Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Friday, March 13, 2009

Michael Steele's GQ Interview

All of the commentary on the interview has been focused on whether or not Chairman Steele admitted that he's pro-choice. Reading the article, he seems to be. Listening to his post-facto defense, and then re-reading it, I can see a case to be made that he simply failed to make the point he was trying to make, that "choice" cuts both ways, and that, as a man who was put up for adoption, he owes his life to the choice of his birth mother.

What's unfortunate though, is that a lengthy and interesting interview has been obscured over one or two sentences. I'd encourage anyone who hasn't done so yet to read the whole thing. Steele is an interesting and thoughtful guy. I sometimes wonder however, if he was the right choice for the position. He's charming and winsome, as the interview clearly illustrates, but that only gets you so far. Remember, he's not selling himself, he's selling the GOP's ideas. Especially disturbing is the fact that he seems to be at his best verbally when critiquing president Obama's clothing choices or discussing hip-hop, and at his weakest when discussing policy. Not all of it was bad. Much of what he had to say was very good and very necessary. The real test will be to see how he carries his ideas out in the real world, and how well he puts together the GOP's ground game.

A few people have pointed to the special election in New York as the first test of the Steele reign. I think that's a bad call, whether the Republican candidate wins or loses. A single election can hinge on so many things. The personalities involved, candidate debate flubs, reputations built up over years, etc. Many of these are things an RNC Chair has no control over, especially an RNC Chair who is still hiring staff and unpacking his boxes. All he can do right now is throw money at the race, and while helpful, money is only one piece of a winning formula. We really won't know what Steele is made if until the next real election cycle in 2010, when the aggregate results should give us a picture untainted by the vagaries of any individual race.

Until then, I can't shake the feeling that we may have elected the anti-Dean. Howard Dean was an angry little man who couldn't open his mouth without saying something ugly (not that the media reported it). But, he was GOOD. He rebuilt the Democratic Party's ground game, put money into hot political prospects, and capitalized on the discontent of a party out of power. His role wasn't the only one that led to Democratic victories in the last two cycles, but he made sure that the party was prepared to capitalize on everything else that was going on.

Steele on the other hand, seems chaotic. He got caught by the Limbaugh questions because he didn't prepare beforehand with a press agent. He got hammered over this interview because he didn't sit down and decide how to correctly express what he wanted to say about his birth mother beforehand (or worse, he didn't think through what would happen if a Republican Party chair admitted he was pro-choice for the first time in a GQ interview). Given a choice between a man who sounds angry, but gets the groundwork done, or a man who sounds charming, but seems chaotic, I'd choose the former every time. I hope I'm wrong. The only thing worse than the Republican Party's first black chairman being bad at his job would be the Republican Party FIRING it's first black chairman for being bad at his job.