Is Steele Finally Getting It?

I can’t say I’ve ever had the utmost confidence in Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.  High hopes upon his assumption of the chairmanship had eroded due to clashes with conservatives, dispassionate responses to Obama administration policies, and more — and to me, Steele looked like just another Republican looking to distance the Grand Ole’ Party from its conservative roots.

So, naturally, when I heard that he was releasing Right Now: A 12-Step Program For Defeating the Obama Agenda and marketing it not only as a recipe for halting the slide into European-style socialism brought about by this administration but also as a prescription of sorts for fixing the GOP and returning the party to power, to say I was skeptical would be understatement of the year.  (Granted, the year is only six days old, but you get my point.)

See, when it comes to the fundamental ideas and ideals upon which this nation was founded, you either get it or you don’t.  That’s why, for a long time now, I’ve been pushing the Republican Party to approach each and every issue in these two upcoming elections and beyond by asking whether the issue in question was within the proper purview of a limited federal government as designed and envisioned by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.  Instead of the typical, myopic, issue-by-issue focus which has fostered a basic misunderstanding of conservative ideals, boil everything down to the correct role of government and start from there. To me, Michael Steele had never shown that he understood that.  In fact, his bristling attitude at times toward advocates of conservative principles and a limited federal government has shown just the opposite.

Yesterday, however, I saw a completely different man.  I saw glimpses of Michael Steele the Fox News Contributor, the same Michael Steele who originally got me so excited about the possibilities of his chairmanship.  The first glimpse came from an Associated Press piece released yesterday afternoon, written about interviews Steele has given over the past few days regarding his book release.  Consider these two snippets:

Steele’s new book, “Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda,” released Monday by Regnery Publishing, offers his blueprint for the party’s resurgence. The first step for Republicans, he says, is admitting that they have compromised their principles in the past decade.

“We must support Republican officials who assert these principles,” he writes. “When elected Republicans vote against Republican principles, the voters must withhold their support — withhold it vigorously and consistently.”

To regain the public confidence, Steele says the GOP should, among other things, expose the “reign of error” inherent in liberal policies, contrast conservative and liberal principles, and highlight the damage caused by Obama’s policies while explaining conservative solutions.

More surprising, the GOP chairman directly or indirectly criticizes:

  • President George H.W. Bush for raising taxes two years after President Ronald Reagan left office, though Steele ignores the fact that Reagan raised taxes too.
  • President George W. Bush for not vetoing spending bills during his first five years in office. He calls Bush and other Republicans “enablers for big government” and derides the Bush administration’s Troubled Asset Relief Program as “a massive government slush fund.”
  • Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, for backing censorship of political speech through the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. Steele says the GOP erred in allowing itself to be associated with “a national political speech code.”
  • Republican lawmakers in general, who allowed spending to rise from 2001 to 2004, went along with TARP and McCain-Feingold, and supported the Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit.

“We must quickly learn our lessons, return to our principles and move on,” Steele concludes.

Even then, I wasn’t convinced.  After all, Steele is pushing a book, and it doesn’t take Stephen Hawking on Adderall to look at the Tea Party movement exploding and expanding across America and determine that people are dissatisfied with big-government tendencies ingrained deep within both the Democratic and Republican parties.  Politicians and pundits alike tend to become more and more disingenuous as elections and opportunities approach, and Steele has held office, so to speak, within both categories.  It wasn’t until I saw his appearance on Greta Van Susteren’s show–during the 1:00 a.m. repeat, actually–that it finally dawned on me that, by golly, Michael Steele might just get it after all.

No, it wasn’t his enthusiasm with regard to the recently announced retirement of Democrats like North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorman or–just breaking now–Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd which caused me to look at Chairman Steele in a new light.  No, it wasn’t even his acknowledgment of the frustration of so many disenfranchised Americans, or even his brutal assessment of the policies and practices of this administration and Congress.  Anybody interesting in kowtowing to concerned conservative voters can do those things, and Steele has every reason to be concerned about the fracture of the political right should the GOP refuse to become the political vehicle for the principles espoused by the growing Tea Party movement.  Surprisingly enough, it was Steele’s answer to an almost after-the-fact question asked by Van Susteren which raised my eyebrows well into my ever-expanding forehead.

VAN SUSTEREN: This is sort of a random question, but in your book you talk about the no smoking in restaurants, as though that somehow is taking away the power of the people.  I don’t get that one, because it seems to me that people ought to be able to go to restaurants and not have smoke blown in their faces.  It almost takes the power away from the people if they’re getting smoke blown in their faces.  What’s with that?

STEELE: Well, the point there is an illustration of where elected officials make decisions without consulting the community.  Take for example what we’re witnessing in the District of Columbia on the gay marriage effort, to institute gay marriages in the District of Columbia. The citizens haven’t been consulted; you have the elected body, instead of taking something so important and so reflective of different points of view and having the citizens vote on it, the government is making these types of decisions.  The reality of it is, when you start stripping away individual choices, individual decisions about how they live their lives and what they do, that’s a little bit too much and, I think, it’s a good example of where a lot of people draw the line on their personal freedoms and their personal choices.

Folks, that’s everything right there.  Everything.  No matter how harmful second-hand smoke may be, no matter how much the vast majority of non-smoking Americans don’t want cigarette smoke lingering in the air as they enjoy their meal, the government has no business whatsoever legislating smoke-free restaurants and public places.  The same goes for health care reform, the same goes for gay marriage, the same goes even for abortion.  These are issues over which the government has no constitutional authority and therefore should be placed directly in front of the people on a state-by-state basis.  That Michael Steele took the chance and used such a populist example to prove a point about the proper size, scope, reach and role of the government is far more important than anything he could ever say on any particular issue or specific policy.

As unlikely as it might have seemed even a few days ago, I can say with confidence that Michael Steele absolutely gets it.  Twice yesterday, earlier in that interview with Greta Van Susteren and even earlier in the day during an interview with Fox News Channel’s Neil Cavuto, Steele mentioned that if he weren’t chairman of the RNC he’d be outside with the tea partiers “raising you-know-what.”  I shook my head when I first heard it.  I rolled my eyes when I heard him say it for a second time.  Now, though, because of his answer to an afterthought, I believe him.

What’s most important right now, at this juncture in American history, is not the dichotomy of blue versus red or left versus right and all of the purple points in between — what’s important right now is finding true liberty, the right spot on that sliding scale between totalitarianism and anarchy.  That’s the hallmark argument presented by the growing Tea Party movement.  Sure, the picket signs might decry higher taxes and increased spending and the steady slide into European-style socialism, but it all boils down to liberty versus tyranny.  And if the leadership in the Republican Party can understand that message at its core and transform the GOP into a political vehicle for those concerns and the proper approach to governance which will address them, we’ll be able to do far more than defeat Barack Obama’s agenda — we’ll be able to once again bring about growth, prosperity and freedom in the United States of America.



  1. iHope says:

    Finally, I cry tears of hope, instead of tears of fear.
    Thank you, Jeff, and Michael.
    Hang in there new grandson, you may see America in your lifetime.

  2. Richard White says:

    Fool me once . . .

  3. Lilly says:

    Thanks for pointing that out Jeff. I totally would have missed it. Lets hope the rest of the GOPs are finally waking up to that fact.

  4. Boston Blackie says:

    Call me jaded, but I will believe it when I see the change in the GOP. Like when Steele speaks out against Olympia Snowe’s vote to allow the healthscare to get out of committee. Her one vote is what caused EVERYTHING to be shoved down our throats. I will believe it when I hear the GOP speak out agianst how one mASSachusetts Supreme Court judge allowed gay marriage(the vote was 5-4 in favor)and the citizens of the state are not allowed to put it to a vote on the ballot. Also, where is the National GOP in the race to replace Ted Kennedy, they have not helped Scott Brown a bit financially even though the race is in single digits during the holiday season when most are not paying attention and the unenrolled will decide this race. Two weeks from today, we will know if the democRATS still have the 60 votes yet the GOP sits by the wayside with their hands folded.
    Again, call me jaded but…….

  5. PP says:

    Sorry, Jeff, but I still think Steele still got it wrong. He talks about taking it back to the citizens and having them vote on it, probably as a referendum? Referendums have their place but I personally think they are overused. It takes responsibility (and convenient blame) off of the representatives and effectually turns us into a democracy (mob rule). We are not a democracy. We are a representative republic. We only have a democratic process for electing our representatives. The form of government is not broken so lets not change it. The problem is multi-faceted but mostly lies in the hearts of the people who elect the representatives. Lets work on changing hearts, not the process.

    In the particular case of smoking, why can’t truly free markets solve this issue? As a restaurant owner, I will yield to the demands of my customers according to their vote with the pocketbook.

  6. Boston Blackie says:

    Steele mentioned that if he weren’t chairman of the RNC he’d be outside with the tea partiers “raising you-know-what.”

    I guess Michael won’t be invited onto Chris Matthew’s show since tingle-legged boy commented that all “teabaggers”(his words not mine) are white – code word for racist. When is someone going to call out these white hating racists. If I recall, wan’t there a black man assulted by SEIU members at a town hall meeting this summer. No wonder nobody watches Matthews.

  7. Power to the people says:

    “Power is not alluring to pure minds.” Thomas Jefferson

    Therein lies ALL our problems, people hungry for POWER.
    Fortunately, Dodd, and others, have quit their aspirations this week.

  8. PP says:

    To take the smoking illustration a bit further…

    To have a referendum still potentially disenfranchises nearly 50% of the people. There is most freedom by allowing the restaurant owner decide. That doesn’t mean that all the customers will be pleased but we’ll never have 100% unity on anything. But I believe in giving the freedom to the property owner and believe this viewpoint is closest to the spirit of our original founding tenets.

  9. Jeff Schreiber says:

    To take the smoking illustration a bit further…

    To have a referendum still potentially disenfranchises nearly 50% of the people. There is most freedom by allowing the restaurant owner decide. That doesn’t mean that all the customers will be pleased but we’ll never have 100% unity on anything. But I believe in giving the freedom to the property owner and believe this viewpoint is closest to the spirit of our original founding tenets.

    Great points.

  10. 2010, 2012 says:

    Well, the point there is an illustration of where elected officials make decisions without consulting the community.

    PEOPLE, that’s it. that’s everything right there.
    honestly, that statement above by steel encompasses ALL that frustrates me about THIS administration: YES, STEELE GETS IT!

    I have said forever that once obama got elected its as if he thinks the win is all thats required to do what HE wishes with total disregard for WE THE PEOPLE. the bottom-of-ladder-healthcare issue crystalized it. while ALL america spoke loudly that it was last on their lists of concerns and that we are all happy with what we have this administration went GONG-HO ahead as if we were trash along the sidewalk waiting to be swept up and removed to the dump.

  11. 2010, 2012 says:

    further to Steele’s/Jeff’s observation:

    Recently there was recent situation of a gym owner being told by some of his customers to remove the large american flag he displayed in his gym. he flatout said, NO. if my patriotism offends you, by all means please seek membership elsewhere. as for me, i can live without your patronage not only because there are enough other patriots like me but because i absolutely refuse to relinguish my desire and right to show how i feel about this country for a few dollars more.” ((( i paraphrased )))

    I gotta tell you if i lived in his city i would have taken up membership to his gym even though i dont do gyms. i walk, run, kickbox on my own for free and its a good time to appreciate this world and communicate with God, but i can guranteee you if that gym was in my State i would keep up the membership and perhaps even visit a few times just to show my support. but he would have me for as a lifetime member.


  12. 2010, 2012 says:

    i think the tea party is emerging as the party of accountability: if you screw up you get tossed because the tea party is constantly auditing. wow, that’s a wonderful thing. we finally have an instrument for evaluating and monitoring all politicians? it appears we the people are back to being we the people and will shape government to our likeing? that’s pretty profound.

    finally something to force the dirty ones out and from even attempting to run and something to come to the aid of those unfairly targeted. I’M ALL FOR IT. it need not be a disruption to the two-party system but rather a party to keep both parties honest.

  13. Psydog says:

    I like what Steele has said. I heard him on Shawn Hanity the other day and I thought – “about time”. Jeff I agree with you and Steele on the analogy of the smoking/no smoking. If a restaurant owner wants to allow smoking in his establishment then his clientele will decide if his business succeeds or fails and the government has no business legislating these issues. I’m sure our founding fathers never envisioned going to a tavern and being told by the government what they can or can not smoke inside or with “X” feet of the front door.

  14. Rick M. says:

    One of the previous commentators said ” tea party’s hold our officials accountable” (paraphrased). I think that is terrific! A totally independant party that over sees both parties as lobbyists and derives their power from the numbers in the tea party groups (national group). A watch dog group with teeth?

  15. Rick M. says:

    PS as far as Micheal Steele getting it? I’m not so sure. He can talk the talk but can he tow the line ?

  16. Gail B. says:

    Well, it’s about time!

    When Michael Steele took the position of head of the GOP, I wrote the GOP and offered my support and asked that Steele insist upon adherence to conservative principles by the Republicans in office. All I ever heard from them was an occasional telephone call to solicit a donation. It seems I am not the only one disappointed by his performance in his new position.

    It seemed that every time Steele opened his mouth, he stepped into it. That was amazing to me, given his background that enabled him to take over the GOP. I am certainly glad that he has found his end zone and goal post!

  17. Boston Blackie says:

    “I am certainly glad that he has found his end zone and goal post!”

    Gail, I agree, let’s hope the GOP scores and doesn’t fumble the ball on the one yard line which it seems like they have been doing lately. They need to stop being the lesser of two evils and be the alternative. They are just as much to blame for this mess we are in.


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