"Michael Steele goes on book tour," says Politico's Ben Smith, "and it's Christmas all over again at [liberal watchdog] Media Matters." The gaffe-prone Republican National Committee chairman was certainly handing out presents last night, when he appeared on the Fox News show Hannity. Even NBC's cautious, non-partisan First Read team had to admit that Steele's performance left "no comparison" with his flub-friendly Democratic counterpart Howard Dean.
What went so wrong? The blogosphere is buzzing about Steele's puzzling doubts that the Republican party is ready to lead the country, and a strange oath at the end of one response that sounds remarkably like "honest injun." We'll let you judge for yourself.
STEELE ON INTROSPECTION:
HANNITY: Republicans have been wrong. Admit mistakes.
HANNITY: I love that, because that's the first step to getting well.
STEELE: That's the first step to getting well. And it occurred to me that this really is a step-by-step process. It is taking some baby steps initially. But it really starts with taking your head out of your navel and paying ahead and looking to the...
HANNITY: Some people might use another term.
STEELE: ... The reality of it is you've got to start by looking within.
STEELE ON EMPHASIZING REPUBLICAN PARTY VALUES:
STEELE ON EMPOWERMENT:
HANNITY: There are those that are saying that, for the Republican Party to be successful, they've got to, quote, moderate -- be more moderate.
STEELE: No, no! ... That's what has gotten us into trouble, when we walked away from principle. Our platform is one of the best political documents that's been written in the last 25 years, honest injun on that.
It speaks to some core principles, conservative principles on value of family, faith, life, economics. Those principles don't change.
STEELE: Look, are you going to trust someone who's not free enough with themselves to admit they have a problem? No. you're going to be suspicious. Because if I don't see you admit your problem, then how can I trust what you say going forward?
HANNITY: All right. So...
STEELE: Once you do that, Sean, once you do that, then it's got to be followed up with concrete action. And that's one of the things that -- it's not just in this book right now, drawing out contrasts between Democrats and Republicans. But then saying what it is we should be doing.
How do we begin to address those?
HANNITY: Positive messages?
STEELE: Positive messages. Again, looking to the future with the sense of empowering people, not government.
STEELE ON DIVERSITY IN THE REPUBLICAN PARTY:
STEELE ON THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS:
HANNITY: How do you deal with these left wingers in the party that don't stand on those principals?
STEELE: ... That's one of the dynamics that we're now beginning to discover as a party. That yes, we are diverse. The northeast is different from the south. It's different from the west ...
... But the thing that's important to note here, you've got to fall down on those -- those core principles, that thread, that common thread that defines us, regardless of the region of the country we're in. I look at it this way. If you've got four people wearing a hat and they wear the hat differently, what's the thing they have in common? That hat, that one thing that they put on. The GOP, everyday.
HANNITY: Predictions for the election?
STEELE: Predictions for the election, I think that overall -- and we're beginning now to do the assessments on the various races. But I think overall, given what we know so far and what this administration's proclivities are, we're going to see, I think, nice pick-ups in the House. I think we're going to see nice...
HANNITY: More specific.
STEELE: Well, I can't give a number right yet. Because like I said, we're just now beginning to look at the races. And we have races where it hasn't been clear...
HANNITY: Do you think you can take over the House? Do you think Republicans...
STEELE: Not this year.
STEELE ON REPUBLICAN READINESS TO LEAD:
STEELE: Well, I don't know yet, because all the candidates we still have vacancies that need to get filled. But then the question we need to ask ourselves is, if we do that, are we ready?
HANNITY: Are you?
STEELE: Are we...
HANNITY: Answer your own question. Are we -- do you think they're ready?
STEELE: I don't know. And that's what I'm assessing and evaluating right now. Those candidates that are looking to run have to be -- have to be anchored in these principles. They have to be -- they have to understand...
HANNITY: I'm agreeing with what you're saying. I think...
STEELE: They have to understand these steps, because if they don't, then they'll get to Washington, and they'll start drinking that Potomac River water. And they'll get drunk with power ...