RNC Chairman Michael Steele's fill-in stint as the host of Bill Bennett's radio talk show has produced a handful of quasi-embarrassing moments -- most notably his claim that Mitt Romney's Mormonism helped doom him in the Republican Primary.
At the very end of the nearly two-hour segment, it turns out, was another whack Steele took at his fellow Republicans. Responding to a caller disparaging the National Council for a New America -- the new Republican re-branding effort -- the RNC Chairman joined the fray, saying he had "a problem" with the notion, as put forth by former Gov. Jeb Bush, that the party needed to move beyond the legacy of Ronald Reagan.
"This tour is not about bringing minorities to the Republican Party," Steele said, correcting his caller. "This listening tour that these individuals have put in place is their way, as they said, to look forward, bring about a grassroots caucus and to bring moderates and like-minded Democrats to a series of public forums around the country where we can have a debate of ideas. Now, on its face I see nothing wrong with that. But if you are going to go and start this and start slamming Ronald Reagan, I have a problem. And it is going to be an issue. Because you can't blame the past particularly when that past contributed to the success of the party."
In offering his objections to the messaging coming from the NCNA, Steele joins a host of other Republican officials. Still, it remains rare to see the head of a national political committee disparage major players in his own party. In addition to Bush, the NCNA includes former Gov. Mitt Romney, Rep. Eric Cantor, and Sen. John McCain.
Later in the program, Steele was told that he should have run against Barack Obama in 2008, to which he responded, "It would have been an interesting race." When another caller lamented the media's treatment of Gov. Sarah Palin, he said the issue was endemic to all true conservatives, before saying he preached a type of political philosophy that has people "looking over their shoulders and wondering whether or not Michael Steele is standing there."
"Look, the fact that Sarah is a conservative," he said. "Michael Steele is a conservative, Bill Bennett is a conservative, a Jack Kemp was a conservative. We were a target, we were a ready target for these guys... but the strength of conservatism is that it is real and in its realism it has a way to go out to talk to people and connect to people. That's the biggest threat that we offer. And that's the threat I want to take to the streets everyday. I want them looking over their shoulders and wondering whether or not Michael Steele is standing there. Because I will be, with you [caller] standing right next to me and a whole lot of other conservatives."