Michael Steele and the failure of Republican leadership

Michael Steele might be either the most brilliant, or the amongst the most idiotic political figures of our generation.  To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure which.  What is absolutely clear to me, however, is that Michael Steele is willing to do whatever he can to absolutely ignore the most blatant facts and truths about his own hypocrisy possible.  Simultaneously, he also makes Bill Clinton look downright credible about the Monica Lewinsky affair.

Over the last week, on NPR as well as at a Town Hall style meeting, Steele, the Chair of the Republican Party, has shown how far out of touch with reality he is.  During the NPR discussion, he struggled to somehow cast Medicare as both a beneficial, yet government run health-care option.  Something that is clearly: A) fairly well received, B) government run, and C) is not going anywhere anytime soon.  He says “it has not been run efficiently and well enough to sustain itself.”  Perhaps something to do with raids into the retirement accounts during the 1990s?

He continues to blunder, and below is an except where Mr. Steele almost *gasp* says that government did something right.  It is purely shameful, that someone of his stature, also apparently doesn’t realize that the government regulates things.  Granted, it seems he become heavily involved in politics around the time of the Moral Majority, and the general decline of government scope and power.  Still, a little history is good to know about what the government does.

INSKEEP: You said that’s something that should be looked into. Who is it that should look into that?

Mr. STEELE: I’m talking about those who – well, who regulates the insurance markets?

INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.

Mr. STEELE: Well, and so it – wait a minute, hold up. You know, you’re doing a wonderful little dance here and you’re trying to be cute, but the reality of this is very simple. I’m not saying the government doesn’t have a role to play. I’ve never said that. The government does have a role to play. The government has a very limited role to play.

INSKEEP: Mr. Chairman, I respect that you feel that I’m doing a dance here. I just want you to know that as a citizen, I’m a little confused by the positions you take because you’re giving me a very nice nuanced position here.

Mr. STEELE: It’s not nice and nuanced. I’m being very clear.

INSKEEP: You’re giving me, nevertheless, a nuanced position, a careful…

Mr. STEELE: What’s nuanced? What don’t you understand?

INSKEEP: What nuance means is you’re not doing it absolutely black and white. You’re saying you recognize the government has a role to play here, but when you…

Mr. STEELE: Wait a minute. But that is the – is that a…

INSKEEP: …and your party…

Mr. STEELE: …not reality?

INSKEEP: Come to the actual rhetoric, it seems more along the lines of absolutes. It’s between the patient and the doctor.

Needless to say, I do enjoy some level of confidence that the average American, could come out and say, “Yes, the government does regulate things.”  And, by the way Mr. Steele, nice little dance you did there, particularly with trying to blame Mr. Inskeep, rather than admit your own failings to develop a clear, reasoned and rational answer.

Continuing on to Mr. Steele’s second blunder:  the Town Hall meeting, where Amanda Duzak presents her story about how her mother, “died of cancer 6 months ago because she could only afford three of her six prescription chemotherapy medications,” she projected. “There are 50 million people in this country who could end up like my mom, suffering or dying because they do not have adequate health care. Everyone in this room and everyone in this country should have access to good health care.”

Mr. Steele’s nuanced, considerate response:

“After saying that he believed in a mature, honest discussion and not in shouting, Steele said, “People are coming to these town meetings and they’re like [he then shakes].” He then looked and gestured right at Ms. Duzak and said, “It makes for great TV. You’ll probably make it tonight, enjoy it.””

See the video here (around 2:25 is when it gets to him making his smart-ass remark about it making great TV).  For a much better audio version from C-SPAN: here (around 1:00 in is Amanda, his response about TV at ~3:15).

There is no excuse for Mr. Steele’s response.  Should she have been up and shouting?  I do not think so.  But was his tone, body language, and speech the correct reply, particularly after having about two minutes to think things through?  Absolutely not.

If this is the best leadership the Republican party can present, it shows a deep seated rot within the party.  Simply put, it stinks.  Michael Steele needs to go.  He presents himself in a petty-minded, scornful, and hateful manner that clearly shows disregard for those he does not agree with.  In the name of full disclosure, I am a member of the Republican party (for various reasons, since I support a split in party control between the Legislative and Executive branches, and the necessity of party membership to fully participate in most political processes), but Mr. Steele makes me feel shameful for having this identification, in a way that only Dick Cheney has managed to do.

In essence, if the Republican party ever has a hope of regaining its roots, based in small, laisse-faire style governance, the moderates need to start making their stand against the ultraconservative right wing.  This is my voice, hopefully which others will hear, so that change can start to be enacted from within the party.

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