Tag Archives: Michael Steele

“The Truth Commission” or “How To Avoid Repeating the Past” (I’m back!)

Let’s talk about this idea of a “Truth Commission:”

History (and I mean recent history) has shown us that it is extraordinarily important for a society to confront, atone, and record the grave misdeeds of its past, as opposed to simply “forgetting” about said past and looking toward the future. Even for me, it is difficult not to instinctively believe that simply moving forward is the best use of national resources. However, vastly disparate contemporary political conditions in Germany and Austria attest to the cost of willful forgetfulness and the manipulation or glossing over of an unflattering historical narrative:

Assuming that most of you have, at the very least, an elementary understanding of the events leading up to and during WWII, I will not recap the war crimes committed by these two countries, as this is not a comparison between American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan and those of the Third Reich. To be clear, I am in no way suggesting that the United States today (or of the past 8 years) is comparable to Nazi Germany, and neither am I suggesting that American citizens were equally silently complicit, as many have claimed of the citizenry of Germany and Austria in the 1930s-1940s. I do, however, think that the aftermath (and I use that word lightly as I am really looking to the 1960s-1980s) contains lessons that we need to learn from.

Today, Germany’s parliament has one of the lowest levels of far-right participation in Europe (1.4%). Austria has the highest (18%). German Neo-Nazi groups certainly exist, but are extraordinarily limited and shunned by the general population. In Austria, the interests of the extreme right are discussed in the halls of government. How did this happen? What accounts for this disparity? Scholars have posited that Germany’s eventual willingness to confront its Nazi past through a surprisingly honest national dialogue that accepted guilt, as opposed to Austria’s “victim” narrative, provided a certain catharsis and openness that acknowledged the importance of admitting and atoning for the mistakes of the past in order to avoid repeating them in the future. Suddenly the younger generations had a frame and language with which to discuss Germany’s past with the older generations, and in doing so they effectively killed the elephant that was sucking the oxygen out of the room.

Austria, on the other hand, chose to perceive its position in WWII as that of the victim, thus ensuring that national guilt and shame remain slowly boiling beneath the surface and necessitating a certain amount of justification in order to maintain the status quo. Austria agreed with the school of thought that said focusing on the future rather than the past is a cleaner, less messy means of moving the country forward. This, however, essentially ensured the rise of the far-right as a major political player since Austria had/(has) yet been unwilling to even admit that it was the ideals of a not-completely-dissimilar far-right that led to their complicity in the first place. Admitting to the failings of the far-right would be admitting to complicity, which would then negate the victim narrative and then where would they end up? The unwavering answer should be, “hopefully not back in the 1940s.”

One must see Austria and Germany as exemplifying the two directions in which a society can go after major national trauma. We can look at the past, confront it, and weave it into a better future and a more honest national narrative or we can pretend like the past doesn’t exist and focus exclusively on what is ahead. These are our only two options and the one that we, as Americans, decide upon may define our future decades down the road. The idea of a “Truth Commission” may seem like liberal mumbo-jumbo to a lot of people who think talk is cheap, but in this case silence could end up a much more costly and dangerous game.

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Jim Leach: The GOP, Michael Steele, And That Big Tent Everybody Keeps Talking About

Remember Jim Leach? The moderate Republican Rep. from Iowa defeated in 2006 by Dave Loebsack in a major upset partially attributed to his refusal to allow Republican activists to distribute an anti-gay mailing? Phew. Had a lot to say there.

Today, on Politico’s The Arena, Leach posted a very thoughtful comment on where the GOP is today, how it moved there, and why everybody keeps talking about tents. The initial question asked was: “Is there room for Michael Steele in the GOP tent? How small can a tent get anyway?”

Jim Leach’s response:

If he doesn’t survive it will be a shame

Yes, this is all about the most overused metaphor in Republican politics – the tent. At issue is not only how big it is but how many doors it has. 

The pillars of Goldwater’s tent were decidedly of an individual rights, individual initiative nature. They were not considered strong or compassionate enough to hold a majority of the American people, at least at the time. The tent therefore got broadened with 1) a Southern strategy, based in part on Republican connivance but principally on a Democratic Party becoming philosophically committed to a Northern abolitionist soul, and 2) an appeal to fundamentalist pro-life values which gave a perceived moral legitimacy to a collectivist spectrum of issues beyond the realm of the traditional Rockefeller/Goldwater divisions within the party. 

What this meant was that the door to the Republican tent was opened to include two huge groups that had for most of the 20th Century been Democrats – Catholics and fundamentalist Christians. At the same time, however, as these new entrants came in the front door, traditional “country club” Republicans who had been comfortable with Taft, Eisenhower, Goldwater, Ford, and the gentler sides of Reagan and G.H.W. Bush began walking out the back of the tent. They – doctors, lawyers, business leaders – found their values and their leadership challenged. Understandably, the new entrants to the party determined that they didn’t simply want to be manipulated at the voting booth as “strategists” from Atwater to Rove may have wanted. They wanted to lead, to insist on more absolutist approaches to values, and abandon the tolerance and diversity which had been the progressive pinions of Republican philosophy from 1853 through much of the 20th Century. 

In this context it is impressive not that Michael Steele is proving controversial but that he was elected in the first place. If he doesn’t survive, it will be a shame; but the party should be given more than a little credit that he has been given a chance.

Interesting.

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DCCC Does Something Kind Of Weird

Tim Kaine, Robert Gibbs, and the rest of the Democratic mouthpieces are clearly pushing the “Rush as GOP Zeus” story line as hard as they can, and are certainly relishing in the Rush-Steele girl fight. I happen to think it’s a good strategy to pick up the middle brow moderates who have essentially been lost in the Republican shuffle, but THIS is too much. 

Does the DCCC really believe that the creation of imsorryrush.com is the best use of their funds? It’s like the DCCC stumbled upon Karl Rove’s PG-13 playbook from high school and just can’t help themselves…

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Rush Responds!

Transcript from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show via Daily Kos:

Yes, said Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, I’m incendiary, and yes, it’s ugly. Michael Steele, you are head of the RNC. You are not head of the Republican Party. Tens of millions of conservatives and Republicans have nothing to do with the RNC and right now they want nothing to do with it, and when you call them, asking them for money, they hang up on you. I hope that changes. I hope the RNC will get its act together…

It seems to me that it’s Michael Steele who is off to a shaky start….

Now, Mr. Steele, if it is your position as the chairman of the Republican National Committee that you want a left wing Democrat president and a left wing Democrat Congress to succeed in advancing their agenda, if it’s your position that you want President Obama and Speaker Pelosi and Senate leader Harry Reid to succeed with their massive spending and taxing and nationalization plans, I think you have some explaining to do.

Why are you running the Republican Party? Why do you claim you lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it that President Obama succeeds? I frankly am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda…

You’ve gotta hand it to him, Rush is quite an entertainer (as Michael Steele likes to point out…). I had fun. The Plum Line has the Rush’s full response.

 

Rush Responds! And The Markets Take Note. So Does Obama.

Rush Responds! And The Markets Take Note. So Does Obama.

 

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Rush vs. Republicans, Round 1

How is it that there is an argument going on within the GOP/Politosphere about whether or not the Republican party wants President Obama to fail? This seems completely ludicrous! We’re only a little more than a month into his presidency. It wasn’t all that long ago that Obama won an election in which a fair majority of the American public voted for his proposed policies and, to some degree, ideology. The ideology hasn’t changed, so one must ask whether or not some Republicans (Rush Limbaugh) with hopefully short-term amnesia have inadvertantly decided to take a stand against the American citizenry, because let’s be clear: if Obama fails, we all fail.  Of course, I’m simplifying a more nuanced battle royale- the one between unelected non-deciders like Rush and elected officials like Eric Cantor and even Michael Steele- but for now let’s just all hope that sanity wins the day (notice that today Eric Cantor represents sanity…).

Chris Good over at Marc Ambinder writes about the inter-party dance-off:

Rush Limbaugh’s barn-burner at CPAC this weekend drew a line in the sand, once again, for Republicans: either they want President Obama to fail, or they don’t. RNC Chairman Michael Steele, subsequently, walked a tightrope on the issue last night in an interview with D.L. Hughley on CNN.

Conservative and liberal blogs alike Monday picked up on Steele’s response, some blasting Steele and others promoting a fight between the two GOP heavyweights. But Steele’s answer to Limbaugh, and its political implications, were a bit more complicated.

First came the question of Steele’s status as party leader. Hughley challenged the RNC chairman, asserting that Limbaugh is the GOP’s de facto leader. “No he’s not,” Steele responded. “I’m the de facto leader of the Republican Party.”

On the philosophy behind Limbaugh’s “fail” assertion, Steele supported the conservative commentator; on the rhetoric of it, Steele stood opposed to Rush:

“How is that any different than what was said about George Bush during his presidency?” Steele asked, making a point Limbaugh himself made during the CPAC speech, in response to Hughley’s blasting of Limbaugh’s “incindiary” rhetoric.

“Let’s put it in the context here,” Steele said. “Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. His whole thing is entertainment…yes, it’s incindiary, yes, it’s ugly.” And that’s the line that has gotten the idea of Steele vs. Rush so much play in the blogosphere today.

The complexity of Steele’s response stands in stark opposition to that of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, who, speaking on ABC’s “This Week” yesterday, clearly distanced himself from the radio commentator’s claim: “Nobody–no Republican, no Democrat–wants this president to fail, nor do they want this country to fail or the economy to fail,” Cantor said.

While Cantor and Steele both attacked the rhetoric, there are big differences between their political situations: Cantor, as a prominent leader in the House GOP, has to work with Obama; Steele, as the party’s top political officer, has to generate campaign cash, balance the interests of the GOP’s base–much of which, evidently, strongly agrees with Limbaugh–all the while asserting himself as political top dog in the GOP against claims that Limbaugh is the party’s de facto leader.

Steele has put forth a vision for a more inclusive GOP–not necessarily inclusive to the idea of working with Democrats, but inclusive to new voting demographics–and “incindiary” rhetoric like Limbaugh’s may seem to threaten his chance at bringing in new votes. Then again, nothing generates campaign donations like passionate support, and nothing generates passionate support like “incindiary” opposition to Democrats.

The idea of Steele attacking Rush likely isn’t one the RNC wants floating around the blogosphere–after all, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) ended up calling Limbaugh to apologize for criticizing him in January–but Steele stood behind Rush’s desire for Obama to “fail.” He may not be reaping the media-coverage benefits for doing so, but the distinction highlight’s Steele’s position between Limbaugh, Cantor, and the GOP donor base.

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