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April 9, 2010

Playing the Race Card

Roy Meachum

Frederick Republican friends introduced Michael Steele when he was running for lieutenant governor, in 2002; I found him diffident and very intelligent. He had a warm smile. Robert Ehrlich headed the ticket.


They won against my personal choice, Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. It wasn’t even close. Scads of Democrats in this heavily Democratic state apparently feared what a woman and a Kennedy could do; they bolted the party.


Four years later it was a completely different story. Democrats lined up solidly behind party staple Joe Curran’s son-in-law, Martin O’Malley, who had paid his political dues as the two-term mayor of Baltimore. Since then, Mr. Steele tried to take on Democrat Ben Cardin, no mean feat, given the Republicans’ deficit in voter registrations. He lost, in 2006, but the former Catholic priest wannabe did not windup on the unemployment line. The two major political machines take care of their own.


In the wake of Barack Obama’s smashing win in the 2008 presidential race, the GOP named the ex-lieutenant governor to head the Republican National Committee; since the sitting president always runs his own party, both Democrats and Republicans rest now in African American hands, a historical first. Many observers, in the media and among the general populace, recognize color was his primary qualification.


Considering the number of brutal anti-black attacks his party members launched against the president – buttressed by his silence – the RNC chairman told ABC morning show host, the race card has been played against him, in answer to George Stephanopoulos’ question. He also acknowledged racial tricks are much stronger against Mr. Obama.


The reason why Mr. Steele appeared on the show – and in headlines around the world – is because of his unwillingness to accept responsibility for gross stupidity, specifically taking “young” Republicans to a Los Angeles strip and bondage club. I cannot imagine he did not sanction the visit, hoping it would never make the media.


Instead, the committee chairman fired the person who led the nocturnal expedition. Seeking to spread the appearance of guilt around, the RNC chief of staff found himself dumped a few days later, despite his positive history with the group. His successor? Mr. Steele’s campaign manager responsible for the drubbing he received running against Mr. Cardin. This is a winner?


That can make sense only in a mind more concerned with image than doing the job.


Although we were told that March was one of the highest months for Republican donations to their national committee, the GOP members had the same reaction as Democrats when their candidate is thrown out of the White House, multiplied by companies threatened by the healthcare legislation. They want a friendly ear in the Oval Office, no matter what it costs. They have the money. Despite the recession, largely Republican executives still pay themselves huge salaries.


Under the circumstances, it’s less than surprising the RNC breaks records in fundraising. But so do several other groups that might have been started because of Michael Steele’s grabbing very expensive hotels, long limousines and private planes because of impatience with commercial flights’ scheduling.


God forbid, the man frequently overlooked when he was Maryland’s lieutenant governor should have to wait one of his newly high-priced minutes to save GOP members’ expenses.


With all his publicized goofs, for Michael Steele to play the race card amounts to bump-and-grind burlesque; obviously he means to distract Republicans while he goes through their contributions wholesale.


‘Ataway, Mike!


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