- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Republican National Committee passed a resolution at a special session Wednesday condemning President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress for leading the United States toward socialism, a victory for the party’s beleaguered chairman who sought the toned-down language in the measure.

RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele adamantly had opposed the initial version of the resolution that had - presumptuously, some Republicans thought - called on the Democrats to rename themselves “the Democratic Socialist Party.”

“I agree that what Obama and the Democrats are moving us toward is not in the spirit of Democratic capitalism, but I think ‘socialism’ kind of smacks of name-calling, and I don’t think that’s useful,” Michigan RNC member Keith Butler said at the meeting in National Harbor in Maryland’s Prince George’s County.

Tension had been growing all day as about 115 state Republican Party chairmen and more than 30 other members of the 168-member RNC awaited what turned out to be the formal adoption of a historic compromise between a national GOP chairman and conservative dissidents on the GOP’s governing body. The dissidents, who used a procedural move to force the vote, succeeded in putting the full weight of the RNC behind an appeal to Mr. Obama and his party to “stop pushing America toward socialism and more government control.”

The wording was worked out between lead sponsor James Bopp Jr., a constitutional lawyer and Indiana RNC member, and Henry Barbour, Mississippi RNC member and nephew of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who was RNC chairman when the Republicans took control of Congress in 1994.

After the vote, Mr. Steele put out a statement praising party members for focusing on the destructive nature of Democratic policies on the economy.

“The RNC and the entire Republican Party [are] moving forward with strength and unity,” Mr. Steele said.

Louisiana RNC member Roger Villere said he supported the anti-socialism resolution as passed but would have preferred what he regarded as the stronger language in the original version.

“I don’t know if it could have passed in this committee in its original form,” he added.

The party also passed three other resolutions.

One praising congressional Republicans for bucking Mr. Obama on stimulus and earmark spending was bundled with the anti-socialist resolution and passed by a voice vote. Another honored the memory of Jack Kemp, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George H.W. Bush.

If the “socialism” resolution had been defeated, some members told The Washington Times they would have held Mr. Steele responsible. Several members remarked earlier on Wednesday that neither Mr. Barbour nor Mr. Steele was seen lobbying for passage of the compromise anti-socialism resolution.

But with passage, some on and off the committee are expected to view Mr. Steele as having succumbed to the will of dissidents on the committee.

Even some who voted for the compromise resolution were not altogether pleased.

“The compromise language was insignificant in its impact,” Florida Republican Chairman Jim Greer said afterward, “and I would have liked to have debated some more - to talk about our alternatives to Obama and the Democrats.”

• Ralph Z. Hallow can be reached at rhallow@gmail.com.

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