Asked on Monday whether President Barack Obama's plan for health care reform represented socialism, RNC Chairman Michael Steele didn't waste words.
"Yes," he declared, "next question."
In a speech that even he admitted was meant to be more about politics than policy, Steele issued a whole host of similar accusations, with the type of rhetorical flourishes for which he is well known. At the end of the address he was asked by the Huffington Post whether he agreed with Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-S.C.) assessment that health care reform could be Obama's Waterloo -- a chance for the Republican Party to break the president politically. "I think that's a good way to put it," he responded.
Earlier in the address he was equally biting. "This is unprecedented government intrusion into the private sector," Steele said. "Period. And you can sweeten that anyway you want but it still tastes bitter."
"Mr. President, you are putting your party's entire big-government wish list on America's credit card," he offered at an earlier point, "But that card comes with a bill. It is more debt our children will have to pay because this reckless administration has an unrestrainable urge to splurge."
Roughly thirty times in his half-hour speech, Steele accused Obama of "experimenting" with America's health care, pursuing a government-dominated approach that would bankrupt the country without reforming the system. The RNC Chairman also announced a new website -- www.barackobamaexperiment.com -- and a new advertising campaign that the committee is launching on Monday.
The president wasn't the only target. Democratic leadership also found itself on the receiving end of acid-tongued Steele sound bite.
"We all remember Harry and Louise," the RNC Chairman said. "Harry and Louise helped save us from Hillary Clinton's health care experiment in 1994. This year, Harry and Louise have been replaced by another couple -- [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid and [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi. Harry and Nancy aren't really doctors...but they are playing doctor in Washington, experimenting with health care, insisting on a big government takeover."
Even the Blue Dog Democrats -- who have been publicly skeptical of the president's health care proposals and could be the lawmakers who help Republicans derail reform in the House -- found themselves besieged by the RNC Chair.
"Back in 1994, when Hillary Clinton tried to jam a massive health care bill down Congress' throat, Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, a highly respected Democrat, gave a speech on the Senate floor in which he flatly stated that he would not vote for a bill, which did not have Republican support," Steele said. "I am waiting for a Democrat--any Democrat--to show that sort of courage today. And please do not mention the Blue Dogs to me. Their press releases may talk about fiscal responsibility but, in the end, they have been Nancy Pelosi's most reliable voting bloc."
Speaking before a half-empty room at the National Press Club, Steele, at times, treated the event as if it were a presidential campaign rally, even flipping Obama's main slogan on him. "Candidate Obama promised change," he said. "President Obama is conducting an experiment."
But his address was short on details. Pressed repeatedly during the question and answer session why the GOP had not actually released its plan for health care reform -- and then on specific policy proposals -- Steele demurred to his GOP colleagues in Congress.
"Look I don't do policy," he said. "I'm not a legislator. My point in coming here was to establish a tone."
He even grew a bit snippy with the press when he was asked whether the health care reform debate had already been "litigated" in the 2008 election. "Yeah, we lost the last election so that means we shut up?" he asked. "That's a serious question?" he added, somewhat incredulously.
In the end, the majority of scorn was saved for the president, who Steele accused of playing "Russian roulette" with the American economy. The White House is ignoring the greatness of the current health care system, the RNC Chair insisted. The president was operating blind in trying to craft reform. And he wasn't making the serious efforts at bipartisanship that were promised during the election.
"We like coming down to the White House and having a beer and watching a game," Steele said, "but someone is going to lose a health care opportunity if we don't do this right."