WASHINGTON — Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele offers a simple explanation for why the GOP all too often lost touch with typical Americans since the Ronald Reagan era: "We screwed up," he claims in a new book offering a blueprint for the party's resurgence.
That "we" includes the last two Republican presidents and the most recent Republican candidate for president.
In "Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda," released Monday by Regnery Publishing, Steele says the GOP should acknowledge where "we most glaringly compromised our principles" in the past decade and hold its elected officials accountable.
"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."
Promoting the book on Fox News on Monday, Steele told Sean Hannity that Republicans couldn't retake the House of Representatives in 2010 and added that he wasn't even sure they were ready to lead.
Asked if GOPers will take back the House, Steele said, "Not this year."
"I don't know all the candidates yet," Steele continued. "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?"
"You don't think so?" Hannity asked.
"I don't know. And that's what I'm assessing and evaluating right now," Steele responded. "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."
On Tuesday, Steele accused the Obama administration of pursuing an inconsistent policy toward terrorism.
Steele focuses much of the book on familiar GOP denunciations of President Barack Obama's overall policies ("a roadmap to failure"), the $787 billion stimulus bill ("a reckless, wasteful, pork-laden spending spree"), liberal views on manmade global warming ("A threat to life on Earth? Depends on whom you ask") and other issues.
To regain the public confidence, Steele says the GOP should, among other things, expose the "reign of error" inherent in liberal policies, contrast conservative and liberal principles, and highlight the damage caused by Obama's policies while explaining conservative solutions.
More surprising, the GOP chairman directly or indirectly criticizes:
_President George H.W. Bush for raising taxes two years after President Ronald Reagan left office, though Steele ignores the fact that Reagan raised taxes too.
_President George W. Bush for not vetoing any spending bills during his first five years in office. He calls Bush and other Republicans "enablers for big government" and derides the Bush administration's Troubled Asset Relief Program as "a massive government slush fund."
_Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the party's 2008 presidential nominee, for backing censorship of political speech through the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Steele says the GOP erred in allowing itself to be associated with "a national political speech code."
_Republican lawmakers in general, who allowed spending to rise from 2001 to 2004, went along with TARP and McCain-Feingold, and supported the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit.
"We must quickly learn our lessons, return to our principles and move on," Steele concludes.
One Republican who escapes Steele's intraparty criticism is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain's running mate. Then again, judging from the book's index, Palin is not mentioned at all in what the publisher calls Steele's "call to arms for grassroots America."
On the Net:
Regnery Publishing: http://www.regnery.com/books/rightnow.html