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Conservatives &Politics Richard Falknor on 16 Dec 2008 05:15 pm

Does Michael Steele Have the Stuff to be Today’s RNC Chair?

SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATES AND EDUCATION-REFORM ADD-ON! 

We believe the Republican Party should be the natural home of conservatives.  Apparently quite a number of Republicans around the U.S. also believe the party should get back to basics.

The contest for the next chairman, moreover, is a lively one as we wrote on December 5 here

“The Republican National Committee’s 168 members will select a new chairman next January 28-31 in Washington, D. C.
. . . . . . . . . .

Very-long-serving (since 1988) Virginia National Committeeman Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute has sent the principal candidates and prospective candidates for the chairman position — Saul Anuzis of Michigan, Tina Benkiser of Texas, Ken Blackwell of Ohio, Katon Dawson of South Carolina, Mike Duncan of Kentucky, Jim Greer of Florida, Chip Saltsman of Tennessee, Michael Steele of Maryland, and senator John Sununu of New Hampshire — a searching 34-question inquiry.

Click here to see the cover letter and the text of the questions which are arrayed into three categories:  “Party Matters,” “Questions Relating to Consultants,” and “Personal Attributes and Plans.”

We found the questions themselves instructive, reflecting as they do [Morton] Blackwell’s unusual political depth. We hope our readers might find his queries about consultants as revealing as we did.

We don’t believe, however, that Republicans in a particular state should give weight to a candidate being that state’s “favorite son” if that candidate’s credentials don’t fit the job.  These are critical time for conservatives, and competence must come before tribal loyalty.

Which brings us to candidate (and former Maryland lieutenant governor) Michael Steele.

We agree with a thoughtful commenter here on The Next Right

“Bottom line: If Steele is elected, he’s going to enter as RNC Chairman with a higher level of distrust from the base than other candidates for Chairmen.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

What is Steele’s record in Maryland? 

Steele was a team-playing lieutenant governor in Maryland under Bob Ehrlich, a “centrist” Republican governor who raised taxes, grew spending, approved taxpayer-supported embryonic stem-cell research, and (gratuitously in our view) went out of his way to anger values voices and gun owners. A skilled advocate, Mr. Ehrlich’s chief policy goal was apparently the enactment of slots legislation.  Mr. Steele’s special contributions were heading an education task-force that didn’t address parental choice [through vouchers, which we see as essential for Baltimore City and similar areas -- scroll down to add-on indicating Steele did urge charter-school improvements-ed.] , and trying to advance the Old Line State’s minority-business-enterprise program.  The latter enterprise is based on awarding some state contracts on the basis of color and gender, hardly conservative principles. You can read the details of this gubernatorial administration in the Ehrlich Interlude here.

Whatever else the former governor did or did not accomplish, Bob Ehrlich got more votes here in his 2006 failed reelection bid for governor than Mr. Steele got here in his 2006 failed bid for U.S. senator. Mr. Ehrlich, in our view, never pretended to be any kind of conservative.

Most Republican general-election candidates for United States senator and most sitting Republican senators sign the national taxpayer-protection-pledge.

But not Michael Steele.

During the summer of 2006, U.S. Senate candidate from Maryland Michael Steele was hardly a supporter of the administration on Iraq — see the Washington Post article “Michael Steele Unveiled” here.

While chairman of GOPAC, Mr. Steele intervened here during a 2008 Maryland Congressional Republican primary fight.  Steele did so in behalf of incumbent Wayne Gilchrest —

“Steele, the current chairman of the Republican candidate-training organization GOPAC also stressed the congressman’s ‘independence’ during his address to the crowd.

The former lieutenant governor, who is also known for taking moderate stances, told reporters at the conclusion of the event that Gilchrest did not ‘come at things from a liberal or conservative position.’

He also weighed-in on the congressman’s opponents, and said he was against the ‘personal attacks’ launched against Gilchrest by the Harris campaign.”

As we wrote earlier this year here

On January 12, former Maryland lieutenant-governor Michael Steele said here “’litmus tests’ on such issues as abortion, immigration and tax cuts are wrong.” Mr. Steele’s declaration certainly meshes with the experience of Maryland and national taxpayer advocates who tried for some months starting in 2005 to get then-U. S. Senate-candidate Steele to sign the national no-new-taxes pledge here. Mr. Steele, however, was careful not to do so.(Underscoring Forum’s.)

As many readers know, Dr. Andy Harris unseated Mr. Gilchrest in the Republican primary, but lost in the general election.

Mr. Steele’s supporters could make a case along these lines: that their candidate’s undoubted charm and personal attractiveness are paramount for an RNC job; and that asking about taxes, fighting America’s enemies, the culture of life, giving parents some control over schools, and controlling porous borders is simply out of place — whether in supporting Republicans at the polls or in selecting a gifted national voice to weave a new post-partisan, inclusive public narrative necessary for Republicans to start winning again.

We suggest to our readers, on the other hand, weighing the expected responses from Morton Blackwell’s searching questionnaire here to the RNC chair candidates before readers make their own choice and before readers pass their wishes on to their state’s RNC members.  Townhall’s Matt Lewis reminds us that Americans for Tax Reform will also host here a debate on January 5  for RNC chair candidates.

UPDATE DECEMBER 24! “RNC Chair Candidates Respond to Morton Blackwell’s Questionnaire” here posted by Matt Lewis on Townhall.

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EDUCATION-REFORM ADD-ON JANUARY 2, 2009! The Maryland Public Policy Institute (MPPI) rightly declares here in their “The Steele Commission Report: A Lost Opportunity To Debate Vouchers In Maryland” that {w]hile there are a number of both positive and troubling recommendations, the report fails to even mention school vouchers as a way to improve the educational prospects of children trapped in too many failing Maryland schools. This gross oversight represents a lost opportunity to have a broad-based voucher debate in the state, at a time when similar debates are taking place around the nation and successful voucher programs are in place.” MPPI also points out that “the report does have a number of positive recommendations. Specifically, the Steele Commission recommends the following policy changes be enacted… Maryland’s charter school law, widely cited as one of the worst in America, should be reformed to allow for more chartering authorities and fewer regulations of the schools themselves.” We agree with MPPI’s assessment.  The Steele Commission did indeed make positive recommendations to improve charter schools.  But in our view, only vouchers can offer prompt relief for children from poor neighborhoods or in urban ghettos. Mr. Steele is quoted in the Baltimore Sun of September 28, 2004: “But the Ehrlich administration will not be advocating school vouchers, the lieutenant governor said, steering away from the divisive proposal that critics say drains money from public schools by allowing tax dollars to be spent on tuition at private schools.’It’s not something I’m pushing or the governor is pushing,’ he said. ‘Maryland is not ready.‘”(Underscoring Forum’s.) Earlier, Gregory Kane of the Baltimore Sun, had said of some voucher critics: “They still think — despite evidence of some of Baltimore’s worst middle and high schools, where lack of discipline, not lack of dollars, impedes learning — that the solution for public education is more money.(D.C. spends more per student than every state but has the second-worst school system in the country.)”

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