Get Off Michael Steele’s Back
Michael Steele is in trouble again with Republicans, but this time, unlike the Rush Limbaugh / RNC Nazi flap, the criticism is totally undeserved.
Here’s how Steele supposedly stepped in it on abortion,
How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that–I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.
The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.
Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.
Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
I think Roe v. Wade–as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.
Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.
Do pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party?
Now, you’ve got pro-lifers flipping out over these comments,
“I think it is very troubling for a public figure, of either party, particularly one who presents himself as pro-life, to describe the abortion issue as being a matter of ‘individual choice,'” That is language straight out of Planned Parenthood’s messaging playbook,” said Charmaine Yoest, the president and CEO of Americans United for Life Action, who said she hadn’t heard from the RNC. “There are millions of pro-life Americans, Republican and Democrat, who are looking for leadership on the life issue and they will find Mr. Steele’s comments disturbing and demoralizing.”
Another anti-abortion activist and sharp critic of President Barack Obama on the subject, Jill Stanek, was even blunter.
“Michael Steele has just unmistakably proclaimed himself to be pro-choice,” she said in an email. “You thought he was ’embattled’ last week over his Limbaugh comment? Ha. He has now stepped both feet into it.”
UPDATE: Family Research Council President Tony Perkins emails, “I expressed my concerns to the chairman earlier this week about previous statements that were very similar in nature. He assured me as chairman his views did not matter and that he would be upholding and promoting the Party platform, which is very clear on these issues. It is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview with the chairman’s pledge.”
Nothing against Jill Stanek, Tony Perkins, or Charmaine Yoest, whom I absolutely adore, but regrettably, I have to say that their comments on this are bordering on silly.
So, Steele said women have a right to choose an abortion. So what? Newsflash: they do currently have that right. Hence the “choose life” slogan that those of us who are pro-lifers love to slap on t-shirts, posters, and bumper stickers,
Here’s what’s really going on here.
Liberals are going to try to destroy Michael Steele because if you’re not a straight, white male, they think they own you. If you are black, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, female, gay, etc., etc., and a Republican, they’re going to try to personally humiliate and destroy you for being a living, breathing refutation of the idea that women and minorities can only succeed with the help of the Democratic Party.
On the other hand, there’s something very different going on with conservatives. Over the last few years, the Right has been burned again and again by Republican politicians who claim to be conservative and then sell us down the river. Even John McCain, who spent eight years attacking and undermining conservatives on a regular basis, claimed to be a conservative when he ran for President.
Then, along comes Michael Steele. The knock on him was supposed to be that he wasn’t reliably conservative as some of the other candidates. Still, he seemed to get it and managed to take the RNC Chairmanship in a hard fought battle. Then, soon after, he blundered into a conflict with Rush Limbaugh (Plus, the Nazi comments he let pass). That was a doubly serious error on Steele’s part, not just because it was a big mistake, but because it played to type. Here’s the guy who people worried was “too moderate” taking shots at a conservative icon. So, people who weren’t sure about him in the first place made a judgment: this is proof the guy really isn’t a conservative. From there, they started looking for reasons to doubt him.
If you don’t believe that’s true, ask yourself: if Rush Limbaugh, Jim DeMint, Thomas Sowell, Rick Warren, Ann Coulter, etc., had made the exact same comments, would anyone have even raised an eyebrow? I think not.
Now, all that being said, I have previously said Michael Steele needs to up his game. He needs to do a better job of defending the GOP and he needs to do a better job of filling the positions left vacant by the much needed housecleaning he did at the RNC.
Still, I have to say that I think he is doing a better job. Some of the comments he made in the GQ interview: man, they were exactly what I want to hear from a RNC Chairman — and how often have we been able to say that in the last few years? Here are a few excerpts from Steele,
You go and you say, [pounding desk] “You will find tools that you will put in place, structures that will allow and embrace more diverse people to come to the party.” But this is the thing to keep in mind: Opening up the party, and making it more accessible, and making it more relevant, does not mean that I need to backslide on what I believe or what values we hold. We are a party; we are the conservative party of this country. We are a party that values life, born and unborn. We value hard work, individual rights, and liberties. We value the individual–to go out and carve out a dream for themselves. We value free-market and free-enterprise solutions. We value smaller government. We think the less government in your life, the better off you are as an individual and a family.
How do you deal with the criticism?
I just pray on it.
Oh yeah. And I ask God, “Hey, let me show just a little bit of love, so I absolutely don’t go out and kick this person’s ass.”
Spoken like a true seminarian. Let’s talk about your background. You have a fascinating background. You were adopted–
Tell me how it happened.
Well, from what I’ve been told, it’s really kind of a touching story. My mother, when we finally talked about it–it wasn’t until I was much older that she shared with me the story of my arriving in our home. And she said that she was unable to conceive children, and decided, you know, with her husband, that they wanted to have a family. So she went to Catholic charities here, St. Ann’s infant home in Maryland. And she said it was funny, she was walking through the nursery and she got to this one crib, and there was this baby there, and the baby stood up and reached out and said, “Mom.” And that was me.
How old would you have been?
Oh, 7, 8 months old.
And you said, “Mom”?
And reached for her. When she walked by, I reached for her. And even the nuns were, like, floored by that moment. It was very powerful when she told me that. I was a sobbing wreck when she told me that story.
You came from a very Democratic family, is that right?
Oh yeah. My parents were Roosevelt Democrats.
How did you become a Republican?
My mama raised me well.
No, really. What was it?
Ronald Reagan was a big influence. I was fascinated by what he had to say. He sounded a lot like how my mother raised me, back in that time. When my dad died, our church, our family, our friends, really put a lot of pressure on her to go on welfare, to get a government check.
And instead she worked in a laundry, didn’t she?
Sterling Laundry. As a presser. For forty-three, forty-four years. The most my mother ever made was $3.80 an hour. And I remember asking her why she never went on welfare, and she said, “I didn’t want the government raising my children.”
But what could you accomplish? He came in saying, “I want to work with both sides, I want to cross the aisle”–and it’s ugly already.
Because they haven’t been very bipartisan.
Do you think bipartisanship can work?
No. [pause] Look, I’m sorry, I know this is, you know, la-la land and Rodney King time and we all wanna get along, but that is not the nature of American politics. That is not the nature of politics, period.
I don’t know if refreshing’s the word, but to hear someone say bipartisanship doesn’t work–
It doesn’t work! I mean, I understand the ideal of it. But at the end of the day, this is a game of winners and losers. This is zero-sum. Your winning is my losing. My winning is your losing.
You still like Palin?
Is she the future of your party?
She’s one of many leaders that we will have emerge over the next, uh, four to seven years, yeah.
At the end of the day, did she help or hurt the ticket?
I think she helped immensely. I think, uh, people want to put it in the context of how the liberal media responded to her. They were threatened by her.
Why would the media be threatened?
Because! This woman had appeal!
Why would the media be threatened by someone with appeal?
Because they have their own agenda! Remember, in my view, Barack Obama is their creation. I mean, come on! They got behind him very early, and they stayed with him all the way through. And they’ve admitted it. Even The Washington Post–what was it, two weeks after the election?–finally said, “Oh, yeah, I guess we were a little biased in our reporting on Barack Obama.” This country still doesn’t know who this man is!
What about Ann Coulter?
Ann Coulter is one of the best bomb-throwers in the business. She is the Carville of the Republican Party, although I think she’s probably a little bit better at it at times. I think it’s precious the way the Democrats react to her and many others, like Rush Limbaugh. I just find it hysterically precious that they’ve become so sanctimonious about her and what she has to say. Yes, she’s got an edge to her–and it’s great.
Now, folks, I’m not going to sit here and tell you Michael Steele is perfect. Heck, for all I know, he may end up being a flop at the RNC when it’s all said and done. But, after having Mel Martinez and Robert Duncan running the RNC, are you going to tell me the guy who just unleashed all those quotes in one interview doesn’t deserve to be cut a little slack? This is a man who has the potential, when it’s all said and done, to be not just a good spokesman for the GOP, but a great spokesman — and I still support him 100% and think other conservative pro-lifers should do the same.
Update #1: From the comments section,
“Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
“The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.”
Alright. So Michael Steele believes in the 10th Amendment. I can live with that. But he, personally, is alright with abortion. I would be unhappy about that were he running for office, but he’s not. What I am unhappy about is Steele spending all his time allowing himself to be ambushed during interviews with people he ought to know are looking for a way to ambush him. Dammit, man, stop wasting time getting yourself in hot water and start working on a way to get the Republican party back to its Conservative roots before it’s too late. No one wants to hear your personal views except those who will try to use them to destroy the party you’re supposed to be leading.” — CavalierX
I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with both of those points.
Saying that women have an “individual choice” about abortion is nothing more than a statement of fact, not an indication that someone is pro-abortion. If you get pregnant, you currently have the right to get an abortion in all 50 states. So right now, it is a choice. I am rabidly pro-life and I certainly agree that’s the case.
Beyond that, all Steele was getting across there was a fairly uncontroversial conservative position: that if Roe v. Wade is overturned, the issue will be kicked back to the states and then, how much “individual choice” they have will be dependent on the laws of their states.
You could certainly argue that his message was a little garbled, but personally, I don’t even think what he was trying to get across was all that unclear. And again, if say Rush, Ann Coulter, Jim DeMint, etc., had said it, I think it would have been treated as an utterly unremarkable statement.
Also, on the Limbaugh/Nazis flap, Steele deserved the attacks. On this? This is just nothing burger. It’s like saying, “My favorite soda is Diet Dr. Pepper” and having people reply, “So, you hate the military!” But, because of the last flap, Steele was put in a position where he felt like he had to clarify what shouldn’t have been a controversial statement in the first place.
Last but not least, I want Michael Steele out there doing interviews and getting our point of view out to the public. Yes, he’s going to make mistakes on occasion. Yes, there will sometimes be controversies — in fact, the left is going to do everything in their power to stir up controversies. After all, you can’t have a black man escaping from the Democratic plantation and living free as a Republican. If they allow that to go unchallenged, next thing you know, more black Americans will come to believe that they’re allowed to have political views of their own that don’t match up perfectly with whatever Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi think.
What it comes down to is that we can have someone who talks like a 75 year old politician who has been in DC since he was 25 years old or we can have someone like Steele, who’s going to come under attack, but will get our message out to the people we want to reach fifty times better than another boring, old DC-speak politician. I want Steele in there, doing what he does. Maybe that will turn out to be a mistake, but I think Steele can do a lot for us if we give him the opportunity.