A dust-up over a common Washington practice.
You can’t make this stuff up.
It seems my post on the Michael Steele book kerfuffle has now become involved in a spat over at the RNC. The Washington Times has a story filed by the legendarily plugged-in Timesman Ralph Hallow.
The blog post noted — correctly - that Mr. Steele is not the first GOP chairman to write a book while serving as chairman of the RNC. Then-RNC chair Haley Barbour wrote Agenda for America during his tenure, the book published in 1996.
This fact — and it is a fact — has been correctly cited by Michigan RNC member Holly Hughes in a defense of Mr. Steele. She has been challenged by New Jersey’s longtime RNC member Dave Norcross who says this:
“National Committeewoman Hughes closes her e-mail to the membership by writing, ‘I think [Mr. Lord] has got it right.’ Unfortunately ‘this guy’ most assuredly does not have it right,” Mr. Norcross said. “I was general counsel to the RNC during Gov. Barbour’s chairmanship. The book in question was written for the National Policy Forum and all sales proceeds went to the National Policy Forum.”
“This controversy over book tours and speeches has now led to the spreading of disinformation about one of our great chairmen, a very successful governor and current outstanding chairman of the RGA.”
With all due respect to Dave Norcross (whom I met years ago as a young aide to Pennsylvania’s RNC member and ex-Reagan Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis), I got it exactly right. I was a member of the National Policy Forum which he cites, and Haley Barbour, a former White House colleague, boss and friend is not in the least being disparaged here.
The entire premise of the “National Policy Forum” would have gone exactly nowhere were it not pinned to then Chairman Barbour. Indeed, the jacket of the book proclaims proudly that the entire existence of the NPF was “masterminded by Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour.” In typical Barbour style this book was an energetic reach out to those “outside the beltway” (as the book puts it.) It also, not coincidentally, publicized Haley Barbour. To which the appropriate answer is: so what?
Anyone who has spent a nano-second in Washington understands that writing books has long been used by office-holding politicians of both parties to make a point, elevate their profile and, yes indeed, earn money. As someone who has worked in Washington on Capitol Hill as well as in the Reagan White House — and is now a writer/author living outside the Beltway — I can say the attack here on Mr. Steele (of whom, as noted, I have been a critic on occasion) is indeed “bogus.” The argument is not only disingenuous, how could it possibly be anything else than bogus considering the history of Washington and political book writing — beginning with Republicans?
Let’s start with the book issue. Here are a few titles by sitting Republican officeholders Mr. Norcross may have forgotten.
The Rough Riders — by Governor Theodore
The Conscience of a Conservative — by Senator Barry Goldwater, 1960.
An American Renaissance — by Congressman Jack Kemp, 1979.
Believing in America — by Congressman Bud Shuster, 1983.
The American Idea — by Congressman Jack Kemp, 1984.
Window of Opportunity — by Congressman Newt Gingrich, 1984.
Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation — by President Ronald Reagan,1984.
Looking Forward — by Vice President George Bush, 1987.
Republican Almanac — Republican National Chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf, 1987.
To Renew America — by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich,1994.
A Matter of Interpretation — by Justice Antonin Scalia, 1998.
A Charge to Keep — Governor George W. Bush, 1999.
Faith of Our Fathers — by Senator John McCain, 1999.
The Supreme Court — by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, 2001
Square Peg — by Senator Orrin Hatch, 2002.
We Will Prevail — President George W. Bush, 2003.
It Takes a Family — by Senator Rick Santorum, 2005.
My Grandfather’s Son — by Justice Clarence Thomas, 2007.
One could go on here — and on and on — with books by sitting Republican officeholders. Many of these are listed on Amazon.com. Let’s not forget that world beater, Journey to the Far Pacific, by New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey back there in 1952.
This doesn’t even touch the books pushed out by office-holding Democrats or Republicans-turned-Democrats over the years. The briefest of lists would include:
Profiles in Courage — by Senator John F. Kennedy,
The Strategy of Peace — Senator John F. Kennedy,1960.
To Turn the Tide — President John F. Kennedy, 1962.
The Job of the Congressman — by Congressman Morris K. Udall, 1966.
To Seek a Newer World — by Senator Robert F. Kennedy, 1967.
Thirteen Days — by Senator Robert F. Kennedy, 1968.
O Congress — by Congressman Donald Riegle, 1972.
A New Democracy — by Senator Gary Hart, 1983.
Passion for Truth — by Senator Arlen Specter, 2000.
The Audacity of Hope — by Senator Barack Obama, 2006.
Promises to Keep — by Senator Joseph Biden, 2007.
Never Give In — by Senator Arlen Specter, 2008.
True Compass — by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, 2009.