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    Mar 4th, 2009


    GOP Chief Apologizes for Limbaugh Remarks

    Steele had described conservative radio host as an ‘entertainer’

    Video

    Steele, Limbaugh in GOP spat (MSNBC, March 3, 2009) – Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele apologizes to conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh. NBC’s Chief White House Correspondent Chuck Todd and the ‘Morning Joe’ team listen and analyze the latest spat within the Republican party. (07:12)


    March 3, 2009

    WASHINGTON – Two days after calling conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh a mere “entertainer” with an “incendiary” talk show, Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele apologized and acknowledged him as a “national conservative leader.”

    “To the extent that my remarks helped the Democrats in Washington to take the focus, even for one minute, off of their irresponsible expansion of government, I truly apologize,” Steele said late Monday.

    Steele’s statement capped a remarkable weekend of awkward sparring between Republican officials and Limbaugh, who has repeatedly voiced his desire that President Barack Obama’s economic policies fail.

    The back and forth reached a fever pitch Monday afternoon when Limbaugh roared back in response to a Steele interview with CNN’s D. L. Hughley Saturday night. In that interview, Steele rejected assertions that Limbaugh was the “de facto” leader of the Republican Party. “Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment,” Steele said then. “Yes, it’s incendiary. Yes, it’s ugly.”

    Limbaugh used his Monday talk show to unleash on Steele.

    “Why are you running the Republican Party?” Limbaugh asked on his radio show. “Why do you claim you lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it that President Obama succeeds? … I would be embarrassed to say that I’m in charge of the Republican Party in the sad-sack state that it’s in. If I were chairman of the Republican Party, given the state that it’s in, I would quit.”

    Distracting episode for GOP

    The infighting between a top party official and a conservative opinion leader who claims to have an audience of 20 million developed into a distracting episode for a party struggling to compete with a popular president and find its voice as the opposition party.

    “I respect Rush Limbaugh, he is a national conservative leader, and in no way do I want to diminish his voice,” Steele said in a statement late Monday. “I’m sure that he and I will agree most of the time, but will probably disagree some as well, which is fine.

    “The Democrats are doing everything they can to find ways to take people’s attention off of their massive 36-billion-dollar-a-day spending spree that Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have embarked on. To the extent that my remarks helped the Democrats in Washington to take the focus, even for one minute, off of their irresponsible expansion of government, I truly apologize.”

    Democrats, who have been trying to handcuff Republicans to Limbaugh, reacted gleefully to Steele’s apology, saying it illustrated Limbaugh’s influence over the party.

    “Chairman Steele’s reversal this evening and his apology to Limbaugh proves the unfortunate point that Limbaugh is the leading force behind the Republican Party, its politics and its obstruction of President Obama’s agenda in Washington,” Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Monday evening.

    Over the past several days, the White House and its Democratic allies have launched a concerted effort to draw attention to Limbaugh in a belief that his support exists only among the most die-hard conservatives. …

    Republicans eager to change subject

    Limbaugh has refused to back down. Speaking Saturday to a conservative convention in Washington, he said: “What is so strange about being honest and saying, ‘I want Barack Obama to fail if his mission is to restructure and reform this country so that capitalism and individual liberty are not its foundation?’ Why would I want that to succeed?”

    The words made some Republicans besides Steele flinch. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the No. 2 Republican leader in the House, on Sunday seemed eager to change the subject. “Nobody – no Republican, no Democrat – wants this president to fail, nor do they want this country to fail or the economy to fail,” he said on ABC television’s “This Week.”

    Video

    GOP in Exile (MSNBC, March 3, 2009) – Some Republicans like RNC chairman Michael Steele have been criticizing conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, then apologizing to him. What’s going on? (07:42)

    ———

    RESPONSE FROM THE REPUBLICAN RIGHT

    Since When is Promoting Conservatism ‘Ugly?’

    GOP USA - The Loft

    By Bobby Eberle
    The Loft
    March 3, 2009

    Excerpts

    The grassroots base around the country has been ignited by a brief, but powerful comment. The comment, made by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele was directed at conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. It turns out that Steele felt it was necessary to denounce Limbaugh and establish his own manhood in front of a CNN audience. …

    So … first the recap … at last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference, Rush Limbaugh gave a rare public speech that brought down the house. I watched the speech, and it was outstanding. Along with his sidenotes and trademark pats on his own back, Limbaugh talked about the essence of conservatism. His comments have been echoed many times in my own writings, and he summed up our philosophy perfectly.

    And back to Chairman Steele. … First off, his comments regarding Limbaugh being “incendiary” and “ugly” are out of line. Since when is articulating the conservative message ugly? …

    Limbaugh was also criticized for saying he wants Obama to fail. This was mentioned on the CNN clip which sparked the whole conversation. Conservatives believe in less government, lower taxes, and more freedom. We do NOT believe in spending trillions in funds we don’t have in order to move America toward socialism. If that plan “succeeds,” then America fails. We don’t want that. …

    Steele has now “apologized” for his remarks on CNN.

    “To the extent that my remarks helped the Democrats in Washington to take the focus, even for one minute, off of their irresponsible expansion of government, I truly apologize,” Steele said late Monday.

    To the extent? How about to the extent that you continue to wish President Obama and his agenda well, while beating down the very base of hardworking Americans needed to win elections? I want liberalism and socialism to fail. It has destroyed other countries. I don’t want that to happen here.

    Limbaugh fired back on his Monday program:

    “Why are you running the Republican Party?” Limbaugh asked on his radio show. “Why do you claim you lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it that President Obama succeeds? … I would be embarrassed to say that I’m in charge of the Republican Party in the sad-sack state that it’s in. If I were chairman of the Republican Party, given the state that it’s in, I would quit.” …

    ———

    A DIFFERENT REPUBLICAN PERSPECTIVE

    Pawlenty Says Republicans Need to Move Beyond Reagan to Rebuild

    Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
    Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Photo credit: Bloomberg.com)

    By Heidi Przybyla
    Bloomberg News
    March 3, 2009

    Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has a message for his fellow Republicans: Get over Ronald Reagan.

    Like most Republicans, Pawlenty pays homage to the Reagan legacy. At the same time, he is urging his party to get beyond its Reaganite past. Pawlenty, 48, presented his vision of Reagan 2.0 at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington last weekend. Judging by his ninth-place finish in a straw poll, the party may not be ready to move on.

    The old Republican orthodoxy of limited government, lower taxes and conservative social policies needs an update if the party hopes to challenge Democrats on issues such as health care, energy and education, he said.

    “We need to develop new Ronald Reagans and new reference points,” Pawlenty said in an interview after addressing CPAC. “It would be as if Barack Obama was going around and constantly talking about Truman or LBJ. It’s just become a reference point that isn’t as relevant for young people.” …

    Challenge to Obama

    As a Midwestern governor with a working-class upbringing, Pawlenty offers himself as a source of new ideas for a party whose electoral victories were largely confined to the South and rural areas in 2008.

    John Weaver, a former adviser to McCain during his 2000 campaign, said Pawlenty’s admonition to move beyond Reagan is critical to the future of the party.

    “I put a lot of credibility in someone who’s been elected and re-elected in a blue state,” Weaver said. “We’re headed for status as a minority party for decades if we don’t start making significant inroads with Hispanics, blue-collar voters and young people. That’s how Tim has gotten himself elected and re-elected.”

    At the same time, Pawlenty is careful to stress the need to “continue to honor and respect and remember Ronald Reagan.” His point, he said, is that “if you’re under 40, people didn’t live through the Reagan era.” …

    David Keene, chairman of the Alexandria, Virginia-based American Conservative Union, which hosted the conference, said Pawlenty’s message may resonate.

    “It doesn’t mean that you change your values,” Keene said. “It means that you talk to people in today’s language about today’s problems.”

    Pawlenty was one of the few speakers who challenged his party to speak directly about the needs of what he calls “Sam’s Club voters,” and to meet Democrats on their home turf on issues such as health care.

    ‘Bread-and-Butter Issues’

    In his speech, Pawlenty said his two brothers, who were union members, told him, “‘the conservatives or the Republicans, they’re not for the working person.’ You ever heard that before?”

    He said “the face and voice and tone of the Republican Party and the conservative movement needs to be more about bread-and-butter issues for everyday people.” …

    One measure of the Republican leadership void is that the Democrats are defining the debate. Last week, Democrats began a campaign to nominate talk show host Rush Limbaugh as the Republican Party’s unofficial leader. An ad running this week on cable television highlights Limbaugh’s statement that he wants Obama to fail.

    Limbaugh’s Comments

    Pawlenty, without directly addressing Limbaugh, called this a losing strategy. “It would be a sad day if all the conservatives had to offer was a wish or a hope that the president would fail so that we could benefit,” he said in the interview. …

    Before any run for national office, Pawlenty must decide whether to seek re-election in 2010. A presidential bid also would subject Pawlenty to increased scrutiny, with some nonpartisan analysts saying that his record might belie his claim to be a different kind of Republican.

    “Here’s the big puzzle about Tim Pawlenty,” said Larry Jacobs, chairman of the politics department at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “He’s very smart and he’s very winsome in person. He is a talent. He stands out. When you actually look at what he’s done he’s extremely conservative.”

    ———

    Update: Gov. Tim Pawlenty on The Rachel Maddow Show

    Video

    Lost: Republican Party edition (MSNBC, March 4, 2009) – There seems to be a lot of disconnect in the Republican Party. Chairman Michael Steele fired almost everyone working for the RNC and has yet to hire new staffers, and Rush Limbaugh’s wish for Barack Obama to fail just won’t go away. What’s going on with the GOP? Rachel Maddow is joined by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, R-Minn. (10:52)

    ———

    Related report on this site

    Hagel Lambasts Limbaugh (Nov. 19, 2008)

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