Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele pledged on Wednesday to place his party on a "12-step program of recovery," while also backpedaling from his recent critiques of conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh.
Speaking to the Maryland radio station WBAL, Steele said that "no one individual" was head of the party and described his comments downplaying Limbaugh's show and influence as inartful. He added that if Republicans wanted to ascend back to the heights of political power, they had to stop trying to be "cool and hip in a Democrat way," and admit their past mistakes.
"I am putting the party on a 12-step program of recovery," said the RNC chair. "This is going to take some time, it is going to take some effort. But we are prepared to move forward and to state the case, make the case to the American people that we have something to offer. We are not here to be the party that is just here to say no. We are not the party to be in opposition just for the sake of opposition."
The remark -- playfully equating the GOP with alcoholics -- is another in a litany of colorful statements Steele has made since taking over the reigns of the RNC. Some of his other statements -- from giving Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal some "slum love" to offering a shout-out to "one-armed midgets" -- have engendered fear and unhappiness within the party. Others chalked up the statements to a new and provocative approach to GOP politics.
Steele has copped to suffering from poorly thought-out rhetorical flourishes. The RNC chair was forced to apologize after calling Limbaugh's show "ugly" and "incendiary" over the weekend, and for claiming for himself the mantle of Republican Party leader.
"[There is] no one individual [leader]," he told WBAL, when asked about the episode. "There are many voices within our party. That was something that I tried, inartfully, to express. There are a lot of voices. I am a chairman of the Republican National Committee. I am a leader of the party at the national level. We have many leaders at the local state levels. We have leaders in the Congress and leaders among our governors. So there is a wide swath of folks out there who are the voice of this party and reflect different views and aspects of this party."
Later in the program, Steele leveled what has become the de facto GOP pushback against attacks that the party is beholden to Limbaugh's whims: blaming Democrats for focusing on the trivial at the cost of the substantive.
"The Dow has dropped below 7,000, let's talk about Rush Limbaugh," he said. "People are losing their jobs and their homes and Congress has done nothing to address that problem, let's talk about Rush Limbaugh. We have raised the spending level in this nation that will be close to an additional $1 trillion added to the national debt just this year, let's talk about Rush. I get it. It is a level of cynicism that I haven't seen before. But I understand it now and will be prepared for it in the future."