May 19th, 2009
05:29 PM ET
12 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. Peter E

    Era? Are they implying they spent lengthy amounts of time apologizing? Funny, I don't recall them apologizing a SINGLE time. Somehow they always said 'Mistakes were made... by the democrats!' And let's not forget Cheney and Limbaugh who still keep saying that everything was perfect and we should go back to the Bush policies that lead to the current recession and total mess!

    May 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  2. Cystem Phailure

    With the incredible amounts of damage the GOP has done to the economy, international relations, the environment, the Constitution, and human dignity in general, how can Steele possibly declare they are finished apologizing? They've barely scratched the surface.

    May 19, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  3. Parnell Meagre

    What Mr. Steele is saying is that for the Republican Partty the old era of apologizing is over and a new era of apologizing is about to begin..

    May 19, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  4. Dutch/Bad Newz,VA

    Apologize? Who and when? The only person who sounds apologetic is Condaleeza Rice and that's only because she's in some hot water. The rest of the GOP scum wouldn't dare mention there is anything worth apologizing for. They should apologize for #43/VP, this recession we're in, the illegal war being held in Iraq, the torture of prisoners, etc.

    May 19, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  5. Teleprompter of the U.S.

    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.

    May 19, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  6. Margi

    The time to fix the past is over. . . .

    Yeah, let the Democrats fix it while you and the other 20% of your party try to block every effort.

    May 19, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  7. Barbara Independent in NY

    What–the Republicans apologized for the mess they made in this country and other areas of the world? When was that? Why didn't the Media cover this?

    May 19, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  8. Peter

    Are you serious? This is apologizing? If they win the 2010 elections they will all fail..

    May 19, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  9. Dee, NJ

    Mr. Steele, It has not chanced! You are the Guppy Fish, Cheney and Rush are Sharks.

    May 19, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  10. wayne

    the only Republicans i've ever heard apologize...were apologizing to Rush limpburger..for some perceived slight to his lordship...oh ya and my neighbor...who finally saw the truth...

    May 19, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  11. Claudia in Houson

    We are living in the GOP mistakes that they have never taken responsibility for or a solution to fix anything and yet they talk about focusing on the future. I don't trust the GOP now or in the future, they are only interested in their wealth on the backs of the poor. The H... with Michael Unkle Tom Steele and the rest of his foolishness.

    May 19, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  12. Failed Politics and A Wink!!!

    Steele The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over," Now will you stop apologizing To Rush????

    May 19, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |

    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 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  14. Henri

    Era of GOP apologizing over? When did they ever apologize??

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

    Really inspiring stuff. I gotta say, that's as good as Palin working the crowd and saying "Are we ready to SHAKE UP Washington??!!" You BETCHA!!! What do they wanta do, inspire an earthquake?? Just mimick the Dems, then that will give the Dems a run for their money. But on the way, don't leave out the intergrity. That's why we won't see a Republican in the White House for the next generation, at least 25years. Now I can sleep at night.

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

    I am glad I never had a honeymoon like that!!!!

    NO NO NO Nay NO no no no !!!

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

    The Only Apologizing The GOP Are doing thse days Is to the Boss the Leader Limbaugh hes the Only one who gets their Apologies

    May 19, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  18. IndyVoter

    YOU STILL DON'T GET IT!!!!!....."focusing on winning" is EXACTLY what turned voters off in the past. Now that's your plan for the future??!? All of the lying, falsifying, posturing, and strategizing just to get elected backfired. Try focusing on HELPING the AMERICAN PEOPLE by considering what they want instead of what you think you should tell them they want. No one wanted an apology from you, we just wanted to you change your stinking thinking and attitudes that sent us into the dumpster to begin with. Until you do that, you definitely will NOT find yourself in the Winners' circle.

    May 19, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  19. Willy Brown

    I too am sorry morons of change and hope voted for an illegal alien for president.

    May 19, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. Expat American

    The Republican Party are a lost cause.

    Hundreds of thousands of people are dead because of their doctrine of freedom and patriotism.

    The Republican 'values' of 2004 are alive and well.

    May 19, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  21. Charlie in Maine

    "The era of apologizing for Republican mistakes of the past is now officially over,"

    Was someone apologizing? If so they are about as good at that as they are maintaining a balanced budget or foreign policy.......both of which were in pretty good shape when Bill Clinton left office.

    Stop apologizing if you want I don't forgive you anyway.

    May 19, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  22. Teleprompter of the U.S.

    When are the Democrats going to apologize for being the catalyst for the economy to be so bad?

    Frank and Dodd's mindless and idiotic defense of Fannie and Freddie started this collapse and I have yet to see one of them apologize for that.

    We're in this mess because of Democrats. They should all be tried for treason.

    May 19, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  23. Luis in Miami

    Oh, no there is a lot more apologizing to do for damaging the world economy, our standing in the world and then we need to send to the Hagg; Cheney, Gonzalez and all the others that committed crimes against humanity. Torture was wrong. For Bush I feel sorry because he is going to have to live with his atrocious legacy.

    May 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  24. TBA

    Steel, has to re-examine himself and the RNC, they haven't done much since they LOST the Pres. Election, all they have been is crying and crying yelling screaming, and calling everyone else names. Even try to say the DNC supports Terrorist, while trying to use SCARE TATICS like the Bush Admin. to win votes. RNC is up in flames burning themselves to the ground. RNC needs to kick people like Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, and Newt out of the party. They are the one who make the RNC look bad. With their out rages comments, since they don't care due to the fact they are no in Government and not running for any election.

    May 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  25. Moderate Democrat

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

    May 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
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