Wednesday, July 26, 2006


I See A Red Door...

So, the Republican Senate candidate critical of the GOP has been "outed":

Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele's Senate campaign acknowledged yesterday that he was the anonymous candidate quoted by a Washington Post political reporter as saying that being a Republican was like wearing a 'scarlet letter' and that he did not want President Bush to campaign for him this fall.

The campaign made the disclosure after a day of speculation in the blogosphere and among political reporters about which Republican Senate candidate had made the disparaging remarks reported by Dana Milbank in the Washington Sketch column in yesterday's Post.
Okay, so this wasn't a big surprise. Steele has made similar comments at other media venues in the past -- including during a visit to New York several weeks ago.

In fact, the only thing that I thought was weird about Milbank's column was that Steele had apparently wanted it to be off the record.

The criticism of the Bush administration's handling of Katrina was certainly, as they say,
on point:

In 2001, we were attacked and the president is on the ground, on a mound with his arm around the fireman, symbol of America," he said, between bites of hanger steak and risotto. "In Katrina, the president is at 30,000 feet in an airplane looking down at people dying, living on a bridge. And that disconnect, I think, sums up, for me at least, the frustration that Americans feel."

The response to Katrina was "a monumental failure," he continued. "We became so powerful in our ivory towers, in our gated communities. We forgot that there are poor people." The detachment remained after the storm, he said. "I could see that they weren't getting it, they weren't necessarily clued in. . . . For me, the seminal moment was the [Dubai] port decision."
Well, duh!

Indeed, a
certain blogger said as much at the time -- more than once.

While it is underplayed in Milbank's column -- because to write it any other way would have identified Steele in a certain manner -- the fact is that Steele was talking about the unique problem he has as a black Republican running in a Democratic state where blacks make up as much as 25 percent of the electorate.

The scarlet letter/"R-word" sentiment is harder to overcome with blacks than it is with whites. That's just a fact. So, Steele was speaking to the prism through which many blacks -- as opposed to the broader public -- saw Katrina. Maybe they didn't all channel
Kanye West, but ignoring 400 years of history isn't easy.

Again, from a political standpoint, it might well have been better for Steele to have been on the record from the start. He shoudn't be criticized for actually speaking true.

Though, of course, in Michael Kinsley's memorable phrase, that counts as a "gaffe" in politics.

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