Thursday, May 21, 2009

Man of Steele II

Back in November 2006, I criticized the weak campaign of then-U.S. Maryland senatorial candidate Michael Steele (see link to my blog post through the title above).

Mr. Steele has now risen to the vaunted heights of Chairman of the national Republican Party and he is the first African American to achieve that position. I give him every credit for being chosen by his fellow Republicans to lead the party, undoubtedly a great opportunity for him.

Indeed, Michael Steele has been appointed to this important position at a time when the "Grand Old Party" (G.O.P.) is at its lowest point in recent history. The November election results favoring the Democrats can be partly attributed to the unpopularity of the Republican administration of former President George W. Bush, characterized by sky-high spending and grave mistakes in regard to the war in Iraq and in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Bush's unpopularity and the surprising political skill of the young and charismatic Democratic Party candidate, Barack Obama, led to Mr. Obama's clear victory... and the election of a man who is himself of course an African American.

Of most consequence to the future of the G.O.P., the success of the Democratic presidential bid also led to Republican defeats for seats in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. With the recent defection of moderate Republican Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania to the Democratic Party and the likely seating of comedian and Democrat Al Franken (for better or worse!) as the second Senator for Minnesota, the Democrats will control both houses of Congress at a time when President Obama is proposing major legislation.

The G.O.P. appears divided, hung up on issues such as opposition to abortion, stem cell research, and the environmental movement. Verily, the party is sundered, calling out for new leadership.

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh and ex-V.P. Dick Cheney have become the G.O.P's loudest voices. While the demogogic Limbaugh and the driven Cheney have supporters on the far right, I believe, along with more moderate Americans, that they are for the most part not popular with the electorate. They are preaching mostly to the choir. Oh, dear. The G.O.P's lack of unity is particularly disappointing when the nation faces dire economic times. I do believe a two-party or multi-party system, and it would be nice to see the Republicans get their act together and propose workable solutions to the ills that face us instead of just being the party of "No" opposing Obama's agenda.

Back in 2006, Steele, then Maryland lieutenant governor, ran against and was defeated by popular Democrat 35-year veteran Congressman Benjamin L. Cardin to fill retiring Senator Paul S. Sarbanes' seat. As I wrote then, while Mr. Steele dissed Democrats for dirty tricks, the candidate portrayed himself as honest and clean cut, his candidacy characterized most by his statement in a TV ad that he had a "liking for puppies"! I noted that he came across as "a nice guy but a politician with no substance."

Now it seems as if this Man of Steele is unfortunately acting in much the same way in the role of Republican Chairman. Man of Steele? More like feet of clay and, worse, an out-of-control off-topic opinion machine that makes Obama's gaffe-prone VP Joe Biden look like a neophyte.

Kathleen Parker, in an op-ed piece about the Republican Chairman in yesterday's Washington Post wrote that Biden must begin each morning with a prayer, "Please, God, let Michael Steele go on TV today."

Here's more from Ms. Parker's opinion article, "Steele but No Magnet":

"The running joke is that Republicans have 'tragic' where Democrats have 'magic.' The emerging consensus is that Steele, though he means well, has the wrong personality for the job.

"'He's goofy and light in heavy times,' as one insider put it.'"

So, Michael, he's your chance to live up to your name, and provide the inspiration that your ailing party needs. It would be nice to see a Marylander do that. Good luck, Michael!

Dramatic sky at the Columbus Statue, Union Station, Washington, D.C.

Union Station, D.C., 3:48 P.M.

Congressman Bluetooth berates
an intern, hands flapping,
guarding Samsonite luggage
like a mother barracuda.

Homeless man with ebony skin
touches each granite block.
Pencil-thin-moustache guy with
Stars and Striped tie pulls

a screwed-up ball of dollars
from deep within a pocket
of his baggy pants, scrutinizes
each bill, Marlboro on lip.

Christopher T. George

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