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. Michael

    How nice, to just turn the page on all one's errors (however egregious). What a good idea, to declare all one's mistakes simply no longer exist.
    I thought Republicans were supposed to be tough on crime. Look for Bernie Madoff to announce his complete exculpation next.

    May 19, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  2. JT

    Steele actually had an audience there, as undiversified as it was, that actually clapped politely to his crazy speech – which was so very twisted and flawed on uncountable levels.

    As an EX- Republican, I know, They have NEVER apologized for anything, nor did they represent the people in a decent manner.

    Save it Steele. The GOP is still the party of "no". And the 'no's" don't get it anymore.

    May 19, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. elliott

    Yeah Osama...uh I mean Obama is doing enough apologizing for ALL Americans the rest of the world....because we're big, bad , successful, power hungry, greedy Americans. *sniff sniff*

    May 19, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  4. Sheryl

    Never will I forget what the republicans have done to my country!! NEVER!!

    May 19, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  5. Minnesotan

    Its over cuz we're the GOP and whatever we say is the truth... as long as we keep saying it over, and over, and over, and over, and over, and over....

    May 19, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. A Fellow American in CA

    The Republican administration has been out of office for what, a little over four months? And now Mr. Steele is stating that the "era" of apologizing is over? So they aren't going to try to fix or focus on the past. Well, guess what, that's the party's problem in a nutshell. Ignore the past, blame the other party, and try to keep pushing the same agenda and hope that americans aren't paying attention. Sorry, folks, but we all got a very big wake up call that hit our shrinking wallets and our future retirements, and we ARE paying attention.

    May 19, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  7. seebofubar

    The only thing that the republican party has to apologize for is puting up a weak candidate for president and letting this yahoo in.

    May 19, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  8. Jane

    We will say when the time for apologies is over and the GOP has a long way to go.

    May 19, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. Dizzy in PA

    What? A Republican? Apologize? Is that a snowball fight going on under my feet?

    May 19, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  10. Stacy from Leesburg, VA

    No need to apologize Mr. Steele, because you and your buddies are the sorriest group I've ever seen in my life. If the GOP were a dog, it would have received the Old Yeller treatment by now.

    May 19, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  11. jane

    LOL....If the Republican Party was the Husband and the American people were the Wife....they would be sleeping on the couch while she waits for an apology. It is unbelievable that these people have no idea how vast their destruction is. I have never known a group of people who took NO responsibility for their actions. But I do know them now.

    May 19, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. mj

    Michael Steele is about as qualified to declare the honeymoon over as a valet at the reception refusing to park the newlywed's limo. He's right, though, that it's not about personalities. "GOP" and "personality" aren't even in the same zip code. Thankfully, President Obama has been able to lead and move forward an America-friendly agenda in spite of these sulking and openly resentful Republicans.

    May 19, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  13. Doug

    Ah geesh. I totally missed the GOP's era of apologizing. Darn it must have been short. Did they really apologize for ruining our country? Wow. I want a replay.

    May 19, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  14. Charles Atlanta

    Have GOP apologized anything? So what's the difference. The disasters created by Bush/GOP require many, many generations to fix.

    May 19, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  15. JT

    No, Mr. Steele, your apology will take many eras. The Republicans have used America and spit it out like gum on a sidewalk. Our country has been brought to its knees because of them. The Republicans need to give so much more than a sorry speech, the Cheney torture tour, an economy in the pit, global relations that have to be rebuilt from the ground because of the Bush bully plan, the exclusion, the health care and education crisis, and I could go on and on.

    May 19, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  16. What apology?

    The only person Steele has ever apologized to was Rush Limbaugh. I agree he should stop doing that.

    May 19, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. Common Sense 09

    Michael Steele and the GOP must be on DOPE...Starting to be the Party of Make No Sense!

    May 19, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  18. Brian G, Sugar Land, TX

    The GOP has even started apologizing for all its selfishness, bad judgement and greed!

    Next comes the punishment stage for all the laws the GOP broke.

    Lawbreakers MUST face the music!

    May 19, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  19. Keeth in California

    No apologies and no accountability either - and this from the "party of personal responsibility" - just so long as others are held responsible and not the GOP.

    May 19, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  20. Biff Biffington

    Excuse me...

    But I'm sure the VOTERS will let you know when its time to stop apologizing for screwing up our country.

    May 19, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  21. I used to like CNN but not anymore!

    I don't seem to recall ANY Republican ever 'apologizing" for anything in the first place! So where exactly is this morons argument coming from anyway? Oh that's right this is Micheal Steele after all and its no secret that he suffers from delusions of grandeur and foot in mouth disease!

    May 19, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  22. Bridget

    I thought the only person the GOP leaders had apologized to was Rush?

    May 19, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. Janice

    I never knew the era of the republicans apoligizing for any mistakes in the past even began.

    May 19, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  24. Andi

    When did they apologize for anything? Seriously? Does anyone know?

    May 19, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  25. dave

    Like I said before; Steele find a rock and crawl under it.

    May 19, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
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