POLITICS
04/11/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Steele: Bipartisanship "Is A Fiction Of Politics"

In an interview with the Washington Times' Cal Thomas, Michael Steele says that Obama's quest for bipartisanship is not a political reality.

Mr. Steele believes bipartisanship "is a fiction of politics. It's an idea people work toward, but the reality is something else."

Steele also says that President Obama is not serious about his attempts at bipartisanship, but neither were Republican leaders when they were in power.

"Having a photo-op with a bunch of Republicans, inviting them to have a beer with you, or watch a football game is great theater, but when you don't take our suggestions seriously, when you don't respect our staffs and involve them in the vetting process; when you don't confer with the minority party ... you're not serious about bipartisanship."

Didn't Republicans when they ran Congress do to Democrats what Democrats are now doing to Republicans? "Right," Mr. Steele admits, "and everyone [then] clamored for bipartisanship. Did they get it? No."

Steele's comments appear to conflict with those of other GOP leaders, who have tried to use Obama's bipartisan pledge to their advantage. For example, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor said recently that he accepts Obama's commitment to working across the aise "in good spirit."

"He was elected with an awful lot of hope on the part of voters that he was actually going to do things in a different way," Cantor said.

And in an interview with Bloomberg that was published the same day as Steele's with the Washington Times, Mitch McConnell reaffirmed his investment in bipartisanship despite evidence to the contrary.

In the interview, McConnell said one issue he and Obama might work together on is a possible move to recast at least one of the three major entitlement programs -- Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. At a White House health-care forum last week, he told Obama an accord would be easier to reach if a bipartisan task force of lawmakers made recommendations.