Repub­li­cans have for­got­ten who they are

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - Cal Thomas

In the 1987 film “Moonstruck,” Rose Cas­torini, played by Olympia Dukakis, walks home ac­com­pa­nied by a man she met in a restau­rant. When he asks her if he can come in, she de­clines. When he asks why, she re­sponds, “Be­cause I’m mar­ried and be­cause I know who I am.”

On a po­lit­i­cal level, that seems to be the prob­lem th­ese days with the Repub­li­can Party. Many Repub­li­cans have for­got­ten who they are and what they are sup­posed to stand for. This is why there was such a strong re­ac­tion to Rush Lim­baugh’s speech at the Con­ser­va­tive Po­lit­i­cal Action Con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton re­cently. Mr. Lim­baugh tried to re­mind Repub­li­cans what they once be­lieved in and of the ideas that won them elec­tions. In­stead, too many Repub­li­cans have tried to cozy up to the lib­eral elite, hop­ing they will praise them for be­ing “rea­son­able” and “moderate.”

This strat­egy has never won Repub­li­cans elec­tions, though it may have made some of them feel bet­ter about los­ing.

Michael Steele, the new Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man, was caught in this Venus fly­trap when he seemed to agree with a CNN in­ter­viewer that Mr. Lim­baugh’s ra­dio pro­gram is “in­cen­di­ary” and “ugly.” In truth, it is ed­u­ca­tional and in­spi­ra­tional to con­ser­va­tives and any­one else in­ter­ested in sub- stance, rather than emo­tion. Those who call Mr. Lim­baugh an “en­ter­tainer” mis­char­ac­ter­ize him. He is a pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cate for ideas in which he be­lieves, ideas that brought pros­per­ity to the Repub­li­can Party when it also em­braced them.

I asked Michael Steele about the brouhaha he didn’t start, but to which he con­trib­uted. In an in­ter­view two weeks ago in his RNC of­fice, dur­ing which he proudly pointed to a pic­ture of him­self with Mr. Lim­baugh (ap­pro­pri­ately off to his right), I asked Mr. Steele if he planned to heed the few calls for his res­ig­na­tion.

“No!” he shouted, be­fore I could even com­plete the ques­tion. “And shame on [those] who should have the co­jones to at least come and talk to me.”

Mr. Steele said he called Mr. Lim­baugh to apol­o­gize for his re­marks. He said Mr. Lim­baugh was “very gra­cious.” He agrees with Mr. Lim­baugh that some Repub­li­cans ap­pear em­bar­rassed by their party’s po­si­tions on cer­tain (notably so­cial) is­sues. Does Mr. Steele think too many try to curry fa­vor with some on the left, es­pe­cially the big me­dia?

“I do think it’s a prob­lem gen­er­ally,” he replied. “I don’t think we should worry so much about them and that’s why I don’t feed them. If I sat and wor­ried about what The Wash­ing­ton Post was go­ing to write about me to­mor­row, I would stay in my room.”

Mr. Steele said he is in stage two of a two-stage process to re­form and trans­form the Repub­li­can Party. He won’t re­veal de­tails, be­cause, “The mice who are scurrying about the Hill are up­set be­cause they no longer have ac­cess to the cheese, so they don’t know what’s go­ing on.” He says his process has been “in­su­lar” be­cause he doesn’t want peo­ple “pon­tif­i­cat­ing” on his de­ci­sions or sec­ond-guess­ing them be­fore they are made.

Barack Obama talked dur­ing the cam­paign, and since be­com­ing pres­i­dent, of the need for a new bi­par­ti­san­ship. Does Mr. Steele be­lieve he is se­ri­ous?

“No! Hav­ing a photo-op with a bunch of Repub­li­cans, invit­ing them to have a beer with you, or watch a foot­ball game is great the­ater, but when you don’t take our sug­ges­tions seri- ously, when you don’t re­spect our staffs and in­volve them in the vet­ting process; when you don’t con­fer with the mi­nor­ity party [. . .] you’re not se­ri­ous about bi­par­ti­san­ship.”

Didn’t Repub­li­cans when they ran Congress do to Democrats what Democrats are now do­ing to Repub­li­cans? “Right,” Mr. Steele ad­mits, “and every­one [then] clam­ored for bi­par­ti­san­ship. Did they get it? No.”

Mr. Steele be­lieves bi­par­ti­san­ship “is a fic­tion of pol­i­tics. It’s an idea peo­ple work to­ward, but the re­al­ity is some­thing else.” Mr. Steele thinks White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel is “run­ning the en­tire gov­ern­ment,” not­ing he is not known for bi­par­ti­san­ship, but for slash-and-burn pol­i­tics.

Asked where Pres­i­dent Obama is weak, since his poll num­bers re­main in the high 60s, Mr. Steele re­sponded, “Ev­ery­where when he puts his poli­cies on the ta­ble.”

That al­leged weak­ness hasn’t yet sunk in with vot­ers, but Michael Steele be­lieves it will soon. First, though, there is that small mat­ter of an ex­treme makeover for the GOP. Per­haps an­other film ti­tle might serve as a guide for Repub­li­cans and where they need to go: “Back to the Fu­ture.”

Cal Thomas is a na­tion­ally syndicated colum­nist.

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