Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Man Of Steele Turns Heel?

Did Maryland Lieutenant-Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Michael Steele anonymously peddle this line to the WaPo's Dana Milbank?

The candidate looked the part of the contender, wearing a monogrammed shirt, his French cuffs sprouting cuff links coordinated with his necktie. He ate carefully, removing the gelatinous yolk from the four-minute egg in his salad. But he spoke with little caution as he ladled a heaping portion of criticism on his own party.

"In 2001, we were attacked and the president is on the ground, on a mound with his arm around the fireman, symbol of America," he said, between bites of hanger steak and risotto. "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."

Wow. What a turncoat. If this is the way Steele feels, or the path he thinks he has to take to be competitive against Ben Cardin or Kwiese Mfume in the fall, why doesn't he just become a Democrat and be done with it? And if it isn't, that doesn't jibe at all with the high character image this man has projected since he burst onto the national stage at the GOP convention two years ago.

However, leave it to Rush Limbaugh to add a little context to the subject:

It just seems that poor old President Bush, everybody he is nice to, just whacks him, slaps him, slaps him down - everybody - we've all done it. I've done it on immigration, Ted Kennedy at the White House, as I say half the Senate does it most of the time, Lindsey Graham is out there, Vice President Graham trying to screw up the whole mess of business by which we deal with terrorist captives in prison. But the White House could reach out to Steele. If you're Michael Steele, let me just play devil's advocate for a second. You're Michael Steele, and you're being portrayed at the NAALCP and others as a Uncle Tom, and a traitor, you know, the usual thing that conservative black Republicans get. Then last week you see the President [goes] over [to] the NAALCP, and the President's extending the hand of friendship to Julian Bond, who has compared him to a Taliban leader and to Adolf Hitler. If you're Michael Steele, you're going to be saying, "Well, wait a minute," if you're Michael Steele, you say, "Did the President recommend to the NAACP audience my candidacy or Lynn Swann's candidacy [or Ken Blackwell's in Ohio] when he had the chance?" No, he didn't.

Now it is true that Steele's fratricidal sniping long pre-dates Bush's toadying pilgrimmage to the NAALCP. And it has to be maddeningly rankling to Steele as it is to the rest of us why the President would give an audience to that bastion of the Black Klan. But it still illustrates the central principle at issue which is that loyalty is supposed to be a two-way street. And it seems to me that, given that the President will never again be on a ballot whereas Lieutenant-Governor Steele is in the fight of his political life, the latter needs Dubya's loyalty quite a bit more than Dubya needs his.

If Steele does triumph in November, next year's State of the Union Address should provide some interesting photo opportunties.