Perkins: At This Rate, GOP Will Become Big, Empty Tent

In an interview with TPM just now, Family Research Council president Tony Perkins was sharply critical of Michael Steele comments in the GQ interview, elaborating on his statement today that Steele had assured him earlier this week that he would uphold the party platform.

“Well, I mean he said as party chairman he would be upholding the party platform. The interview he did with GQ was done from the chairman’s office,” said Perkins. “And if in fact his personal views are subordinate to the party platform, the evidence is pretty thin that that’s the case. In every interview I’ve seen, I’ve heard him talk about his personal views, and have yet to hear him talk about the party platform.”

I asked Perkins if he felt misled — that Steele had told him he would uphold the party platform, when in fact Steele had done an interview two weeks earlier that had yet to be published, in which he made apparently pro-choice statements. “I understand the time difference here,” said Perkins. “But I don’t think the time difference is important.”

I asked Perkins if he’d seen Ken Blackwell’s statement that Steele should “get to work — or get out of the way.” Perkins had indeed seen it, but declined to say if he agreed that Steele should shape up or resign. “That’s a party function, that’s up to members of the Republican Party to have to decide. My only interest is, those are policy issues that we work on at the Family Research Council,” Perkins explained. “What the Republican Party does is their interest, but you have mixed signals sent because the party has said this is where we stand on the issues, and you have a leader of the party saying something different.”“I don’t think what Michael Steele has been doing is beneficial to the Republican party if they’re hoping to rebuild a majority,” Perkins added. “I mean this kind of stuff – this just reinforces the belief that’s held among many social conservatives that you’ve got one party that’s hostile to their views, and one party that just gives them lip service. And I guess you know which is which.”

Perkins reiterated that the question of whether Steele should resign if this keeps up is ultimately for the Republican Party to decide — he’s not involved with that, his focus is one the issues. But he did say this: “If they desire to have the support of social conservatives, or desire to be place where social conservatives can gather and identify and be politically engaged, then yeah, I think they gotta make some changes.”

Perkins concluded: “If they want to be a big tent — I’ll put it this way — if they want to be an empty big tent, then they just need to keep doing what they’re doing.”