This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," April 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: RNC chairman Michael Steele is here to go "On the Record," and he is coming out swinging at President Obama. In a new fund-raising letter sent to more than 12 million, Chairman Steele calls President Obama arrogant, among other things. RNC chairman Michael Steele joins us live.
Michael, before we get to the issue of your letter and your remarks about the president, I am curious about these tea parties. It's hard for me to figure out whether this is a one-time deal, which we've asked people to vote on, or whether this is a real movement. What's your thought?
MICHAEL STEELE, CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: I think it's a little bit of both, Greta, at this point. I think what you're seeing is a realization by a lot of Americans that the president and the Congress in particular have taken a course that they're not crazy about. They're not sure where this is all going. But what they want to make very clear is that we have had enough with the spending. We have had enough with the mortgaging of our kids' future with debt creation.
And this is, I think, a wonderful expression, a truly American expression of concern and defiance, if you will, that the bottom line stops with them.
They are drawing a line in the sand, as Glenn pointed out, at the Alamo, that says "This is far enough. We don't want any more of this. We want a fair tax system. We want to make sure that we are paying our fair share. But we think right now the government is beginning to gouge, and we want it stopped, and we want to take a breath from this."
And let us catch up. Let's begin to trust small businesses again. Let's being to trust the communities that have built the economy in the past, as opposed to this defiant rush towards the government, which -- by the government, to taking government control, hiring and firing of CEO's, determining the winners and losers in the marketplace.
That's not the proper place for the government right now, and I think these tea parties are a way of expressing that.
VAN SUSTEREN: I'm anxious to see tomorrow morning after the dust settles and we can count up the numbers and see the reaction around the country when all the news organizations report in from their communities.
All right, let's get to your letter to 12 million -
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes?
STEELE: I was going to say, on that point, let's not put too much in what the news agencies are going to be reporting. We witnessed the MSNBC's of the world to denigrate these individuals, these men and women who have expressed real concern about where their hard earned tax dollars are going.
We have watched them makes fun of them and sort of dismiss them. That's the arrogance that I referred to in the letter that we'll talk about in a moment that has riled people up right now.
VAN SUSTEREN: And I think that you make a good point. I'm thinking, though, that, no matter what, at least we will get the numbers, and the number of people -
VAN SUSTEREN: -- who hit the streets, we will have at least have some indicators in terms of -
VAN SUSTEREN: -- how serious this may be.
All right, now, you're mailing to 12 million people, calling the president "arrogant," and - let me look at my notes - that he "showed an absence of wisdom on his European tour." Take it away -- what did you mean?
STEELE: How do you go to a foreign soil and criticize the American people and refer to us, our hard work, our concerns about our economy and our futures, as arrogant?
The fact that we may dissent or disagree does not mean we are arrogant. It means that we are smart enough to give a damn, we are smart enough to be concerned by the approach the administration wants to take on health care, the environment, and the economy.
So I was just put off a little bit by this, and it just was stunning to me.
And I look at it and said "This is the arrogance of power when you assume control of the White House, the Senate, and the House, and you have the controls of power at your fingertip, to make these assumptions and statements about where the American people are and how they feel about your spending of their money."
VAN SUSTEREN: Michael, was this, were his statements, do you think, were they directed at the American people, or were they really directed at former President Bush?
We had Byron York on last night who said there was sort of this battle going on between the former Bush administration and the current Obama administration, where they are fighting.
Was the arrogant, was he making the arrogant remark in reference to the prior administration or about Americans?
STEELE: I think this is - look, George Bush is not the president of the United States anymore. And the fact that the current president wants to inform, get involved in a battle with the former president, to me, says a lot. It says that you don't understand what's at stake here for the American people.
I don't think that's it. I think they understand exactly what's at stake. I think they want to put in place collectivist policies that strip away individuality, that strip away the individual's decision-making power, and supplant that with the government making these decisions on our behalf.
So I don't buy this we are in this pitched battle with the Bush administration. The Bush administration could care less about this type of battle. They're more concerned, as now as taxpayers like the rest of us, what this administration, the current administration is going to do.
So when you go to a foreign soil, you don't want to pick a fight with the former president. What's the point in that? It clearly was a statement of the mindset that this administration views the American people have, and we reject that out of hand.
VAN SUSTEREN: It's sort of interesting that President Bush said that he was "the uniter," and I think that President Obama has said that he is a uniter, and it doesn't seem like anybody is a uniter. We're very divided in this country.
But I don't think it's the amount of division, so much, Greta, as it is the American people are waking up to some harsh realities. Our economy has slowed almost to a stall. Jobs aren't being created. People are losing their homes.
And everyone in Washington, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, are pointing fingers at Republicans as if this was your mistake. Yes, my bad. We made mistakes, but now you have an opportunity to move us in a new direction.
And what is that direction? What I call a "collectivist mindset" that says you as an individual should be more interested in helping the collective, therefore, we want to decide how much your business should earn, we want to decide who's wealthy and who isn't wealthy, we want to decide who the CEO's and the people who run these businesses of this country should be.
That's not what this is about. This is a free market enterprise system. Put the controls in place that you think best regulate that market, then get out of the way and let us earn our money.
VAN SUSTEREN: Michael, if you could have 30 seconds alone with President Bush, just the two of you, what would you say to him? I mean President Obama, not - President Obama.
STEELE: I would say "Stop and listen to the people." The folks that are out here right now raising their voice are really concerned. They're not just scared, they're angry. And you need to pay attention.
And don't take their sense of change to be something that undermines the core fabric of what this country is all about, which is freedom.
VAN SUSTEREN: Michael, thank you.
STEELE: Thank you.
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