Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 5, 2009

GOP LEADERS TIRE OF STEELE'S 'POLICY' WORK.... In July, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele hosted a press conference to bash health care reform, and effectively read a strategy memo from Alex Castellanos. When asked by reporters about substantive details, Steele declared, "I don't do policy."

The problem, of course, is that Steele tries to do policy all the time, which has proven problematic. For one thing, he doesn't know what he's talking about. For another, he's not in a policymaking position, and can't pursue a substantive agenda, even if he wanted to.

Apparently, leading Republican officials, who actually have policy responsibilities, are getting a little tired of Steele's antics.

GOP leaders, in a private meeting last month, delivered a blunt and at times heated message to RNC Chairman Michael Steele: quit meddling in policy.

The plea was made during what was supposed to be a routine discussion about polling matters and other priorities in House Minority Leader John Boehner's office. But the session devolved into a heated discussion about the roles of congressional leadership and Steele, according to multiple people familiar with the meeting.

The congressional leaders were particularly miffed that Steele had in late August unveiled a seniors' "health care bill of rights" without consulting with them. The statement of health care principles, outlined in a Washington Post op-ed, began with a robust defense of Medicare that puzzled some in a party not known for its attachment to entitlements.

The comments reportedly came by way of Boehner, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and John Thune. In other words, pretty much the entire Republican leadership told the RNC chairman to focus on his job, not theirs. What's more, they were less than gentle in delivering the message. (Asked if it was a contentious conversation, Thune would only say: "I don't want to get into the details of that.")

Steele apparently got defensive. It didn't help that he was planning to present even more policy initiatives.

I'm not entirely unsympathetic to Steele's predicament. He reportedly reminded GOP leaders that he travels the country, and Republican activists ask where the party stands on a range of issues. Since Republican leaders in the House and Senate prefer not to have a policy agenda, Steele is using his post to just fill the vacuum.

The problem, though, is that he's not doing it very well.

Steve Benen 10:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Comments

How are Congression leaders doing?

Posted by: goethean on October 5, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

Gee, it only took the GOP geniuses something like half a year to realize they have an issue in the leadership setup of the party?

Btw, John McCain was not present at the meeting? Is he also not going to do policy in his 'makeover' of the GOP?

Posted by: SRW1 on October 5, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

steele's gone rogue!

Posted by: sadly on October 5, 2009 at 10:18 AM | PERMALINK

Did you know Steele used to be Mike Tyson's brother in law? Of course he should do policy!

Posted by: bdbd on October 5, 2009 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Isn't the problem the same one they had with Palin? The whole party is essentially made up of old, stupid, white guy *gamblers*--just as McCain made a gamble that by picking Palin he'd get just enough support and excitement to get over the hump and get into the White House they thought that they could somehow, for a short time, parlay Steele's blackness into a short term benefit vis a vis the Democratic party and Obama. He was the default choice but he was their choice and that was fairly explicit in their public reasoning on why he was chosen--he was there to reassure suburban whites that the GOP weren't stone racists.

But just as with McCain's picking Palin, or Joe the Plumber, this form of "identity politics" will almost always push a cardboard cutout of a person into an important role (vp, spokesman, rnc chair) that you actually need a very talented person to fill. They've just run up against the limits of putting a figure head in to do a real job and are now trying to figure out how to get rid of him and put a technocrat in.

aimai

Posted by: aimai on October 5, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

It looks like the misguided Republican attempt to get themselves a high profile black guy to compete with Obama is going less well than their attempt to get a high profile woman to compete with Hilary Clinton. That really is what is going on here. No one in the upper reaches of the Republican Party ever gave Steele a second thought until Obama won the nomination and Republicans started looking around and asking one another if anyone knew a black guy. And they were no more sincere in picking Palin.

Look at how these choices have turned out. Democrats have let women and minorities come into the party and prove themselves, as a result a few have reached high level positions. When the Republicans were looking at the political landscape they saw a woman and a black guy so they got woman and a black guy - not people who had worked for years to rise in the party (they have women who have done that but no black people as we all remember when Alan Keyes was their first response to Obama) but people who would pander to the increasingly extreme base of the party.

Steele and Palin are basically the same person, weak local level politicians with outsized egos who will do or say just about anything. Neither has a set of well thought out ideas, morals, or principles, they are merely power hungry and not competent enough to understand their own shortcomings. Palin has a brighter future within the party because she is white. Steele is just as unqualified and just as likely to say ridiculous things (and both are no longer in elected office) but the current Republican Party is too reliant on a base that does not believe black people should be in charge of things.

Posted by: Dr. U on October 5, 2009 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

The Republicans-being Republicans- never, ever figured that their pick for RNC Chairman would get 'uppity". . .

Posted by: DAY on October 5, 2009 at 10:39 AM | PERMALINK

TPM has a video of this week's SNL opening skit.

I knew when Tina Fey did her Palin impression that the McCain campaign was hosed.

Now SNL is making fun of the "do-nothing" presidency of Obama.

If Obama's numbers begin to tank again it won't be hard to point to something like this as the start.

If you are the Chief-of-Staff and you see programs like SNL are laughing at the President you know you are in trouble.

Every President is the butt of TV jokes, of course., but when they are targeted at your "accomplishments" they can have an impact on public opinion. Remember Chevy Chase's Ford routines? (If not, see YouTube.)

See the video here: http://tpmtv.talkingpointsmemo.com/?id=3576808

Posted by: Joesbrain on October 5, 2009 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

aimai, that's well put. The GOP of late seems to be too focused on short-term "marketing" tactics. Perhaps this is reflective of its bias toward corporate-style management. In the US the big boys have tended in recent years to believe that tricky marketing was the great edge (rather than, say, product innovation, quality of manufacture, etc.).

Those of us on the outside looking in can easily see the weakness of a single-minded focus on cynical marketing ploys, but I suspect that many Republican leaders can't. They can't because this is the paradigm they consider "normal." As we have seen with the Detroit automakers, it can be awfully difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.

It's possible that the old dogs will succeed in toppling Obama (e.g., the economy IS strikingly fragile, Afghanistan could blow up, and...). But if Obama doesn't falter, I don't see how the Republicans can begin to seriously retool until the old dogs are discredited in another blowout election or two. Only then can new leaders and ideas to emerge.

Posted by: dr Lemming on October 5, 2009 at 10:41 AM | PERMALINK

There's no way a meeting that lasted only 10 minutes can be classified as "a discussion". This was a bawling-out session, pure and simple. It's likely that Steele started snapping back at the so-called "leadership", and things went downhill from there.

Posted by: roboticus on October 5, 2009 at 10:42 AM | PERMALINK

Color commentary...

Poor Uncle Mike got carried away.
I hope he apologized profusely...

Your job is to say things that would be racist if one of us white guys said it...
Black guys make poor quarterbacks. White guys do policy.
Everybody knows that.
We are paying you to do color commentary. Period.
Know your place boy...


Posted by: koreyel on October 5, 2009 at 10:53 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP's only policy is to make Obama look bad. They don't care about anything else.

Posted by: Marko on October 5, 2009 at 11:00 AM | PERMALINK

Steele actually does policy work. Who knew :)?

Posted by: Tommy on October 5, 2009 at 11:02 AM | PERMALINK

Steele saw a vacuum and took advantage of it. While the GOP is busy taking Steele to task, it should also include Hannity, Dobbs, Beck, Limbaugh, etc. They have much more influence over the party than Steele does.

Posted by: majii on October 5, 2009 at 11:03 AM | PERMALINK

Someone alluded to "Blazing Saddles" in a thread from a few days ago when discussing Republican animosity towards Barrack Obama.

Uncle Steele has some of the same issues. So here is the shorter Blazing Saddles version of the GOP leadership message to Steele:

Outta ma way nigger.

Posted by: Banana-Eating Jungle Monkey on October 5, 2009 at 11:14 AM | PERMALINK

In Steele's defense - it's hard to do policy when you represent a party that has none.

Posted by: Stetson Kennedy on October 5, 2009 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

affirmative action - you're doing it wrong

Posted by: Rathskeller on October 5, 2009 at 12:21 PM | PERMALINK

Aimai - Excellent point, but you missed the most prominent and disastrous example of promoting a cardboard incompetent to high position: George W. Bush. But with George, they at least knew to make sure he had Cheney as a handler to keep him in line.

Posted by: inkadu on October 5, 2009 at 1:10 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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