Michael Steele Seeks to 'Turn the Page' for Republican Party

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is attempting to "turn the page" on a troubled period for both his party and his own leadership.

But it's not yet clear that he or his party has reached the next chapter.

Steele's speech today to state GOP chairmen -- his first since taking over leadership of the national party in January -- marks an attempt to end a period of extended infighting in the Republican Party that has stalled rebuilding efforts and complicated his leadership.

GOP Chairman Michael Steele Calls for Republican comeback.
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"The era of Republican navel-gazing? Done," Steele declared. "We have turned the corner on regret, recrimination, self-pity and self-doubt. Now is the hour to focus all of our energies on winning the future."

Steele, a former lieutenant governor of Maryland who lost in the state's 2006 general election for U.S. Senate, went on to claim that the GOP comeback has already begun, and said the party would again stand for "new ideas."

Yet he can offer only scant evidence to support such claims. Steele himself proposed few new ideas in his speech, which dwelled more on how the party would frame its opposition to President Obama than on how Republicans can better present themselves to voters.

"We are going to take the president head-on, the honeymoon is over," Steele said. "The two-party system is making a comeback, and that comeback begins today."

Steele offered a scathing critique of Obama administration policies on everything from government intervention in the banking and car industries to what Steele calls a health care plan that allows "federal government bureaucrats control of our health care system."

He labeled the first several months of the Obama administration "The Reign of Error." He poked fun at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as someone who "nobody likes," while saying "nobody knows" Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, "nobody believes" Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and "nobody understands" House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, D-Mass.

Steele Uses Anti-Obama Rhetoric

The tough anti-Obama rhetoric was Steele's attempt to demonstrate to Republican Party activists and organizers -- plus the national media -- that the president's personal popularity should not deter the GOP from aggressively opposing his policies.

"There has been a great deal of talk in Republican circles about how we should deal with President Obama and the entire Obama phenomenon," said Steele, 50, who is the first African-American to chair the RNC. "Many have suggested that we need to be careful, that we need to tip-toe around President Obama, that we have to be careful not to take him on, at least not directly.

"This has led to some hand-wringing among Republicans; and, quite frankly, some missed opportunities," he added.

His audience didn't seem to mind that the speech was light on forward-looking policy prescriptions.

"I think that actually comes from our elected leaders," said the Colorado Republican Party chairman, Dick Wadhams. "That comes from our members of Congress, our governors, our state legislators.

"We needed to set forth the terms of the debate from this point forward with the Obama administration and the Democratic majorities. I think we need to be very specific on our policy differences in a very respectful way. I think that's what we needed to hear, and that we're not going to back down."

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