Challenged to explain his inconsistent view of the appropriate government role in health care, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele accused his interviewer of being "cute" and doing a "wonderful little dance."
In an exchange that grew testy quickly, Steele told NPR Thursday morning that there was nothing contradictory about accusing the president of raiding Medicare while also insisting that the government-run program is a financial failure.
And when host Steve Inskeep called Steele out for promoting government involvement in regulating the private health care insurance market, things grew heated - certainly by NPR standards - culminating in a frustrated Steele asking Inskeep "What don't you understand?"
LISTEN TO THE CLIP. STARTS AT AROUND 4:45
Steele: ...Sure there are issues in the insurance market that we could regulate a little bit better and that we can control better to maximize the benefits to the consumers. That is something that yeah, we can rightly reform and fix
Steve Inskeep: Wait a minute, wait a minute you would trust the government to look into that?
Steele: No, I'm talking about private. I'm talking about citizens...
Inskeep: You said it was something that should be looked into. Who is it that should look into that?
Steele: Well who regulates the insurance markets?
Inskeep: That would be the government, I believe.
Steele: And so what. Wait a minute. Hold up. You're doing a wonderful little dance here and trying to be cute. But the reality of this is very simply. I'm not saying the government doesn't have a role to play, I've never said that. The government does have a role to play. The government has a very limited role to play.
Inskeep: Mr. Chairman, I respect that you feel that I'm doing a dance here. I just want you to know that as a citizen I'm a little confused by the positions you take because you are giving me a very nice, nuanced position here.
Steele: It is not nice and nuanced. I'm being very clear
Inskeep: You are giving me, nevertheless, a nuanced position.
Steele: What's nuanced? What don't you understand?
Inskeep: What nuanced means is you are not doing it absolutely black and white. You are saying you recognize that the government has a role to play here... but when you and your party come to the actual rhetoric it seems more along the lines of absolutes. It's between a patient and the doctor.
Steele: I'm sorry. I don't accept your premise. And you known, you have your view and you can say it as much as you want
Inskeep: I'm not saying nuanced is a bad thing sir.
Steele: I'm being very clear. I want to have an open debate. I want to put ideas out there. I want the people to understand what this is going to look like when it is all said and done. Seriously, I'm not trying to be nuanced. I'm not trying to be cute. I'm trying to be very clear. I'm not saying the government doesn't have a role to play here. It does. It is managing a Medicare program so it has a role to play.