CBS’s Smith to RNC Chair: ‘Room For Moderates’ In GOP?

Harry Smith and Michael Steele, CBS On Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith talked to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele about Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter switching to the Democratic Party: "Alright, so you see red states going to blue, though, in this last presidential election...You look at percentage-wise, lower numbers of people who declare themselves to be actual Republicans...Where does the future of your party lie?...Is there room for moderates?"

Smith began the interview by asking Steele: "Olympia Snowe mourned his [Specter’s] loss earlier this week. Rush Limbaugh said he was dead weight, good riddance. Who's right?" Steele was unequivocal: "Rush. I'm sorry, I'm not weeping here. I'm sorry. You know, look, Harry, in 2004, when Senator Specter ran for re-election...he whined and moaned and groaned and convinced the White House, and Senator Rick Santorum, and the Republican leadership at that time, to save his seat, to help him get re-elected. So all this, you know, rank-and-file crazy noise about conservatism, he didn't mind it in 2004 when his seat was on the line."

Smith followed up: "So this -- this choice...from your view is a middle of -- about political expedience, and not about-" Steele interjected: "Oh, my goodness, yes...Oh, this has nothing to do with philosophy and principle and all those wonderful-sounding words. It has -- is cold, crass, political calculation by a Senator who could not get re-elected through a nominating process in the Republican Party."

In response to Smith’s question about there being "room for moderates" in the Republican Party, Steele explained: "Absolutely. There's room for everybody who wants to be a part of a party that believes first and foremost in the value of the individual to make decisions that empower him or herself to run their businesses, raise their kids, go to the schools of their choice, and then basically work their way towards the American dream...this notion that somehow, you know, because we're conservatives our doors are closed and we only take certain types of people is just crazy. This has not -- never been the nature of this party."

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:11AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: We want to talk with Republican National Chairman Michael Steele right now this morning. Good morning, sir.

MICHAEL STEELE: Hey, good morning, Harry. How are you, man?

SMITH: Pretty good. I want to first talk about Arlen Specter, his defection to the Democratic Party.

STEELE: Yeah.

SMITH: Olympia Snowe mourned his loss earlier this week. Rush Limbaugh said he was dead weight, good riddance. Who's right?

STEELE: Rush. I'm sorry, I'm not weeping here. I'm sorry. You know, look, Harry, in 2004, when Senator Specter ran for re-election, he had -- he was challenged in the primary by Pat Toomey, former Congressman Pat Toomey, and he whined and moaned and groaned and convinced the White House, and Senator Rick Santorum, and the Republican leadership at that time, to save his seat, to help him get re-elected. So all this, you know, rank-and-file crazy noise about conservatism, he didn't mind it in 2004 when his seat was on the line. So here we are in 2008, after he cast a, I think, a debilitating vote on the stimulus bill, it went against core principles-

SMITH: So this -- this choice-

STEELE: -and the party said that's enough.

SMITH: -from your view is a middle of -- about political expedience, and not about-

STEELE: Oh, my goodness, yes.

SMITH: Okay.

STEELE: Oh, this has nothing to do with philosophy and principle and all those wonderful-sounding words. It has -- is cold, crass, political calculation by a Senator who could not get re-elected through a nominating process in the Republican Party.

SMITH: Alright, so you see red states going to blue, though, in this last presidential election.

STEELE: Yeah.

SMITH: You look at percentage-wise, lower numbers of people who declare themselves to be actual Republicans.

STEELE: Yeah.

SMITH: Where does the future of your party lie?

STEELE: Well, the future lies down the road a bit. I mean, look, I'm not going to sit here with, you know, pie-in-the-sky talking about, you know, how wonderful things are. They're not. This party-

SMITH: Right. Is there room for moderates?

STEELE: Absolutely. There's room for everybody who wants to be a part of a party that believes first and foremost in the value of the individual to make decisions that empower him or herself to run their businesses, raise their kids, go to the schools of their choice, and then basically work their way towards the American dream. You know, this notion that because-

SMITH: There are folks in your party, though, who would say -- who would-

STEELE: But wait, Harry, let me make this point.

SMITH: Okay.

STEELE: But let me make this point, this notion that somehow, you know, because we're conservatives our doors are closed and we only take certain types of people is just crazy. This has not -- never been the nature of this party. This party has been-

SMITH: But the -- but the larger conversation that's going on in the party is it's not conservative enough and there are people within your own party who say, 'you know what, John McCain was part of the problem. He was too moderate. That's part of the reason we lost this election.'

STEELE: Well, look, I think that's more -- using terms to reflect an attitude, or a process, in which the Republican Party moved away from certain core principles. We moved away from valuing, you know, frugality, and government expenditures, and the growth of government, by growing the government 40%, by spending on bridges to nowhere, raising the debt of this nation. So yeah, we had a direct hand in that. And the core base Republicans of this party, and conservatives across this nation, looked at that and said enough was enough. Look, they didn't reject our value for life. They didn't reject our value for economics, you know, our views on the economy, and our views on war and peace, in the last two election cycles. What they rejected, the voters rejected, was our failure to lead, and to stay to, I think, our core principles.

SMITH: Alright, Michael Steele, thank you so much for joining us this morning, do appreciate it.

STEELE: Thank you, Harry.

SMITH: You bet.

STEELE: Alrighty.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC