Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Maybe I was too hard on Steele*

Michael Steele, the new head of the Republican Party, is dumber than an especially dumb post. I, and many others have been mocking him for that, but I think we should give him credit where credit is due. What Steele has going in his favor is that he perfectly representative of the Grand ol' Party.

Exhibit A.
The day before, as [Republican Rep. Steve Austria of Ohio] was explaining his opposition to the huge federal stimulus package backed by President Barack Obama, he told The Dispatch editorial board: "When Roosevelt did this, he put our country into a Great Depression.... He tried to borrow and spend, he tried to use the Keynesian approach, and our country ended up in a Great Depression."

Steele stood by his stupid words and even expanded on them. Austria followed up his stupid words with an explanation that indicated he thinks his constituents are even stupider than he is.
Austria later backtracked, saying, "I did not mean to imply in any way that President Roosevelt was responsible for putting us into the Depression."

Exhibit B.
Yesterday, AFSCME and Americans United for Change unveiled a pretty good ad in support of the economic stimulus plan. The new national television spot tells viewers, "We're in an economic crisis and Republican leaders are playing politics instead of doing what's right. Call the Republican leadership; tell them 'no' is not an option."

House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who is featured in the pro-stimulus ad, responded today, sending journalists a video message.


The video, sent around by Cantor's office, is apparently intended as some kind of parody, using an AFSCME video from the 1970s, but with a new crass voice-over, intended to make unions look like mobbish goons. Greg Sargent transcribed some of the clip: "On your way to work tomorrow, instead of sittin' around with your finger up your a**, look around. There's a union out there called AFSCME and they're busting' their balls doing a lot of sh*t work you take for granted. For example, we pick up your f-kin' garbage.... We don't take sh*t from nobody. You got that, a**hole?"

Greg wasn't the only journalist to receive this. When Glenn Thrush asked Cantor's office for a reaction to the AFSCME/Americans United for Change ad, the Republican leader's press secretary sent over the vulgar video. "You could post this as my response," Cantor's aide said.

The same staffer who sent the video out has been forced to apologize.

And, speaking of apologies, here's exhibit C.
State Rep. Bryan Stevenson set off a firestorm in the House today when he said any attempt by the federal government to undo state laws restricting abortion would be "the greatest power grab" since the North declared war on the South to end slavery.

"What we are dealing with today is the greatest power grab by the federal government since the war of northern aggression," Stevenson said, R-Webb City, referring what Southern states called the North's attempt to end slavery in the 1860s.

The remark caused a sudden gasp heard throughout the House's chamber.

Let's cut to his "apologies" and explanations. He had two. Number one.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Stevenson said, "The terminology I used did cause offense, and I’m sorry for that."

He also said he was "strongly opposed to slavery in any and all aspects" and "not prejudiced in any way."


The war, he said, turned on federal authority versus state authority. Although the conflict did lead to the abolition of slavery, Stevenson said it was accompanied by "the illegal expansion of federal authority."

And number two.
Stevenson said he's a "card carrying member of the Cherokee Nation" and that his ancestors walked the Trail of Tears from Virginia to Oklahoma.

The first is the classic non-apology apology; admit no wrong, only say you're sorry that other people are too dense to appreciate your wit. Then qualify the apology even further by saying your point was correct and your only crime was in being to plain spoken. The second is simply a non sequitor; I can't be prejudiced because I'm a minority, too. On the other hand, I suppose it's a good thing he let us know he's opposed to slavery. At the rate the GOP is marching into the past, you never know.

This is the party Steele leads, stupid, insulting, and unrepentant about both. It's what they want to be and he's the perfect choice to lead then into more of the same.

* Then again, maybe I wasn't.

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