- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Republican National Chairman Committee Michael S. Steele told cheering state party officials on Tuesday that it’s time to attack the liberal policies of President Obama and Democrats and to follow the example of past party leaders such as President Reagan, whose conservatism offered answers to the issues of the day.

Although heavily criticized by some members of the RNC since taking the helm in January, Mr. Steele drew repeated applause from state Republican chairmen and members as he laid out a case for ignoring pundits who advise against criticizing the popular president.

“Folks like him, he’s got an easy demeanor. He’s a great orator. … He’s got all the qualities America likes in a celebrity, so of course he’s going to be popular. Only one problem: He’s taking us in the wrong direction and bankrupting our country. That I do not like,” Mr. Steele told 165 luncheon guests, including 115 members of the 168-member RNC, at a state party chairmen’s meeting in the convention center at National Harbor in Maryland.

He vowed the era of Republicans apologizing for mistakes is over and that he will lead the party on a renaissance that will focus “on winning the future.”

“Republicans may be the minority party at the moment, but we represent the ideas and concerns of the majority of Americans,” Mr. Steele said. “Candidate Obama was very moderate in his views, but President Obama could not possibly be further to the far left.”

In his lengthy speech, Mr. Steele did not mention abortion or same-sex marriage, issues dear to the hearts of social and religious conservatives who helped bring Republicans to control of the White House and both houses of Congress in 1994.

The omission drew a complaint from Virginia RNC member Morton Blackwell, but others said they were pleased that Mr. Steele was leading the party away from the regional, South-centered image many voters, including many Republicans, have of the GOP, which has been hammered at the polls in the last two election cycles.

“The focus should be where Chairman Steele puts it,” Indiana RNC member and leading social conservative Jim Bopp Jr. said.

Mr. Bopp said Mr. Steele “rightly dwelled on how Obama and the Democrats are expanding government and debt to the point where it may be inevitable that our government will have to print so much money we’ll be buried by an inflation as horrendous as the Weimar Republic’s in Germany.”

Mr. Bopp is a sponsor of an anti-socialist resolution expected to be voted on by the full RNC during a special session of the meeting Wednesday. Mr. Steele had opposed holding the vote, but Mr. Bopp and party leaders used a procedural move to ensure the resolution would be considered.

In negotiations between Steele representatives and resolution sponsors, the proposed anti-socialist statement has been modified so that instead of asking Democrats to rename their party the “Democratic Socialist Party,” the proposed language now calls on Mr. Obama and his party to “stop pushing our country toward socialism and government control.”

Also at odds at times with the chairman, New Jersey RNC member David Norcross, another sponsor of the resolution that Mr. Steele initially opposed, said, “Michael’s speech was a well-timed attempt to do exactly what he said, have our party turn the corner and go on the offensive against Obama’s economic policies.”

Steele spokesman Trevor Francis agreed.

“The intent of the chairman’s speech was to appeal to all members of the Republican Party, regardless of region, and to give a glimpse of where the party is moving in the future,” he said.

Without mentioning conservative talk-radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who has said he hopes President Obama’s agenda fails, Mr. Steele said, “You’ve heard the suggestion that if we oppose the president’s policies, we are in some crazy way rooting against American success.”

Accusing Democrats of wanting Republicans to cower silently in a corner, Mr. Steele said Mr. Obama’s partisans even want to suggest that “being the loyal opposition” is in “some way less than patriotic.”

Without using the words “socialist” or “socialism” as some on his national committee want him to do, the former Maryland lieutenant governor accused the Democrats of taking the nation further leftward.

“We are going to give voice to the growing chorus of Americans who realize that there is a difference between creating wealth and redistributing wealth,” said Mr. Steele, a former Maryland Republican Party chairman.

Mr. Steele indirectly alluded to some leaders in his party who have created rhetorical riots among many in the GOP’s conservative base by saying it is time to stop worshipping at the political altar of the late President Reagan and to look for new Republican ideas.

Saying the GOP owes its “moorings” to English philosopher Edmund Burke, commentator William F. Buckley Jr. and Mr. Reagan, Mr. Steele argued that, for each of them, “conservatism must always respect reality, effectively assess the times and become relevant to those times. Thus is our charge.”

Although saying that the time for “introspection is now over,” Mr. Steele also cautioned that, as “conservatives, we must stop acting like we don’t really believe in our principles and start acting on those principles. Too often, we act as if we are scared to apply our timeless principles to today’s problems and challenges.”

“When people are losing their houses, cars and jobs, that’s what they’re focused on - not the social issues,” said Tennessee RNC member John Ryder. He added, however, that “social issues are important to a tremendous number of people.”

Mr. Steele went out of his way to praise other RNC officials, including Randy Pullen, the elected RNC treasurer and chairman of the Arizona GOP. Mr. Pullen, Mr. Norcross, the RNC’s former general counsel, and four other senior members are sponsors of a “good governance” resolution that would require Mr. Steele to share his power over spending with Mr. Pullen and members of the RNC executive and budget committees. The purse-strings resolution is scheduled for debate and a vote at the end of July during the annual summer meeting of the full RNC in San Diego.

In an interview with Carl Cameron of Fox News, Mr. Steele said it’s the chairman’s job to manage the hundreds of millions of dollars the RNC receives in campaign donations and seemed to suggest that if the RNC members pass the good-governance resolution in July, they would be stripping him of his rightful powers and render him a mere figurehead, in which case he would resign as chairman.

“They can contemplate all they want to, but the reality is if they want a figurehead chairman, you can have a figurehead chairman, but it won’t be Michael Steele,” he said.

But Mr. Francis, Mr. Steele’s communications director, told The Times that Mr. Steele does not regard passage of the resolution as a no-confidence vote in him. Mr. Francis said Mr. Steele meant only to indicate his opposition to the proposed resolution.

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