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--

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Rush Steele Dustup

It seems that the new RNC Chair decided to tangle with the Maha Rushi on CNN.

Those who consider Rush to be a plague on the Republican Party were delighted...until Steele apologized for his remarks. Of course, that wasn't before Rush milked it for all it was worth by hitting the man of Steele with all of his considerable rhetorical weight. As a fan of both men, I figure, why not throw my two cents in on top of all the other commentary?

I was born, raised, and currently live in Sacramento. This was Rush's home base before going national. He's the reason my dad (who used to be a socialist and voted TWICE for Carter) now calls himself a conservative. I grew up listening to him, constantly amazed by the innovative responses he had to political issues. It used to fascinate me to hear everyone talk about a political problem using the exact same approaches, then turn over to Rush and hear him go off at a completely new and fresh angle. He alternates between insightful and deliberately absurd because THAT'S HOW HE ROLLS and he likes it that way. Most of the people who feel so comfortable criticizing him have never actually sat and listened to a full show. Instead they feel comfortable making judgements based on clips and partial quotes.

Steele on the other hand, is a much more serious man. He's bright, thoughtful, and charismatic in a completely different way than Rush is. He's the kind of person a party needs running it. Rush is no more built to run a national party than William Perry was built to perform ballet. But, by the same token, Steele couldn't do what Rush does. Both men are healthy for the party, as long as they stay in their respective wheelhouses.

The reason I posted the clip is because most news reports only play Steele's more incendiary language, calling Rush an "entertainer" and his comments "ugly". They don't record the earlier defense of Rush's comments, or the fact that Hughley was telling Steele that Rush was the leader of the party (imply that Steele is simply playing second fiddle). First of all, despite what Hughley says, I have never heard ANY Republican leader, INCLUDING RUSH (in his more serious moments) claim that the "harmless, lovable fuzzball" with "talents on loan from God" is or has ever been the leader of the party. Does Rush have a wider audience than most party leaders? Of course. Is he a bright, articulate popularizer of conservative ideas. Yes. But he's no party leader, nor does he seriously think he is. I can guarantee that he loves this attention though. I wonder what the ratings spike over this little flap will be...

Steele knows that, but he also knows that the position of RNC chair is only as big as the man who fills it. Without a Republican president, the leader of the party is the man who takes up that mantle. It could be a Republican governor, the House and Senate Minority leadership, or the RNC Chair. It could even be someone who holds no elected office. Look at the influence Bill Buckley had without ever holding an official position within the party. Steele needs to assert himself in order to fill that vacuum, he cannot just assume the position asserts it's own authority. That's what he was trying to do here. I think he did it poorly, and I think Rush deserved an apology for being called "ugly", but I don't think Steele was wrong to make the point that he did, even if it was somewhat ham-fisted.