Michael Steele

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Recovering Politician

THEN: Chairman, Republican National Committee, 2009-2011, Lieutenant Governor (MD) 2004-2008 NOW: Attorney, Political Analyst Full Biography: link

Politico: The Man of Steele Returns

Awesome piece by Roger Simon in today’s Politico on recovering politician Michael Steele:

steelerncSteele, who is a resident fellow at the university’s Institute  of Politics, manages to traverse the entire breadth of the Midway before the  inevitable happens: A passing car comes to halt, and the driver lowers her  passenger window and hails Steele as an old friend, even though they have never  met.

While Steele was once the (first black) lieutenant governor of Maryland and  the (first black) chairman of the Republican National Committee, today he is far  better known than he was then. This is largely due to the airtime he gets as an  MSNBC analyst and his appearances on “Real Time with Bill Maher” and “The  Colbert Report.”

He is outgoing, bright, magnetic, recognized on streets and in airports and  is the one thing he was not while he ran the Republican Party: popular.

“I am the most misunderstood man in politics,” Steele tells me.

Steele was elected to a two-year term as Republican Party chairman on Jan.  30, 2009. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Barack Obama had moved into  the White House, and a lot of people were talking about a “post-racial” America.  Nancy Pelosi was running the House, Harry Reid was running the Senate and it  didn’t seem as if the Republican message was selling all that well.

So maybe it was time for a change.

Except Steele’s election took six ballots and, though Steele had conservative  Republican credentials, the reaction of some of the party kingpins ranged from  displeasure to dismay. And then there was the race thing. Maybe the country was  not so post-racial after all.

“After I was elected chairman, there were some people who refused to shake my  hand,” Steele says of some Republican bigwigs.

He was a different kind of chairman. He got involved in controversies that  earned him the wrath of Sen. John McCain (not that hard a thing to do, actually)  and made a series of statements that some found baffling.

He said the war in Afghanistan was a war “of Obama’s choosing” and that he  was going to tell local Republican chairmen, “Don’t think this is a country club  atmosphere where we sit around drinking wine and eating cheese and talking  amongst ourselves. If you don’t want to drill down and build coalitions to  minority communities, then you have to give that seat to someone who does.”

Some of his ideas were actually pretty good. He said he wanted an “off the  hook” public relations offensive to reach out to “the young, Hispanic, black, a  cross section” and apply party principles “to urban-suburban hip-hop  settings.”

This earned him the wrath of Rush Limbaugh, which could be considered a badge  of honor, but Steele was the chairman of the Republican Party, a party  that didn’t actually think of itself as being that “off the hook.”

Click here to read the full piece.

Michael Steele: CPAC — Who Best Articulates Modern Conservatism?

ap_rand_paul_chris_christie_ll_130730_16x9_608By all accounts the gathering of grassroots conservatives for the American Conservative Union’s CPAC event in Prince George’s County, Maryland offered the right mix of hot rhetoric and new faces; reflection and assessment.

CPAC is often a good way to get a sense of the state of the conservative movement but more important, the state of its relationship with the Republican Party.

For many conservatives, that’s a tenuous relationship on a good day. As Erick Erickson, co-founder of RedState.com, noted, “I think CPAC is really RPAC these days and is as much, if not more, lobbyist oriented than grass-roots oriented. It is like church homecoming for the Republican Party.”

As the weekend proceedings wrapped up with a rousing call-to-arms by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, some basic questions remain for a movement in transition: Coming into the 2014 elections, are conservatives gaining strength or treading water? And how does any of this really translate to the rest of the country?

Polls show political conservatism is still very healthy despite liberal wailing to the contrary. In terms of electoral politics the conservative base and liberal base basically cancel each other out, with each side striving to reach enough independents in the political center to win nationwide or statewide elections. So, for the most part, it’s a draw.

But some of the polling of the CPAC attendees also reveals some interesting challenges and opportunities for conservatives. For example 41 percent believe marijuana should be legalized and taxed for recreational and medical use (21 percent believe marijuana should be legalized only for medical purposes when prescribed by a doctor) while 31 percent say it should remain illegal.

446px-Michael_SteeleSimilarly, 78 percent cite their most important goal is to promote individual freedom by reducing the size and scope of government, while only 12 percent cite promoting traditional values by protecting traditional marriage and protecting the life of the unborn as their most important goal. Such findings are consistent with the libertarian leanings of the participants (46 percent of whom were between the ages of 18-25) but also are a sign of a changing demographic within the conservative movement itself.

While themes of freedom, faith and family were echoed throughout the weekend, speaker after speaker seem to have in mind those changing demographics inside and outside the hall as they came repeatedly back to strategy and what it will take to win in 2014.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich cautioned “we must stop being the opposition movement, and we must become the alternative government movement that will help make the life of every American better so that they understand what we would do that would be right, not just what the left is doing that is wrong.” U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tx), a Tea Party favorite, urged conservatives to stick with core beliefs to win elections. “They say if you stand for principles, you lose elections. That is a false dichotomy.”

Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.), insisted conservatives embrace a governing agenda that would help Republicans succeed this November and beyond. “We don’t get to govern if we don’t win. So please, let us come out of here resolved not only to stand for our principles, but let’s come out of this conference resolved to win elections again.”

And it is winning elections that has proven elusive since 2011. The lack of a cohesive message to voters, struggles over the “conservative brand” with its Tea Party base and the poor standing of the Republican-controlled Congress have all taken their toll (for example, 51 percent of CPAC attendees disapprove of the Republican Congress).

But many conservatives, like Sen. Cruz, feel in the end the failure of 2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to effectively draw stark contrasts between his governing policies and the Obama agenda stands as an example of watered-down conservatism. As the Senator would make clear in his speech, “All of us remember President Dole and President McCain and President Romney — now look, those are good men, they’re decent men, but when you don’t stand and draw a clear distinction, when you don’t stand for principle, Democrats celebrate.”

But it would be another Tea Party favorite, Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), who would warn against purging centrist Republicans, saying, “we as conservatives have got to be far more engaged in finding converts than in discarding heretics.” Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) drove the point even deeper. “You may think I am talking about electing a Republican. I am not,” Sen. Paul said. “I am talking about electing lovers of liberty. It isn’t good enough to pick the lesser of two evils. We must elect men and women of principle, and conviction and action that will lead us back to greatness.”

Senators Lee and Paul are closer to the truth for both conservatives and the Republican Party: It is a false choice we sometimes make between core principles and good governance.

But many conservatives stand on the precipice of conservatism, ready to throw each other off because of such false choices; feeling they have lost their grip on what conservatism means and who is best positioned to articulate it.

As conservatives and Republicans assess their leadership, their strategy and ultimately the impact they will have on American politics in 2014 and beyond, they would be wise to heed the advice of the late conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr.: “Nominate the most conservative candidate who is electable.”

Michael Steele: Martin Luther King proved perseverance breeds success

MLKWhen I think of Dr. King, I think of his courage, vision, strength, humanity, and most importantly, his perseverance. Dr. King’s perseverance transformed him into a legendary leader but it was his challenge to each one of us that sets him apart—a challenge in this day, in this hour, to “take up the cause of freedom”.

This element of Dr. King’s life is something that hopefully each of us has incorporated into our daily lives. Perseverance breeds success; and it is his perseverance that enabled Dr. King to achieve his dream.

Dr. King knew that his dream—this movement towards civil rights—would begin a new chapter for America—a chapter we are still writing today; a chapter steeped in the hopes of “little black boys and black girls [joining hands] with little white boys and white girls” for true opportunity and equality.

446px-Michael_SteeleWe celebrate this day different from any other American holiday because we use it not only to recall the legacy of the civil rights era and the man who lived and died for the true freedom of all Americans, but also to assess how we are doing in making The Dream real. Like Dr. King, we are not just writing a chapter in the life of the African-American community, we are the authors of the book of life in America.

I know that if Dr. King were here today he would encourage us to persevere in the face of tragedies like the Trayvon Martin shooting, or efforts to roll back hard fought gains in voting and civil rights. He would remind us that “freedom is not free” and the price we must pay keeps the dream alive; that success does not come without sacrifice if you want the dream to live for future generations

And that’s the easy part because the dream lives in each one of us. Happy Birthday Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from The Grio)

Michael Steele: South Africa stands taller thanks to Nelson Mandela

mandela-world-cupImprisoned for 27 years because he fought to be equal and free, a man can become bitter, even angry at his jailers and the oppressors they represent. But as Nelson Mandela recalled “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

For the Mandela family, their loss is personal, but it is a loss shared by a world that has been touched by the quiet strength and fearless determination of Nelson Mandela. While we mourn with them and the people of South Africa, we also celebrate with them the life of a great man.

God blesses us with the precious gift of life. What we do with that gift is the legacy we leave behind.

And what a legacy Mandela has left for us.

He empowered generations of South Africans not just to dream but to do. His vision of equality became a reality for them and a galvanizing force for change for the rest of us.

Steele MMO_1368-EditToday, South Africa stands taller because it stands on the shoulders of Nelson Mandela.

It is freer because he never wavered in his core belief in the advancement of equality and freedom for its people.

And it is richer because he believed in its possibilities. As Mandela once said “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”

Well done good and faithful servant. Rest in peace Madiba.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from The Grio)

Michael Steele: Obama should have refused to meet al-Maliki

obama-al-malikiIraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with President Barack Obamain Washington on November 1st, and leading up to his visit, White House press Secretary Jay Carney put his best diplomatic smiley-face on it by noting “the visit will highlight the importance of the U.S.-Iraq relationship under the U.S.-Iraq Strategic Framework Agreement (SFA),” and that Obama “looks forward to discussing with Prime Minister Maliki efforts to enhance cooperation in the fields covered under the SFA, and to coordinating on a range of regional issues.”

Of course, after the two-hour meeting, President Obama remarked, “The United States wants to be a strong and effective partner with Iraq.”  No doubt. Maliki came seeking more weapons and the president sought a “strong and effective partner.” While this face-to-face meeting may have served to raise Maliki’s diplomatic profile, in the eyes of many it diminished the profile of the United States and its professed commitment to justice, human rights, and international law. The president should have refused this meeting.

No one should doubt, least of all Prime Minister Maliki, that he owes his position to the United States, which sacrificed its blood and spent billions of its treasure to pave his way to power. But Maliki’s failure to be a true partner with the U.S. and his cozy relationship with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, as well as his recent actions, have created more problems than solutions for the United States.

Meet The PressOn September 1, 2103, at the apparent request of the Iranian Mullahs and on the orders of Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi security forces attacked and killed 52 Iranian refugees (and kidnapped seven, including six women) at Camp Ashraf in eastern Iraq.

Camp Ashraf was settled more than 25 years ago by 3,400 members and sympathizers of the principal Iranian opposition known as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK). The U.S. military disarmed Ashraf City in 2003, and in 2009 turned over control of the camp to the Maliki government in Baghdad. At that time, the United States assured residents of Ashraf City that the Iraqi government would treat them humanely in accordance with international law. As refugees, members of the opposition and their families are protected persons according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and should not be subject to harassment, much less kidnapping and murder by the military forces of Iraq.

Last year, some 3,000 residents of Camp Ashraf were forcibly transferred to Camp Liberty, near Baghdad. 52 of those remaining at Camp Ashraf would meet a different fate.

In the attack, most of the murder victims were handcuffed, identified, and then executed with a bullet to the head, according to a statement by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq. Some were slaughtered in Ashraf clinic where they had been taken for medical treatment. All of these individuals had signed an agreement in cooperation with the United States, which had guaranteed their safety and protection until their final relocation. The U.S. failed to keep its word.

While the United States, the UN, the European Parliament, and Amnesty International all condemned the massacre and kidnapping, world leaders have been hesitant to affix responsibility, particularly in the face of reports of “coordination” between the Maliki and the office of Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khameini.

As Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats noted in a statement, “The Iraqi military is murdering unarmed refugees, and there is every reason to believe Prime Minister Maliki, at the behest of the Iranian Mullahs, ordered these criminal acts. Come what may, Maliki will be held responsible for this reprehensible slaughter of civilians in his own country.” Likewise, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee made clear “I hold the Iraqi government directly responsible to protect the community, to investigate this matter thoroughly, and to prosecute the perpetrators of this heinous act.”

Which makes Maliki’s visit to the White House that much more problematic.

For Maliki, the man whose cooperation with the Iranian clerics was crucial to carrying out this atrocity, to enjoy the prestige of a personal meeting with President Obama is totally unacceptable. For many Americans, let alone Iranians, Maliki has clearly betrayed the trust that the United States displayed in him; and has undermined the very safety and security the United States had promised to those refugees.

No political consideration or calculus to compel Maliki to release the hostages is immoral, misguided, or unacceptable. The lack of meaningful action by the U.S. in support of the hostages and the failure to hold accountable those who slaughtered 52 men and women is inexcusable.

Maliki’s visit presented the perfect occasion for President Obama to honor the commitment made to protect the refugees now at Camp Liberty; a commitment that can only be ensured by moving the refugees out of harm’s way and returning them to their homes.

Moreover, the visit afforded the president the opportunity to make it clear to Maliki that there will be no more U.S. aid, no more arms sales and no further political support unless the 7 refugees taken hostage at Camp Ashraf are released and full protection is provided for the 3000 refugees at Camp Liberty. At least that’s what a “strong and effective partner” would have done last Friday.

(Cross-posted, with permission of the author, from TheGrio.com)

Michael Steele: Why HBCUs are Hanging by a Thread

hbcu-copyWith so many of the civil rights battles behind us, and the satisfaction that comes from the success of African-Americans in business, politics, sports and entertainment, it is no surprise that the assault upon the integrity and historic purpose of our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) has been little noticed by mainstream media and, more sadly, the black community itself.

Not only do our HBCUs stand as a testament to the challenges that lie in the future but they are an important reminder of the proud history of African-American education in America and its unlimited potential.

Across America, HBCUs are giving African-Americans the tools and the knowledge they need to fully participate in our society, to build a solid economic foundation on which to raise their families and their businesses, and to become leaders of the future.

However, many of those tools had begun to be stripped away and much of that foundation began to crumble under the weight of neglect and institutional bias. Maryland HBCUs (Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and University of Maryland Eastern Shore) were treated no differently.

In October 1999, the State of Maryland and the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), entered into a partnership for the purposes of improving the educational opportunities for African Americans in Maryland’s public institutions of higher education and of ensuring compliance with the state’s obligations under federal law.  The partnership agreement set forth the commitments that the state and OCR anticipated would bring Maryland into full compliance with its obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

446px-Michael_SteeleBut as the partnership agreement expired in December 2005, it was very clear that while the state had met the letter of the law under Title VI (and its agreement with OCR); embracing the spirit of such agreements would be another matter. In practice, Maryland’s HBCUs had to deal with the growing reality of “duplication of specialized programs” whereby certain resources (e.g. laboratories and libraries) or academic programs (e.g. MBA) were duplicated at predominantly white institutions, resulting in HBCU students having to go to those institutions to access them.

As Lt. Governor of Maryland, I became acutely aware of the failure of so many to do just a little to help our state’s HBCUs. But the supposed innocuousness of program duplication only masked the knife cutting away the ability to improve access to these fine institutions and to create opportunities for them to compete with the state’s majority white institutions.

Read the rest of…
Michael Steele: Why HBCUs are Hanging by a Thread

Michael Steele: We Have Elected a Bunch of Children to Run Our Government

ted-cruz-tvLook ma, no federal government!

At some point the entire BS that is the government shutdown sinks in and we have to deal with reality: We have elected a bunch of children to run our government.

One reality that must not change about America and the free enterprise economy is that the root of America’s success has always sprung out of the hard labor of its entrepreneurs: the men and women who risk it all on a dream. Government doesn’t do that; government can’t do that. When a job is created by a small business owner they make an investment in people in a way that government can’t match. So when those same business owners have legitimate concerns about government policies that affect them, elected officials must listen in order to  preserve the conditions that allow small businesses to thrive.

446px-Michael_SteeleThe fact that politicians in Washington have lost sight of that tells me we can longer trust them to do this by themselves. Each one of us must be prepared to help set the nation’s priorities for the immediate future. We must decide what price we’re prepared to pay for a strong national defense and better schools; how much are we truly ready to spend for our children’s healthcare and to secure our nation’s borders? Which programs are we prepared to cut in order to get our financial house in order, and by how much? While these are difficult questions, they are not either/or choices, but rather complementary opportunities.

The White House and the Congress need to take a time out from the silliness of politics and the drama of blaming one or the other for shutting down the government—both political parties, the White House and Congress are to blame. Stupid lives at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in this mess.

Read the rest of…
Michael Steele: We Have Elected a Bunch of Children to Run Our Government

Second Acts: Recovering from Scandal — A New School Forum

Screen shot 2013-10-05 at 1.41.15 PMCrisis management and scandal recovery have captured the moment, from big-league sports to New York City’s current political silly season. PR firms are rebranding themselves as crisis advisers. Ex-White House aides are peddling their bona fides. While the public sees scandal through a tabloid lens, at its heart are flawed human beings making mistakes, acting emotionally, and trying to preserve their reputations and careers. “Recovering politicians” who suffered highly publicized scandals share their stories, offer guidance, and comment on the latest attempts to launch second acts.

A conversation with:
Krystal Ball
, co-host, MSNBC’s “The Cycle;” former Virginia congressional candidate
Jonathan MillerDaily Beast columnist; No Labels co-founder; former Kentucky state treasurer
Michael Steele, co-chairman, Purple Nation Strategies; former Republican National Committee chairman

Moderated by:
Jeff Smith, 
assistant professor of politics and advocacy, The New School; former Missouri state senator

Join Krystal Ball, Michael Steele, Jeff Smith and The RP at an NYC New School Forum, TONIGHT!

Second Acts: Recovering from Scandal

Krystal BallMeet The PressPresented by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.

Crisis management and scandal recovery have captured the moment, from big-league sports to New York City’s recent political silly season. PR firms are rebranding themselves as crisis advisers. Ex-White House aides are peddling their bona fides. While the public sees scandal through a tabloid lens, at its heart are flawed human beings making mistakes, acting emotionally, and trying to preserve their reputations and careers. “Recovering politicians” who suffered highly publicized scandals share their stories, offer guidance, and comment on the latest attempts to launch second acts.

Jeff SmithWSOP Day 2A conversation with:
Krystal Ball, co-host, MSNBC’s “The Cycle;” former Virginia congressional candidate
Jonathan Miller, Daily Beast columnist; No Labels co-founder; former Kentucky state treasurer
Michael Steele, co-chairman, Purple Nation Strategies; former Republican National Committee chairman

Moderated by:
Jeff Smith, assistant professor of politics and advocacy, The New School; former Missouri state senator

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2013
6:30 PM – 8:30 PM
Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, Arnhold Hall
55 West 13th Street (between Fifth and Sixth avenues), 2nd Floor

Admission is free but you must RSVP.

Michael Steele On Trayvon Martin: “Killed For No Reason Other Than Being Black, Young, Wearing A Hoodie”

From 92Y at the Jefferson:

446px-Michael_SteeleFormer Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele recently sat down with 92Y Producer Jordan Chariton at The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C. to discuss how to revive the Republican Party.

In part two of our extended interview, Steele touched on everything from the Tea Party movement to the Trayvon Martin case.

Steele doesn’t see Tea Party lawmakers as obstructionists:

“They had a charge from the people who elected them…you go to Washington and you draw a line in the sand, you put a hold on the amount of spending, and you say no to more spending without some level of contraction.”

Where Steele does acknowledges issues Republicans are having is with communication, specifically with minority groups, joking:

“I think there’s a huge gap between our brain and our mouth,” Steele said, adding, “You don’t always express what you’re thinking without thinking it through.”

Steele also shared his views on the murder of Trayvon Martin.

“A 17-year-old African American with a bottle of tea and a bag of Skittles was killed for no reason other than being black, young, wearing a hoodie.”

He also spoke about President Obama’s election, pointing out that it has not ended racism in America.

“Obama’s election was not a panacea for race relations. All these folks running around talking about, ‘Oh, we’re in a postracial America’ … BS, as the Trayvon Martin case readily proves.”

Do you agree with Steele’s take on the Trayvon Martin murder? Comment below.

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