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. C.T.

    Excuse me... What is a "Loyal opposition"? Is that code for "Party of No? These people are so out of it that they spend time drafting a charter demanding that another party change it's name to "Democratic Socialist Party". If time was spent taking care of the national interest the Republican Party could indeed stop feeling the need to apologise, of which none was asked for or needed.

    May 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Linda B., Ga.

    Michael, you are DANCING AS FAST AS YOU CAN, just like the rest of the GOP......you all need to get a life and get on with it...

    May 19, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  3. Proud Soldiers Mom

    Typical Dems. They read Just the headline, and not what was written in the body of the article. No wonder they are so in the dark about politics. These are voters that shouldn't be alowed to vote.

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

    Apologize? When did the GOP ever apologize? I thought they were always too busy calling everyone socialists. This is crazy. How long did they go before saying their era of "aplogizing" is over anyway a couple of months. What Steele means to say is that he hopes and prays the the era of GOP BASHING is over. Its not. Good luck with that wishful thinking thing. I've been working on magicking myself a million bucks too, but its not likely that will happen either.

    May 19, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. C.T.

    CNN. You really need to unstick that moderation button. You are sounding like the party of no. The only answer for last six months is moderation.

    May 19, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  6. Nick The Photographer

    When did it ever begin?

    May 19, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Dave Ricci

    I must say the Era of Apologizing for Republican Mistakes was remarkably short. If you blinked, you missed it.

    May 19, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  8. Veronica

    That's funny, the only person the GOP apologizes to is Lush Limbaugh.

    I don't remember ever hearing an apology to the American people for the massive mess they've made of this country, and the world. Unless, of course, Mikey means the new era of apologizing is near... LOL.

    May 19, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  9. lee

    The criticism of the opposing party is typical of politicians on both the right and left. But Mr. Steele was out of line when he brought the Presidents two children into the discussion. As though the childrens attendance at a private school should be a political topic. If they were to attend a public school the secret service security would be disruptive. That was a major consideration in choosing a private school. The Bush children were kept out of the political limelight as they should have been. Certainly these young children deserve the same respect. Bad form Mr. Steele.

    May 19, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  10. KLK

    yawn.

    May 19, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. JG

    Will Michael Steele and the rest of the washed up republican party just go away quietly. I'm really sick of the sight of him, what an idiot!

    May 19, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  12. ZOPPLE

    BTW... Don't judge me on all the typos in the previous post ;-P It was written in a hurry!

    May 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. Mark Petersin

    Would someone please offer an example of the Republicans apologizing for anything? Not for torture, not for war, not for banning habeas corpus, not for wrecking the economy, not for destroying the image of the United States in the view of the world...what have they ever said they were sorry for?

    May 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Taa Taa

    Republicans are just plain stupid.....

    May 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. peakarack

    The more Mr. Steele talk the more he sound like idiot. hahahaha!!!!!!!

    May 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  16. Cindy

    What the hell do they think they've apologized for? The only apology I've heard is Steele apologizing to Limbugh. I'm still waiting for the apology for calling me un-American. That will be a start. Then they can go on to the important things that they need to repair.

    May 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  17. gl, Pittsburgh

    Really When have they Apologized? Im sorry I Missed it ,as a Matter of fact they want to Continue their Hate spewing fear on our President. attack the New congress, Say NO To everything and Continue the Same failed Policies! Not to Mention Insult our Intelligence that dosent sound like apologizing to me!

    May 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  18. Jamie

    The GOP hasn't even BEGUN to apologize for the Bush-Cheney Administration. Not that Dems shouldn't take their knocks either, but come on. If there was no need to apologize, then there would nothing to stop. Steele has proven himself a lackluster "Party" head and only pummels the RNC further down with every statement he makes. Posturing does nothing and he should be bitter, Steele almost won his election but couldn't get the GOP yolk off his neck.

    May 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  19. gl, Pittsburgh

    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 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  20. Mississippi Mike

    What should the GOP apologize for? Defending the Constitution and believing in strong national defense and economic freedom are not things that warrant an apology. Democrats are going to have a lot to answer for when the public gets a good whiff of how their policies have been destroying the economic base of our nation.

    May 19, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  21. So Tired of This

    Apologizing? When did they do that? I missed it! Darn

    May 19, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  22. Jon

    Looking forward would be to actually be fiscally conservative. Something republicans have never been. How about just changing to Liberterian views?

    May 19, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  23. Simpliticus

    If Michael Steele wants to go back to the days of "doing the jig", he may as well deal with it now rather than later! I am afraid teh issue is NOT over regarding Republican issues of torture, illegality, and mismanagement! We are just getting started so as to try and to figure out what really happened under the George W. Bush administration. And as to whether apologies and so forth, I haven't heard any apologies coming forth from the Republican Party as to all these ill suited actions! Better start dancing, Steele because you have always been dancing ever since taking your RNC chair position. And it ain't over yet by a long shot!

    May 19, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  24. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    A Republican APOLOGIZED? When?? For WHAT??? (where did they bury the body?)
    Before one can apologize, one must admit/concede that they have actually made a mistake.
    If Republicans were in control again, what (if anything) would they do differently?

    OH, I know, they're sorry we woke up, listened to what they were saying and watched what they were doing (and voted them out). Is THAT what they are "apologizing for?

    May 19, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  25. gl, Pittsburgh

    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?

    Steele make this statement before and we all know the GOP never had a honeymoon with the President, but it is the voters honeymoon that counts and it is not over still at at a 62 percent approval rating sorry still you party don't.

    May 19, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
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