The Spectacle Blog

In Defense of Michael Steele’s Book

By on 1.11.10 | 11:55AM

We have had both good words and criticism for Republican National Chairman Michael Steele in this corner. The seemingly obvious candidate for the job -- talented, great on television, conservative -- Steele got off to a rough start. It appeared he was struggling to understand the difference between TV commentating and being the chair of the RNC, the latter a job that requires (in public at least!) not the usual dispassionate analysis but certain and enthusiastic partisanship. His comments on Rush Limbaugh were a decided mistake and were so noted here.

But the flack Steele has been taking over writing his new book is utterly bogus. I haven't yet read the book, Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.

However in front of me as this is written is another book: Agenda for America: A Republican Direction for the Future, published by Regnery in 1996. The author, his name boldly written on the cover, is identified as: "Haley Barbour." And the credit blurb inside begins this way in the very first sentence: "Haley Barbour is Chairman of the Republican National Committee…"

Well, of course. Haley Barbour, now the highly regarded Governor of Mississippi and, full disclosure, a former White House colleague, wrote a great book in 1996 when he was RNC chair. The purpose? In the words of William J. Bennett, Barbour's book "articulates a clear, principled agenda for America's dominant political party." Similar praise is listed from Newt Gingrich, Jack Kemp, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Robert Bork, Pete du Pont and Marilyn Quayle. 

So what's the difference between a book setting out a GOP agenda by a sitting RNC chair named Haley Barbour and the same kind of book setting out a GOP agenda by a sitting RNC chair named Michael Steele? No, not skin color. This is the Party of Lincoln, bean counting by race a historical non-starter. What's really at issue is the color-blind issue that is called the bruised Washington ego. Not enough "heads up consultation." Yada yada yada. Fine. Duly noted. Next book. Can the rest of us move on now?

Mr. Steele's critics on this issue should have better ways to spend their time in 2010.

In three words? Get over it. And while Steele's critics are using valuable time to nitpick in an incredibly important election year, perhaps they could use the time to sit down and read both the Steele and Barbour books -- along with those by Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich and every other GOP star who has something constructive to say. And they do.

This is, they say, the information age. And Republicans can always use more information -- and fewer egos.

A side note to Mr. Steele. Various news accounts of this story have unnamed RNC aides saying they have "no control" over you. That's a relief. The RNC chair is supposed to control the staff, not the other way around. You can bet on the fact that no one controlled Haley Barbour -- or the late Lee Atwater either.

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