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Tilting at Windmills

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August 27, 2009

MICHAEL STEELE ISN'T VERY BRIGHT.... Let this be a lesson to all of us -- when major political parties are looking for a chairman or chairwoman, it's not a good idea to pick someone conspicuously unintelligent. It's an even worse idea to have that person pretend to understand the basics of public policy.

This week, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele argued that Medicare is a) a great government program that Democrats are trying to undermine and the GOP is trying to protect; and b) a terrible program that doesn't work and should probably be privatized. The shift happened within 24 hours.

Steele spoke to NPR's Steve Inskeep this morning, and the host tried to get a better understanding of what Steele is thinking. Amanda Terkel posted the audio and a transcript, which are both worth checking out. Steele isn't very bright, and he made a fool out of himself on the air.

It started when Steele endorsed increased government regulation of the private insurance market.

INSKEEP: Wait, wait -- you would trust the government to look into that?

STEELE: No, I'm talking about the private -- I'm talking about citizens. I'm talking about -- (CROSSTALK)

INSKEEP: Who is it you -- you said it is something that should be looked into. Who is it that you think should look into that?

STEELE: Well, who regulates the insurance markets?

INSKEEP: That would be the government, I believe.

STEELE: Well, and so what. Now wait a minute. Hold up. 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; it has a very limited role to play.

INSKEEP: Mr. Chairman, I respect that you think 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 --

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

As David Kurtz concluded, "Hard to believe this guy really is the head of a major American political party."

There were several candidates seeking the RNC chairmanship this year. The party chose the most ridiculous, least qualified, most confused one. That Steele reflects poorly on the party, its agenda, and its ability to be serious about public policy is a dramatic understatement.

Steve Benen 11:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (55)

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As David Kurtz concluded, "Hard to believe this guy really is the head of a major American political party."

He's not - he's the head of the Republican Party.

Posted by: JC on August 27, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

"Code Red - Steele approaching microphone!"

The sad fact here is that it appears the public doesn't have the wits to understand this man is inane.

Posted by: SteinL on August 27, 2009 at 11:04 AM | PERMALINK

The party chose the most ridiculous, least qualified, most confused one.

You sure about that? I'm not. I am certainly not convinced that say, Ken Blackwell, or the racist Dawson would exhibit any more intelligence or competence than Steele.

Posted by: brent on August 27, 2009 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Is it necessarily a matter of Steele's intelligence?I'm sure Steele perfectly understands that the Republican base to whom he is speaking either don't really understand the contradictions he spouts or wouldn't care if they did.

Posted by: Peter on August 27, 2009 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Once again, gotcha journalism brought to you by the liberal MSM.

Posted by: Al on August 27, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

The party chose the most ridiculous, least qualified, most confused one

They chose the darkest one, though. And it's not a party, it's a marketing operation. With a product that's a tough sell to begin with.

Posted by: Davis X. Machina on August 27, 2009 at 11:08 AM | PERMALINK

With the success of winning African-American voters by having Steele head up the GOP, maybe it's time to continue their winning streak by getting Alberto Gonzales to lead the Republicans now to grab the Latino vote?
That political party is a meritocracy, isn't it?

Posted by: wilson46201 on August 27, 2009 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Initially, I think he looked to be their Great Notwhite Hope.

Posted by: Bernie Latham on August 27, 2009 at 11:11 AM | PERMALINK

"That Steele reflects poorly on the party, its agenda, and its ability to be serious about public policy is a dramatic understatement."

Steele IS an accurate reflection of the GOP, its agenda, and its inability to be serious about public policy!

Posted by: SadOldVet on August 27, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

> I think he looked to be their Great Notwhite Hope.

Yup. That was the sole reason. Now they should go for a latino.

Posted by: Ajay on August 27, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

I've always thought the real reason the Republican's chose Steele is because he's black. Unfortunately, they're not intelligent enough to realize that just because he's black, he's not Barack Obama.

Just like Sarah Palin isn't Hillary Clinton.

Posted by: Howey on August 27, 2009 at 11:15 AM | PERMALINK

Since apparently their only qualification had to be "someone with the same skin color as that guy the Democrats elected as President", they would have done better going with Alan Keyes.

Posted by: Kenneth Cavness on August 27, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

Al - I actually agree, it is gotcha journalism by the liberal media.

Nice, solid, gotcha journalism that exposes the hypocritical fools for what they are, on the only radio station where at least once in a while stands for the clearly liberal value of independent truth.

Posted by: Ohioan on August 27, 2009 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

I thought liberals didn't allow anyone to question the intelligence of a black man.

Now that I know that they're fair game may I point out that the president of the United States is obviously a dim bulb?

Posted by: Mlke K on August 27, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK

That wasn't the worst of the exchange. The whole interview could have been written by Lewis Carroll.

Posted by: g. powell on August 27, 2009 at 11:35 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, that your bulb were as bright as Mr. Obama's!

Posted by: st john on August 27, 2009 at 11:36 AM | PERMALINK

Davis X Machina got it right. The GOP has been trying to "rebrand" itself ever since last November...but it's hard to put lipstick on a Repig...so now they're looking for a "great white hope".

Posted by: VaLiberal on August 27, 2009 at 11:42 AM | PERMALINK

I'll bet Mike K thinks we found WMD in Iraq.

It may not so much Mr. Steele's intelligence or lack thereof. It might just be rigid adherence to conservative ideology forces him into intellectually incoherent positions and that Mr. Steele is well aware of it, but there is nothing he can do about it as long as he wants to remain a conservative Republican in good standing. Otherwise he might have to prostrate himself before Rush (again) and beg forgiveness for his apostasy.

Posted by: molly bloom on August 27, 2009 at 11:46 AM | PERMALINK

This interview made me clasp my hand over my mouth and open my eyes wide on my way to work this morning. The portion of the transcript you posted doesn't include the most mind-numbing portion--when Steele continued to confusingly object to Inskeep's use of the word "nuanced." He clearly simply didn't know what the word meant. It was fucking hilarious.

Posted by: Jeremy on August 27, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Steel is the perfect example of the Republican argument against affirmative action: unqualified black man given a position he could never get otherwise, due to the accident of his birth.

Classy way to go, Republicans.

Posted by: TCinLA on August 27, 2009 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

I heard the interview, and really couldn't believe my ears. Steele was so completely over the top. I didn't get the sense so much that he was stupid, but that he was lying, and didn't like being called on it.

Posted by: Scott F. on August 27, 2009 at 11:49 AM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Mike K, for demonstrating that the dimmest bulb on the internet is a moron from Orangatang County trolling from the basement of his soon-to-be-foreclosed home.

Posted by: TCinLA on August 27, 2009 at 11:52 AM | PERMALINK

CURSED LIBERAL MSM CONFUSING ME WITH LOGIC! WHY WON'T YOU LET ME STICK TO MY TALKING POINTS?

Posted by: JJ Daddy-O on August 27, 2009 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

Anytime Mr. Steele's qualifications were questioned in Maryland, the state GOP and people close to Robert Ehrlich would make statements like Mike K's first sentence and accuse the critic of racism.

I wonder if they've stopped defending him yet?

Posted by: howie on August 27, 2009 at 11:58 AM | PERMALINK

There were several candidates seeking the RNC chairmanship this year. The party chose the most ridiculous, least qualified, most confused one.
That is to say, they chose the one most representative of their party as a whole.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on August 27, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

He was so bad that I actually got out of bed at 5:20 am to send a comment in to NPR. He tried to make the point that health care reform would just be the same as Medicare and that Medicare was terribly inefficient, while protesting that it would interfere with doctor's treatment choices. Given that Medicare is very efficient (admin costs are 3%), the only way to cut costs is to educate doctors on the best treatments or to pay less for services. But Steele doesn't like either of those options.

I hadn't realized that NPR asks you to categorize your comment as positive/negative/neutral when you send it in. I figured that reality was neutral.

Posted by: lahke on August 27, 2009 at 12:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Hard to believe this guy really is the head of a major American political party."

As others have noted, there is a party that offered a dazed and confused candidate with nothing but secret plans for president, an intellectually empty-headed tyrant for vice-president, an "average-joe" who is against any policy that would benefit him personally as a mascot, and whose leaders are on a mission to lie about and obfuscate rational discussions about where we are and where we are heading as a nation. Steele fits right in.

Posted by: qwerty on August 27, 2009 at 12:07 PM | PERMALINK

I woke up this morning to what I thought must be a clip from a comedy routine...but no, it wasn't a Michael Steele impersonator. I was impressed by Inskeep's professionalism throughout what must have been a painful few minutes (in the sense of it hurting to keep belly-laughs contained).

"Trying to be cute"? Oy.

Posted by: docdave on August 27, 2009 at 12:15 PM | PERMALINK

I imagine Steele is proud of his performance. He got in several lies unchallenged.

He characterized the reform as "medicare for all".

He claimed that the government can never successfully compete immediately after acknowledging the existence of the post office.


I'm sure I could find more if I read a transcript rather than just listening to it while driving.


The real virtuosity was in taking both sides of so many issues. Medicare is good and government healthcare bad. Cutting medicare costs bad and what we need to do is cut medicare costs. The democrats won't do it right like us republicans and medicare D is a mess. Medicare must be preserved as is and medicare is going bankrupt as is. Medicare is constantly going bankrupt and people have depended on medicare for over forty years.


He also had a nice rhetorical trick where he would say that something (medicare bankruptcy for example) had been "raised as an issue" every few years forever. The fact that something is raised as an issue every few years but doesn't happen for over four decades means the people who are raising it as an issue are liars like Steele not that we should take the issue particularly seriously this time.

Posted by: JeffF on August 27, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see...you're questioning the intellect of the Republican Party by nominating Michael Steele as its Chairman.....

...while the Democratic Party picked Howard Dean as its leader of comparable position????

Posted by: John C on August 27, 2009 at 12:30 PM | PERMALINK

Howey: And that Clarence Thomas isn't Thurgood Marshall, for that matter.

MikeK: I thought liberals didn't allow anyone to question the intelligence of a black man.

Huh, you mean your stereotypes are bullshit? I'm shocked.

JohnC: Are you really so clueless as to not realize how much smarter Dean is than Steele? It's like comparing Noel Coward to Forrest Gump.

I mean, I know that any Republican with an ounce of intelligence is embarrassed to the point of incoherence, but come on, guys.

Posted by: DH Walker on August 27, 2009 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Uh, that would be one Howard Dean whose 50-state strategy destroyed the GOP in 2008.

Did you really just go there?

Posted by: cyb1851 on August 27, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

John C: Howard Dean got a Democratic Congress elected, and two years later he helped get Barack Obama elected. Steele's a mendacious buffoon at the head of a party of mendacious buffoons. Dean wins. Not coincidentally, America wins.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on August 27, 2009 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

JOHN C: That is the fucking most stupid comment you could make. Howard Dean as chairman of the Democratic Party was responsible for the 50-state campaign, which did the party a lot of good in getting Congressmen and Senators elected and a president elected. Let's see: During Howard Dean's chairmanship of the DNC, he expanded the number of congressmen and the number of senators. He can hold his own on an interview and understands questions that have "nuanced" in them, not thinking it means cloudy or murky. By any metric I will put Howard Dean up against Steele and the past RNC chairman any day.

Posted by: BC on August 27, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

I mean, I know that any Republican with an ounce of intelligence is embarrassed to the point of incoherence, but come on, guys.
"Any Republican with an ounce of intelligence" is an oxymoron. And can't be embarrassed. And starts out incoherent. Nice try, though.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on August 27, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

But he screamed!

Loudly!

Posted by: john c on August 27, 2009 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Gosh, why would republicans pick a leader who was incurious, inarticulate and ignorant of complex policies? Could it be that they became accustomed to such leadership during Dubya's time?

Posted by: Observer in SC on August 27, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

John C: That was a cry of victory. A little premature, maybe, but right on target.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on August 27, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Cap'n Chucky:

I was trying to be charitable. A more accurate statement would have noted that Republicans with an ounce of intelligence haven't been Republicans for a long time.

So, you have John C, who is too stupid to realize how smart Dean is, and Mike K, who is too stupid to realize how smart Obama is. They're like dim-witted high schoolers who think that calculus is "stupid" because they don't understand it.

Posted by: DH Walker on August 27, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

No way was Steele the most ridiculous least competent choice for GOP chairman. He's not good but there were more than a few rancid characters up for the job. Steele was kind of the moderate, no?

Posted by: joejoejoe on August 27, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

DH Walker: I was trying to be flippant. didn't mean to step on your charity.

joejoejoe: You may be right. Kind of scary that Steele may have been the pick of a very rotten crop.

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on August 27, 2009 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry. I think I meant "cream of the litter".

Posted by: Cap'n Chucky on August 27, 2009 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

Do I see snark? john c on August 27, 2009 at 12:47 PM and mhr? If these are genuine trolls, I cry for my country's sanity.

Posted by: st john on August 27, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK

Every time I see anything about Steele I am forced to think of the President from that film Idiocracy.

Posted by: Neil Andrew on August 27, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

I had the same reaction as Jeremy, he didn't know what "nuanced" means.

The other contradiction I picked up that has not been mentioned is that he thinks it is perfectly reasonable that the government can correct the problems of Medicare but unable to run a health care program. I wish there was video of Inskeep's face during this.

Posted by: Th on August 27, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, kids. Want to help Michael Steele feel some love?

Call his office -- 202-863-8700 -- and let them know, like I did, that you disagree with what people like Steve here are saying, that he "reflects poorly on the party, its agenda, and its ability to be serious about public policy."

That's just wrong. Steele is a perfect representative. In fact, he epitomizes what the GOP is all about.

Phone up, show Michael Steele you understand him fully.

Posted by: karen marie on August 27, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

"...he didn't know what "nuanced" means."

He knew all he needed to know. It sounds kinda french.

Posted by: JeffF on August 27, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks for the heads up. I didn't hear the introduction and didn't know who in the hell Inskeep was talking to but I did know it was some jerk. I quickly turned down the sound until the next segment. That's why radios have on/off switches.

Posted by: anonymous on August 27, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Too bad you didn't post the rest of the transcript, it got even funnier when it was obvious that Steele had no idea what the word nuanced meant!!

Posted by: ga73 on August 27, 2009 at 2:20 PM | PERMALINK

I heard that interview this morning over breakfast, and was amazed.

Posted by: g on August 27, 2009 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Mercy, I turned on NPR this morning and started listening to their usual announcer interview what I thought might be one of those dull-witted, shrill conspiracy buffs who keep calling into all the talk radio shows. Not until a few minutes had past did I realize that this hysterical fool was actually Micheal Steele, the chairman of one our major political parties.

We are truly damned if this is what our leaders are choosing to lead THEM.

Posted by: Midland on August 27, 2009 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Steele is doing exactly the right thing, exactly the right message.

Obama is nearly gutting Medicare to fund private insurance. That really STINKS.

Posted by: tropicgirl on August 27, 2009 at 5:36 PM | PERMALINK

I heard this interview live.

I started out laughing, but as it went on, I kept thinking OH NO he didn't say that, and OH NO he didn't say THAT.

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