The real question Americans are asking is, "What has President Obama actually accomplished?"… It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain — President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.
– GOP Chairman Michael Steele on President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.
The Republican National Committee chairman’s recent comments beg the question: What has Michael Steele actually accomplished for the GOP?
How has he backed up his rhetoric with concrete action? How is he more than “just star power?” What has he done toward “peace and human rights?”
Has the chairman presented any original thoughts for improving the lives of Americans?
What Steele has been exceedingly effective at is insulting black people’s intelligence since he became RNC chairman. He’s also made a habit of insulting the country’s first black president rather than engage him on legitimate policy matters.
Let’s start with the Nobel Peace Prize. It is valid to debate whether the award was given for political reasons and more for President Obama’s potential than what he has done so far. I won’t go into the merits of that issue, because I believe the Nobel jury’s recent comments explaining their decision speak for themselves.
But the comments from Steele are laden with irony, being that he doesn’t even have credibility within his own party. His climb to the pinnacle of the GOP is an exercise in political opportunism and rank tokenism that left many people wondering why he deserved the job given his inability to raise money in past campaigns, and his then-low national profile. The membership chose him as chairman 10 days after Obama‘s inauguration solely because they wanted to put a black face on a mostly white political party rather than actually reform the party’s well-deserved reputation for being anti-black.
Steele wasn’t in office for even a month when, after several missteps, party leaders were calling his election as RNC chairman a mistake and calling on him to step down. Why aren’t they still?
Then Steele went through his ridiculous hip-hop phase when he claimed to be reaching out to disaffected young black people who ostensibly would connect to the GOP because its chairman could speak their language by ineptly using so-called black slang. It was a failed strategy that managed to be simultaneously laughable and insulting.
Steele’s brand of Obama critique reeks of hateration or more simply, jealousy. Every time he tries to draw attention to Obama’s supposed failings, Steele ends up drawing attention to his non-impressive self. One gets the feeling that Steele spends more time coming up with ways to insult President Obama than coming up with a respectable approach for making the notion of convincing more blacks to join the GOP seem like more than a impossible fool’s errand.
As for “job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action,” the Republicans had eight years to do this under former Pres. Bush and instead millions of Americans lost their jobs, their homes, and their retirement savings. Backing up rhetoric with concrete action? I guess he’s referring to the commendable, cooperative, bipartisanship the Republicans are currently exhibiting in Congress.
If the GOP is really sincere about reaching out to black voters they ought to get rid of Steele and do some real outreach. Ken Melhman, a white guy and the former RNC chairman, traveled the country and addressed black civic groups and organizations. He talked openly about the GOP’s mistakes and insensitivity on issues important to African-Americans and promised they were committed to doing better. “If you give us a chance, we’ll give you a choice,” became his standard line. Perhaps he was just blowing smoke, but it was less offensive and more effective than what Steele said he would do to bring more blacks into the Republican fold, which was to offer them fried chicken. Yes, fried chicken.
If a white RNC chairperson had used such stereotypical language, it would have likely gotten them removed from the post because of the outrage it would surely have prompted. What this said about the RNC and even more about Steele is that neither the organization nor its leader are worthy of black people’s support.
The one time Steele tried to show a little backbone by dismissing Rush Limbaugh, a.k.a. the “big fat idiot”, as an entertainer who said “ugly” and “incendiary” things and not the leader of the Republican Party, Limbaugh verbally bitch-slapped him into submission. Steele promptly apologized and, in true spineless fashion took back everything he said about Limbaugh.
Steele has also harshly criticized Obama for asking Gov. David Patterson “one of only two black governors in the country,” not to run for reelection because no one believes he can win, pointing out in an appearance on “Face the Nation” that it was a “curiosity” that Obama was targeting the black governor and not any white ones. And yet when the first black American president wins a Nobel Peace Prize, Steele can’t muster even a small dose of pride, neither racial nor American pride.
This is the man, who after serving as lieutenant governor of Maryland for four years, ran for Congress in 2006 and lost badly. Steele’s congressional campaign was marked by questionable spending. All of this makes me wonder why a man who lives in such a big glass house has so little compunction about throwing stones.
Obama may have to move mountains to get the economy on track, reform the healthcare system, end two wars, bring the Israelis and the Palestinians back to the negotiating table and tackle a host of other complicated and controversial foreign and domestic problems. Yet millions of Americans believed him worthy of a chance to try. That’s why they elected him in November and that’s why he got the Nobel Peace Prize. Michael Steele? Let’s see if manages to move even a molehill.
Marjorie Valbrun is a regular contributor to The Root.