Begala: Leader of GOP Is 'Corpulent Drug Addict' Rush Limbaugh

CNN's Paul Begala, in response to Friday's announcement that former Maryland governor Michael Steele had been named Republican National Committee chairman, said, "The real leader of the Republican Party in America today is a corpulent drug addict with an AM radio talk show, Rush Limbaugh."

He also said Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is "very bitter, and divisive," "Obama is stylistically much more like Reagan," and that George W. Bush was a "spectacularly lazy president."

Readers are cautioned to have their blood pressure medications nearby before proceeding any further (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript, h/t Hot Air, file photo):

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Let's get some analysis now from our CNN political contributors, the Democratic strategist, Paul Begala and the Republican strategist, Bay Buchanan.

First on Michael Steele, a new face for the RNC.

PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And a good choice. It's none of my business, it's not my party. But Michael's been here in THE SITUATION ROOM many times, we've debated issues. Terribly smart guy. I like that he's run for office. He served as Maryland's lieutenant governor. He had some failed bids for office, which is good too. You learn a lot from the canvas. So, good for them.

But I think Candy's piece is instructive. The real leader of the Republican Party in America today is a corpulent drug addict with an AM radio talk show, Rush Limbaugh. He's the real power in the Republican Party. And so Michael Steele is going to need to stand up to Limbaugh if he wants to actually lead the party of Lincoln.

BLITZER: He was suggesting, Rush Limbaugh, the other day, maybe he was being just rhetorical, that he's more powerful than the Republican leader in the House or the Senate for that matter. Is that true?

BAY BUCHANAN, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, I think more Americans know him, that's for sure. They know the name, they know he's out there, he stands for something. And he really is inspirational. He's sending a very strong conservative message to those here in Washington to stand up and they did. But the key here is what Paul's suggesting is just absolute nonsense.

Rush Limbaugh has always played a major role in our party, represented the conservatives. But Michael Steele here is somebody entirely different and what he brings to this party is an articulate new, fresh face with great ideas, great energy, and he has the ability to reach out with a message that's very important, one he carries from his heart. He's from working middle class folks, you know, working people. And he knows that the way we're going to win back this party is to reach into their hearts and let them know there is a place in the party, we'll fight for their homes, for their families.

BLITZER: There's an elite little club in Washington called the Alfalfa Club. Are you involved? Are you -

BEGALA: I'm not a --

BLITZER: Are you involved in the Alfalfa Club?


BLITZER: It's an elite group of business -

BEGALA: Are you?

BLITZER: No, no journalists are allowed. It is business leaders and political types. They're having their annual dinner tomorrow night here in Washington, about 200 people or so usually go. Among those who will be attending will be President Obama and the Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Interesting stuff.

BEGALA: I think it's good, it's interesting. I'm told that these things - you know the tradition is that big politicians and other big shots get up and give speeches and that they try to be funny. That's hard to do in Washington. But if I could give some advice, I've watched Governor Palin carefully in the campaign. And I think her biggest short coming is that she seems attracted to sarcasm and bitterness. That she uses humor in a weapon in a way that Ronald Reagan never did, or that Barack Obama -

Oddly, Obama is stylistically much more like Reagan. He certainly can throw elbows in a partisan way, but he's always welcoming, he's warm, and self-deprecating. Remember he was talking about finding a dog and called himself a mutt. Like he was not going to get a pure bred dog, he was going to get a mutt, like me. That's Reaganesque. Palin is a completely different model. She seems, to me, very bitter, and divisive. I think at this dinner, she may very well have a chance to learn from the master.

BUCHANAN: You know, this is interesting advice from someone who took a cheap shot at Rush here.

BEGALA: Oh, but I'm not a politician. And Rush is a drug addict.

BUCHANAN: The key here is - Sarah, you know the president's going to this thing. And he, of course, will be powerful one. Sarah is going to be the entertaining one. She's going to be where all the news is going, going to want to talk to her. She's a very interesting person and she should be at this function, because she's a national leader.

But what is the president doing, Wolf? He's not missing a party. He's got cocktail parties. He's got "Super Bowl" parties, he's going to this party tomorrow night. He's a fraternity boy.

BLITZER: It's a charm offensive.

BUCHANAN: Charm offensive. It's time for him to act like the president. I'm sorry, it's a very lonely life, but that's what he needs to start doing.

BLITZER: In fairness to Sarah Palin she did go on "Saturday Night Live" and there was some self-deprecating humor there. I thought she did pretty well when she was sitting around and dancing.

BEGALA: That's right. That's a good point.

BUCHANAN: You're right.

BEGALA: But this will be, I think, the test a lot of people will have for her, can she laugh at herself rather than -- very often, we did, particularly I was struck at the convention, a lot of bitterness. And you get that from the Republicans. I understand, I've been in campaign that was lost too. It doesn't feel good. But she needs to exhibit a largeness of spirit that thus far has eluded her.

BLITZER: Let me read to you from Peggy Noonan's column in "The Wall Street Journal" today.

"In the time since his inauguration, Mr. Obama has been on every screen in the country, TV, and computer every day. But it's already reaching saturation point. When the office is omnipresent, it's demystified. Constant exposure deflates the presidency, suddenly robbing it of power and making it more common."

Does Peggy Noonan have a point, Paul?

BEGALA: I think she might in a year or two. But this -- it's been what, ten days, even, into this new presidency. We have urgent crises that have been neglected for many years. Our prior president set a standard for not showing up. It's the best thing he ever did, was not go to work, because when he went to work, things got worse. It's a jarring juxtaposition of a spectacularly lazy president with a spectacularly energetic one. So at this new start, we need our president out there and talking to us and working very hard to try to get this country organized.

BLITZER: He's not wasting any time, you've got to admit.

BUCHANAN: He's not wasting any time, but look what he's done. He seems more interested in glad handing and bringing people in and looking like he's the guy that wants to talk to everybody rather than just take authorship of the bill. He like, oh, you want to change it? Oh, you want to change it? We'll listen to anyone. He let these Democratic friends of his just put so much Democratic agenda in there that is not stimulus. It's just a big fat pork bill, will not give us jobs. And then he just says, oh, yes, but we need to do something. He was not voted to put dag-gone money in a cannon and shoot it out of it. He needs to show some responsibility and take charge of this bill.

BLITZER: On that optimistic note, we'll leave it there, guys. Thanks very much.

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