- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 6, 2010

GOP Chairman Michael S. Steele thinks Republicans have “screwed up” for the most part in the years since Ronald Reagan was president. And in an interview on the heels of his new book’s release, Mr. Steele predicts that Republicans won’t win back the House in the fall 2010 elections and might not be ready to lead even if they do.

That forecast of failure sparked consternation Tuesday at the party’s own National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), whose aim is to elect Republicans, and delight at its counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC).

Asked Monday by Fox News talk-show host Sean Hannity if Republicans can regain the House in November, Mr. Steele said, “Not this year.” He added: “I don’t know yet, because I don’t know all the candidates yet. We still have some vacancies that need to get filled, but then the question we need to ask ourselves is, if we do that, are we ready?”

In answer to his own question, Mr. Steele said: “I don’t know. And that’s what I’m assessing and evaluating right now. Those candidates who are looking to run have to be anchored in these principles … because if they don’t, then they’ll get to Washington, and they’ll start drinking that Potomac River water, and they’ll get drunk with power and throw the steps out the window.”

NRCC spokesman Ken Spain said in response to Mr. Steele’s comments that recapturing the majority remains a Republican Party goal. “Independent political analysts and even liberal columnists have stated that Republicans have a very real shot at taking back the majority in 2010,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, we are playing to win.”

The DCCC pointed to the party chairman’s comments as further evidence of disarray within the opposition’s ranks.

“If the NRCC hasn’t convinced the Republican National Committee chairman they can win, it’s no wonder that tea party activists, Republican small donors and Republican House members are not confident and have failed to invest in the NRCC,” DCCC spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said.

Mr. Steele’s new book, “Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda,” released Monday by Regnery Publishing, offers his blueprint for the party’s resurgence. The first step for Republicans, he says, is admitting that Republican officeholders, including former President George W. Bush, have compromised their principles in the past decade.

“We must support Republican officials who assert these principles,” he writes. “When elected Republicans vote against Republican principles, the voters must withhold their support — withhold it vigorously and consistently.”

Mr. Steele focuses much of the book on familiar Republican denunciations of President Obama’s overall policies (“a roadmap to failure”), the $787 billion stimulus bill (“a reckless, wasteful, pork-laden spending spree”), liberal views on man-made global warming (“A threat to life on Earth? Depends on whom you ask”) and other issues.

To regain the public confidence, Mr. Steele says the Republican Party should, among other things, expose the “reign of error” inherent in liberal policies, contrast conservative and liberal principles and highlight the damage caused by Mr. Obama’s policies while explaining conservative solutions.

One Republican who escapes the RNC chief’s intraparty criticism is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the party’s 2008 vice-presidential candidate. Then again, judging from the book’s index, the popular Mrs. Palin is not mentioned at all in what the publisher calls Mr. Steele’s “call to arms for grass-roots America.”

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