Yesterday morning, RNC Chairman Michael Steele hosted Bill Bennett’s radio show, where he fearmongered about a non-existent “health police” and advised that President Obama simply “do the deal” to fix health care. He also called the president a “liar” for pledging to fix health care without deepening the national debt:
OBAMA [audiotape]: I’ve made a firm commitment that health care reform will not add to the federal budget deficit over the next decade.
STEELE: [shouting] LIAR! Sorry, I had to get that off my chest. We need to stand up and say this. Come on!
During the commercial break, Steele seemed to realize calling the president a “liar” was bad form. About five minutes later, he backed off his statements, seemingly apologizing for going “a little strong” against Obama:
STEEEL: I get hotheaded from time to time, so I just want to let folks know that in the last segment, I went a little strong in my response to the president’s comment, and I don’t want to go there. Because that’s not what this is about. … For all those folks out there who want to go start blogging, uh, just calm it down, you know. RNC chairman’s not trying to be crazy first thing in the morning.
Steele avoided name-calling for the next hour. But when a caller scolded him for “apologizing” to the president, Steele insisted he had never apologized, and declared that he was “not backing off”:
CALLER: Well I’ve been listening to you, and earlier you called the president a liar, and I said, Yeah, he’s finally got there! He’s finally decided to tell them how it is! And then you apologized —
STEELE: No I didn’t apologize! … Look, I’ve got to be mindful of my, quote, position and so forth. I always took great offense to the fact that the Democrats disparaged President Bush. They disrespected the man, and they disrespected the office that the man held. And I’ve said from the beginning of my chairmanship that we did not want to do that. … I’m not backing off of the fact that I think there’s a lot of misdirection, and there’s not a whole lot of honesty that’s being laid out there for the American people.
Listen to a compilation:
So is Steele apologizing for calling Obama a liar? Or is he “not backing off” his name-calling — name-calling that, he said, “disrespected” the president and “the office that the man held”?