Thursday, May 21, 2009

Comings and Goings

I am understandably most loath to cite Media Matters as a proof source, but I trust that on this matter, I will be able to plead your indulgence. The aforementioned (and never to be mentioned again in decent conservative company) website reports that Rush Limbaugh has resigned from his post as "titular head of the Republican Party," conceding the spot to retired General Colin Powell.

I will leave it to others - to include Limbaugh himself - to expound on the good to be gained from his "resignation" and Mr. Powell's ascension. All of this does beg the question of what is to be said about the real (grammatically speaking) titular head of the GOP. Besides the shout out given to Michael Steele by President Obama at last weekend's White House Correspondents Dinner, the RNC Chairman has been largely invisible.

Well that's not exactly true; to be fair, Steele has busied himself with trying to be the face of the Republican Party, if not its leader. He has graced the pages of Gentlemen's Quarterly, and has also appeared on CNN's D.L. Hughley Breaks the News, the site of one of his most infamous experiments in extemporization. Steele's attempts at outreach notwithstanding, as Republicans are roiled by internecine struggle, Chairman Steele has left us bereft of any real leadership.

Even as he attempts to - as the Washington Post put it - "reassert himself as party leader," Steele must contend with a battery of Biden-esque gaffes, which include questionable hiring of friends, his conflicting statements about a woman's right to abort her fetus (see here and here), his insistence that the GOP is in need of a "hip-hop makeover," and his comments on Mitt Romney's Mormonism. As it stands now, senior
GOP leaders are concerned
that the party has made a mistake in selecting him as chair (see here, here, here and here.)

Steele must also contend with his record of passivity in attacking liberals and their policies. Today's Steele encourages Republicans to stop "navel gazing" and sharpen their attacks on Obama.

"We've seen strategists writing memos and doing briefings urging that Republicans avoid confronting the president," Steele said in remarks at a convention center at National Harbor in Prince George's County. "If we have the courage of our convictions, and we do, then we will and we must stand up against disastrous policies, regardless of the president's popularity."
But we will recall that it was Steele himself who sought to blunt Limbaugh's broadside against Obama. In his interview with D.L. Hughley, it was Steele who seemed to apologize for Limbaugh's wish that the Obama presidency fail, calling Limabugh's sentiments and rhetoric "incendiary" and "ugly." He has also backed away from opportunities to take on Obama more directly. For instance, he could only meekly refer to Obama's honorary degree from Notre Dame as "inappropriate."

All that said, I am thankful that Mr. Steele has come around to the way of thinking that was advocated elsewhere on these pages.
If Steele hopes to sell the GOP and conservatism more generally, he will need to abandon such bogusness as "hip-hop makeovers" and sharpen his elbows just a touch (or at least sharpen the distinctions between us and them.)
In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that I also said at that time...
At this point, I will confess that I consider providing guidance to Chairman Steele to be as useless as attempting to drain the ocean with a thimble; Steele has always struck me as being what a Texan would describe as "all hat and no cattle."

Before and since his stint as Maryland's Lieutenant-governor, he seemed to wander aimlessly from pillar to post. His time as the Chair of GOPAC was singularly unremarkable, and he was certainly not a slam dunk for his current post, having won only after six rounds of voting (and the withdrawal of three of his opponents.)
And as much has been the case. At best, Steele has shown himself to be an amiable dunce, doing as little real harm as good. My own sense runs along the lines of the many GOP leaders who are less sanguine. At a time of equal parts great opportunity and peril for both the GOP and for the U.S., Steele repeatedly evidences the fact that he is in over his head. His election seems to represent as much of a stroke of affirmative action/white guilt as that of Obama himself.

The good news is that the Republican Party does not have to wait four years to correct its mistake.

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