Bush administration is over, hindsight is 20/20....it is time to move on.

    May 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  24. EDDIE

    I haven't heard one apology yet.So just what is he talikng about?The GOP just DO NOT GET IT.Keep up the good work steele.

    May 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  25. David

    Really, they appologized? When?

    May 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
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