Wednesday, December 23, 2009

In Defense Of Michael Steele

MC hesitates to ascribe motivations to the recent spate of attacks on Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele. Certainly it was an open secret that the RNC delegates from the RPM were not among his supporters. Some of them, like Evie Axdahl, continue to wage a disingenous and retrograde war against him. Our RNC delegation needs to be replaced but that's a post for another time (which will come, trust us).

Recently--quelle horreur!--it was learned (pardon the passive voice, so not MC) that Steele gets paid for speeches to various groups he addresses outside of those within the ambit of his duties as Chair of the RNC. They range from $8,000 to $20,000. The usual political apparatchiks came out whining. Please, spare us. MC bristles at alleged Republicans complaining about making money in a legal, open and transparent fashion. We remember some conservatives kvetching about Sarah Palin's speaking fees. What? Somewhere Ayn Rand was spinning in her grave!

There is nothing in the RNC organizing documents or bylaws that prevent such outside income. Michael Steele's speeches do not come at the expense of his attention to job duties. This is more of the same from people to whom we should not pay attention in the slightest. MC liked the following:

"Former Republican Party chairman and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore said on C-SPAN, "It's not uncommon for people to have some outside employment as well as being paid as national chairman." The interview was circulated to reporters by Steele aides."

Mind you, Steele has been very successful in raising money for the RNC. Let's not lose sight of that important fact.

Then there was this:

"The races in New Jersey and Virginia were a tide change for the Republican Party," said Katon Dawson, the ex-chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. Dawson, who lost in the chairman's race to Steele, said "he'll be judged by the midterms."

Really? Judged by midterms? MC isn't much for gambling but that's one bet we'll take against all comers. So knock it off Republicans. We can't afford this baseless attack against an effective, telegenic and competent Chair.

Click on the title of this post to read the lastest story about this issue in the Washington Post.


Anonymous said...

I'm all against infighting, and have no desire to be sniping at our RNC delegation, either, but it strikes me as odd that you could call Mr. Steele "effective, telegenic and competent." I was all in favor of the guy, on that assumption, but I must concede that he has fallen far below my expectations for effectiveness, stage presence and competetence. He has made numerous public missteps, and missed numerous opportunities to make the GOP case to a broad audience. Effective, as measured by the last election, was a mixed bag, with the Dede disaster being the most obvious. You will note that the MN State Central committee approved a resolution rebuking (not condemning, as originally proposed) the national party for supporting Dede. That's as far as I would go, just a general "rebuke" for doing stupid stuff. Mr. Steele is, as we should all admit, the most "effective, telegenic and competent" chairman we have -right now.- Nothing wrong with that.

I also note that our RNC delegation is carrying to the next RNC meeting a resolution requiring that the RNC apply the "Reagan test" to candidates before offering them financial support. That's a big A-plus (better than Obama's B+, in all ways) on their grade card, IMHO. I think it's high time the RNC adopt such a standard, and I know a number of local MNGOP Party units who follow that same sensible standard already. I know a number of people who have refused to donate to the RNC until such a standard is in place. If Mr. Steele wants to improve fundraising still further, that might be a place to start.

Sorry, but this whole post just baffles me. The big positive for Ron Carey's chairmanship of the MNGOP was that he was highly effective at raising money, and the big negative was that he "lost" seats in years when the Democrats had huge advantages. Now Steele is praised for raising money and for picking up two of three seats in a GOP tidal wave? Feel free to explain further.

J. Ewing

John Hugh Gilmore said...

We thank J. Ewing for his (or her) comments. We have a brief response.

1. Steele and the RNC had nothing to do with selecting Dede Scozzafava; that was the work of about 11 county chairs in NY's 23rd. Complaints should be directed to them.

2. Once endorsed, there was little the RNC could do. To his credit, Tony Sutton at State Central said as much. Not to support the endorsed Republican candidate in a special election would have been unthinkable.

3. The "Reagan test" as you put it is more commonly known as the purity test and it is a fraud. Evie Axdahl and a few others who lost out when Steele became Chair are using it to attack him. State Central was deceived into passing it. Most serious political observers laugh it off and our two delegates to the RNC have very little influence or effect. That's too bad but it's also another reason to get rid of both of them in 2011.

4. Chairs of the RNC have little to do with electoral success save for fundraising. To blame Steele for 2006 and 2008 seems to us misplaced: Bush and fellow Republicans spent like Democrats. They trashed their own brand, as it were. It pains us to say that but MC thinks we have to face up to our errors if we want to correct them.

5. Steele isn't perfect but he was only elected this year. MC thinks he has improved with time and fundraising is strong.

6. The purity test is a bad idea and has been widely mocked. MC isn't for it and just who are the people coming up with it? Who are they to tell us anything let alone foist it upon the rest of the party?

You may be interested in this story, part three of three. We thank you for your comment.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps we have not communicated as well as we might have.
1. You are correct that Ms. Scozzafava was properly endorsed according to local party rules (thankfully Minnesota party rules are different). This is as it should be and we wouldn't want the RNC stepping into, or onto, such local matters.

2. You are also correct that the RNC should not have interfered in the selection of a candidate. They DO have the choice, indeed the obligation, to decide what level of support they will offer to this endorsed candidate and that should be based on the wishes of the nationwide contributors to the RNC. There were special circumstances surrounding this special election in that there were actually two Republicans on the ballot, a liberal running as a Republican and a conservative running on the Conservative ticket. It would have seemed most reasonable for the RNC to have stepped back and let the locals decide. Instead, the RNC spent close to $1 million in attack ads against one of the Republicans in the race.

3. Calling it the Reagan test simply says that the vast majority of activists are willing to accept Ronald Reagan's Maxim that anyone who agrees with you 80% of the time is a friend and ally, not an enemy. The Party has scarce resources and should allocate them to its "friends" not who don't believe what most of the rest of us believe. Calling it a purity test is derogatory and counterproductive, IMHO.

4. I had high hopes for Mr. Steele, and I was not blaming him for 2006 or even 2008. But many blasted Mr. Carey for similar losses when it was, as you say, elected Republicans who tarnished the brand.

5. That Mr. Carey was a good fundraiser did not make him "effective" and the same judgment must be applied to Mr. Steele.

6. You may disagree with a particular way the Reagan test -- this incarnation of it -- is expressed. Republicans have always had trouble putting their common sense conservative principles into just a few words. We do, however, have an innate sense of what those principles are and of what they are not. Which you should not be mocking is the notion that the Republican Party is nothing except a group of "like-minded individuals" and that those who are not like-minded are unlikely to advance our principles if elected to office. We do not require 100% agreement because that would be impossible and counterproductive. You can't beat somebody with nobody; we must have a candidate. On the other hand, you can't beat an unprincipled Democrat with an unprincipled Republican. We have to hold our candidates to some standard, and the way we do that is to have our state and national Party respect the donations of those who agree with us 80% of the time.

J. Ewing