May 19th, 2009
05:29 PM ET
6 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. Brian

    Thats too bad Steele. The apology has not yet been accepted!

    May 19, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  2. Moderate Democrat

    Proud Soldiers Mom May 19th, 2009 4:23 pm ET

    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.
    -------------

    Reading what their fellow republicans say, and believing they are telling the truth. These are people that justify abortion.

    May 19, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  3. Texas Observer

    I have not heard Repubs apologize to anyone yet. On the other hand, I heard a lot of cry when Obama apologized for our past mistakes.

    I am not sure what he is talking about. Michael Steele is Godsend as far as us Democrats are concerned. I pray everyday for them not to kick him out as the Chairman.

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

    Oh, no, you Greedy Old Perverts.... you've still got a lot more apologizing to do. My 401k is down, my mortgage is up, my health care is astronomical, my national honor is disgraced, and several friends in the military are dead. You're not done apologizing by a long shot.

    May 19, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  5. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    Proud Soldiers Mom wrote: "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"
    Typical Republican, SAYING we should all have rights then showing that you believe that we (who DARE to disagree with you) shouldn't have the same rights as you.
    How ironic.

    May 19, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  6. Chris Cantwell, Bradenton FL

    Support HR 1207 to audit the Federal Reserve by contacting your congressional representative and urge them to co-sponsor the bill!

    May 19, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. Frank - Los Angeles, CA

    "THE PARTY OF NO" keep surpassing itself day after day... When in the world have they apologized? And they new idea they talk about what exactly is it? I hope it isn't one of their budget without number...LOL... What a joke this right wing nut jobs are !!!

    May 19, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  8. Peter E

    What he really means is 'We haven't actually apologized to anyone else and we won't start now. We will at best say that mistakes were made... by the democrats. Oh, but we'll still send our apologies to Rush Limbaugh in case any of our statements can even remotely be interpreted as contradictory to the great neocon leader. We will continue to apologise and kiss up to that pompous windbag because we still have no ideas of our own.'

    May 19, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  9. SR

    This is merely Michael Steal's bizarre comment of the day. Tomorrow, he'll say this gaffe was all part of his brilliant master plan.

    May 19, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  10. Limbaugh is a liberal

    Can they stop apologizing to Rush Limbaugh first, and stick to calling him for what he is? A pompous, self-centered, attention-hungry winbag entertainer?

    May 19, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  11. JT

    Ridiculous speech & Ridiculous party...

    When will the GOP learn that if you don't have anything to say that is actually real and substantive, just don't bother. They make themselves look incredibly bad on a daily basis.

    May 19, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  12. Mark

    There's still alot of "splaining" to do....!!!! So until the public is satisified with the accountability of the Bush administration and cronies... the Republicans will still have to apologize...! Apologies go a long way for mending fences...!

    May 19, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  13. Ia Guy

    OH..cant help myself here..

    "Steele said that national Republicans 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. 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," he said."
    -------

    YOUR values? Didn't our last democratic president hand over to you a budget surplus - for the first time since the 1960's? Dubya blew it on his holy war.

    May 19, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  14. Ghost

    No, Mr. Steele, you have us mistaken. We don't require apologies from employees that have been terminated. And more will be coming up next year.

    Mississippi Mike, spying on Americans isn't trampling on the Constitution, economic freedom got us here and a strong national defense has nothing to do with invading a country under false pretenses. Okey dokey?

    May 19, 2009 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  15. George Guadiane Austerlitz, NY

    Teleprompter of the U.S Wrote: Now if we could just get the Democrats to admit all of their mistakes. But, they just like Bill Clinton deny, deny, deny and media outlets like CNN let them skate.

    Clinton went on National TV and apologized, he did so in writing, he did so on radio...
    The fact that Fox news didn't cover it is the only reason you didn't hear it –

    OH, and your inability to hear with your head so far up your...

    May 19, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  16. Ia Guy

    Was rude...but I could not help but spit pop out of my nose...

    -----
    @Moderate Democrat May 19th, 2009 4:21 pm ET

    Republicans are all the evidence we need to know that abortion is a necessary option!

    May 19, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  17. Peter E

    Republican 'apologies' are all the same. Remember Nixon's resignation speech? He blamed the investigators for his own corruption! You'll never hear a republican say the words 'I'm sorry' except in a demeaning, sarcastic tone.

    May 19, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  18. Annoyed.

    Did it ever start?

    May 19, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. playlist

    wow..Steele just stepped in it..now Boss Rush is gonna scream....apologize for what??? why did you bring up apologizing?? lol....go sit in the corner..you need a time out

    May 19, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  20. Sniffit

    Step 1: "We're not sorry, we're RIGHT!!!"

    Step 2: "We're done apologizing!"

    Step 3: "Righteous indignation in response to accusations that they never apologized" (i.e., Step 1 Reprise).

    Step 4: Shoot.

    Step 5: Profit?

    May 19, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Sniffit

    Really? Did I miss something? When did they START apologizing? GOP Strategery: Never apologize...just wait a litte while and pretend you're done apologizing, then act infuriated when people point out that you've never apologized and that they're still waiting for one.

    Keep it up Mushmouth...you're doing great!

    /wink wink

    May 19, 2009 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  22. Alverant

    Over? When did it begin?

    May 19, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  23. Irma in North Carolina

    They need to get a new set of canidates out for 2012. They go by the list that Rush wants out there. Rush has big eyes for Palin. Wonder if he will be by her side when she is in her first debate, cause she wont make it any further than that.

    May 19, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  24. Flex

    What was the premise on which the great corner was turned? It sounds like the Republicans have declared a new beginning out of thin air.

    May 19, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  25. Melissa

    When did the GOP ever apologize for anything? They haven't apologized even once. Whats he smoking?

    May 19, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
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