Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Steele Pulse

It is indeed a rarity in these days of modern politicking for a senate candidate to offer a healthy dose of criticism of his own party. But when Michael Steele did that yesterday, he did so anonymously. Under that temporary guise, the GOP candidate for the senate seat being opened by Sarbanes departure spoke quite candidly about the difficulties he will face running on the GOP ticket, a ticket that has been strongly endorsed by the Republican leadership. Karl Rove has even done some fund-raising for Steele. What then, are we to make of these candid remarks:
"Republicans aren't very happy people right now.The base is kind of ticked off."

He spoke of his party affiliation as though it were a congenital defect rather than a choice. "It's an impediment. It's a hurdle I have to overcome," he said. "I've got an 'R' here, a scarlet letter."

That left the candidate in a difficult spot. "For me to pretend I'm not a Republican would be a lie," he reasoned. But to run as a proud Republican? "That's going to be tough, it's going to be tough to do," he said. "If this race is about Republicans and Democrats, I lose."
Let us pass, for the moment, the conceit herein that there might actually be times when Republicans are not "ticked off" -- they always seem ticked off about something or other almost all the time -- the interest here is that Steele sees being a Republican candidate right now as a losing prospect. And he has every right to be considering that the polls are not looking good for the GOP right now. And how does Steele see that his party got to this point? A number of reasons, really, and they are mostly things Bush critics have been saying since day one. But the meme underlying a lot of these reasons is disconnect:
In 2001, we were attacked and the president is on the ground, on a mound with his arm around the fireman, symbol of America. In Katrina, the president is at 30,000 feet in an airplane looking down at people dying, living on a bridge. And that disconnect, I think, sums up, for me at least, the frustration that Americans feel.
Herein is yet another conceit. Bush didn't perform any better in 2001 than he did during Katrina. He still disappeared for three days before ambling his way into New York. But the Bush and the bullhorn myth is now so ingrained, it appears as a high point compared to his equally slow response to the New Orleans disaster. And, of course, at the time of Katrina, Bush was by then well known to be a bumbler, something only mildly and not widely suspected in September of 2001.

But Steele is still correct; Katrina was indeed a turning point for Bush and the GOP. It was dreadful behaviour from which they have not politically recovered. So much so that Steele now says he wants Bush no where near him in the run-up to the election. Asked if he wants Bush to campaign for him, Steele said,
To be honest with you, probably not.
Let's just note that again shall we. Steele offered to be honest and then ... he actually was. This is a special moment, people. A special moment, indeed.

Interestingly, Steele himself seems unaware of just what has been going in Congress. He expressed frustration with the GOP-led Congress:
You don't go to Congress to become the party that you've been fighting for 40 years.... the spending, the finger-pointing, not getting the bills passed," he counseled: "Just shut up and get something done.
Who doesn't agree on "the spending"? Though everyone seems to agree that it is a problem, those who created it and simultaneously criticise it, won't do anything about it either. That's a problem. But Steele's complaint that bills aren't getting passed is simply bizarre. The GOP has passed nearly everything they have introduced: tax cuts, the financial industry bankruptcy bill, the Big Pharma Medicare bill, tax cuts, the oil industry "energy" bill, tax cuts. Of course, like a true realpolitik Republican, the bills not passed that he is lamenting are the ones of which he was strongly in favour: the ones that would address the crucial issues of flag burning and gay marriage. Steele is not quite the fresh and open-eyed GOP radical that some might now think him to be. He was entirely supportive of Bush's veto of the stem cell funding bill.

Now that his campaign has acknowledged that it was Steele who made these "incendiary" remarks, it appears to be more of sign that Steele knows he has a big hump to get over just lifting himself above the disgruntlement threshold. And in the state of Maryland, though it has been trending Republican with an expanding, effite, self-indulgent suburban waste land, it is still blue. Well, blue-ish. In fact, across the country, any GOP candidate in a tough race can do nothing but benefit from criticizing Bush.

Steele knows this, and criticising the administration and a towel-boy Congress that much of the rest of the country is already unhappy with is his only real chance come this November. Hell, I suspect he even got Karl Rove's permission to go on record.


Blogger earthtogod said...

Once a patsy, always a patsy.

10:58 AM  

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