Steele: Republicans Should Train Sights on Obama, Not Each Other
OXON HILL, Md. — Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee, vowed Tuesday that his party will toughen its opposition to President Barack Obama's "great Democratic fraud that is now being thrust upon this nation."
"This popular politician who is our president is engaged in the most massive expansion of the old industrial age model of government that our country has ever seen," Steele told a meeting of Republican state chairmen at a hotel on the Potomac River just outside Washington. "This popular politician is spending America into debt of such mammoth proportions that none of us can even begin to fathom its true cost."
Steele, the RNC's first black chairman and a former Maryland lieutenant governor, has endured several rounds of criticism during the three-plus months he's been on the job.
While Republicans in Congress have been nearly unanimous in opposing many of Obama's big-ticket priorities, GOP officials have engaged in internecine arguments — only some of them sparked by Steele — that some party leaders fear could prolong the losses of the last two elections.
Soon after being chosen to lead the party in January, Steele suggested Rush Limbaugh was a distraction and not necessarily a help to Republicans. A long-distance argument with the popular talk-show host ensued.
Democrats pounced, portraying the GOP as out of ideas and personified by Limbaugh's controversial voice and the continued presence of unpopular former Vice President Dick Cheney on the talk-show circuit.
There have been critical stories of RNC management and salaries under Steele. Then, last week, Steele said former GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney's Mormon faith hurt him in the 2008 primaries. A spokesman for Romney, who may run again in 2012, said Steele had shot from the lip, and missed.
Steele tried to vault past those bumps Tuesday by training his sights on Obama, whom he described as "cool," ''hip" and a "great orator" with a "good-looking family." But taking a page from Republican Sen. John McCain's unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign, Steele said Obama is more celebrity than political leader.
Steele said Americans are increasingly worried about Obama's record spending and deficits, and about government's involvement in banks, auto companies and health care. These policies, Steele said, inevitably will require higher taxes and crushing burdens on future generations.
"I know a left turn when I see one, and this is a left turn," Steele said in a speech interrupted by applause about 10 times. "If we have the courage of our convictions, and we do, then we will and we must stand against these disastrous policies, regardless of the president's personal popularity."
He said "the honeymoon is over" for Obama, then declared: "This is not about personalities. This is about a very sizeable gap emerging between America's opinion of President Obama, the man, and America's opinion of President Obama's policies. In fact, it's not a gap; it's a chasm."
Some were disappointed by what they didn't hear. Morton Blackwell, a longtime GOP committeeman from Virginia, lamented that Steele did not mention cultural or social conservatism as ties that bind Republicans.
"If the chairman thinks we can become the Republican majority again without social and cultural issues, I think that he's mistaken," Blackwell said.
Jim Greer, chairman of the Florida GOP, said that while the GOP remains "the party of faith and family ... right now Americans are talking about employment, the economy, health care."
"When times are good, we can talk about all the things that aren't being discussed around the dinner table," Greer said. "When times are bad, we need to be talking about what the middle class is talking about."