Steele: RNC has learned its lesson

NEW ORLEANS -- A more soft-spoken and humble Michael Steele assured his party faithful Saturday that he has learned his lesson from the Republican National Committee’s (RNC) recent troubles.

“In life, you realize that you can’t please everyone, but you can certainly make them mad at you the same time, and that’s a lesson well-learned,” Steele said at the outset of his speech to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

Steele then offered a quasi-apology for the distractions that have plagued the RNC and led two members of the committee to call for his resignation.

“Folks have been mad at us in the past, and we have learned from that past,” Steele said. “And we are ready to move on as Republicans, as conservatives."

Many, in advance of Steele's speech, urged the chairman to level with his party about the troubles. While Steele didn't go into detail, he did give a nod toward his critics.

He was well-received toward the end of the speech, but the welcome from the crowd was notably muted. When he took the stage, he was greeted by polite applause, but about half the seats in the Hilton Riverside ballroom were empty – a far sparser crowd than previous speakers had.

Steele’s demeanor was more reserved than usual. While he said he has made mistakes, Steele also suggested some of the controversy has been a media invention.

“The liberal media are looking for distractions, and Lord knows I've provided a few,” he said. “I'm the first here to admit that I've made mistakes."

Steele then said he’s ready to look forward into what is looking like a big election year for his party.

“Let’s tune out all the background noise and go on offense,” he said.

Steele delivered a 25-minute speech, most of which was policy-oriented. He hit the Obama Administration for its spending and “economic ignorance.”

Critics of Steele say he has been spending money both frivolously and too fast at the RNC. They have also bristled at some of the self-promoting the chairman has done, including accepting speaking fees.