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

HuffPost Live Forum on “The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis”

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Our new book, The Recovering Politician’s Twelve-Step Program to Survive Crisis, has hit the national zeitgiest, as it was today’s topic of discussion on HuffPost Live.

Huff Post Live’s Marc Lamont Hill talks with three of the book’s co-authors about politics, rhetoric, and their 12-step program for recovering politicians.

Originally aired on June 13, 2013

  • Michael Steele @steele_michael (New York , NY) Former RNC Chairman
  • Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO (Montclair, NJ) Assistant Professor in the Urban Policy Graduate Program at the New School; Former State Senator for Inner City St. Louis
  • Jonathan Miller @RecoveringPol (Chicago, IL) Former Kentucky State Treasurer; Editor of ‘The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis’

Former RNC Chair Michael Steele: Sexual Bondage Strip Clubs? Oh, my! — AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis

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The one thing you don’t want in politics or business is to be unpleasantly surprised.

We pride ourselves on seeing every angle and knowing every pitfall; and when we don’t or we can’t, we hire consultants who supposedly do because there’s nothing that will throw you off your game faster than the unknown.

So it was with particular attention to detail that my staff at the Republican National Committee (RNC) planned for me and over thirty members of the RNC’s Site Selection Committee to visit the three cities in the final running to host the 2012 national convention.

It’s no secret that my tenure as RNC Chairman had more than its share of unpleasant surprises. So my instruction to the staff regarding the site visits was simple: “lean, clean and no surprises!”

As the visits got underway, by any measure, they were going exceedingly well. These trips used to be about goodie bags and cocktail parties, but we had resolved to take a decidedly more business-oriented approach – with an emphasis on contracts, bus schedules, fundraising and hotel rooms; and as it turned out, the members preferred that (although they still wanted their cocktail parties).

But as they say, “the best laid plans…”

* * *

Steele MMO_1368-EditThe day had already been long with meetings and tours with the Mayor of Salt Lake City, our respective legal teams and members of the Site Selection Committee. As this was the second of our three cities to visit, we had begun to establish a rhythm for the day; and by this point, it was definitely time for one of those cocktails. For most of that afternoon, I observed the courtesy of keeping my cell phone turned off. After all, if my chief of staff – or anyone else for that matter – needed to reach me, there were enough other cell phones nearby.

So when the executive director of the site selection committee, Belinda Cook, handed me the phone with a look of anger: “The office has been trying to reach you for the past hour; your cell is off” – I thought to myself: “Don’t be mad at me; you told me to turn it off!”

But I would soon realize that she wasn’t angry about the phone.  Rather, a major conservative web site, the Daily Caller, wanted a “comment” on a story it was about to run that a member of the RNC finance staff had spent $2000 at a Los Angeles strip club that featured a sexual-bondage theme. And to make matters worse, the reporter was inferring that I was there.

I’ll spare you the first words I uttered at that moment.

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Former RNC Chair Michael Steele: Sexual Bondage Strip Clubs? Oh, my! — AN EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT from The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis

RP Michael Steele: “Looking At” Running for Governor of Maryland

From The Huffington Post:

Steele MMO_1368-EditFormer Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is weighing a run for Maryland governor, a move that could put him back into the realm of electoral politics, he said Monday.

“We’re looking at it,” Steele, now an MSNBC contributor, told the network’s Chuck Todd. “You’re gonna take a look at the numbers. Maryland’s a tough state, there are a lot of challenges there.”

Steele went on to say that new taxes in Maryland over the past eight years could give a Republican another shot at winning a statewide election in the the reliably blue state. He served as lieutenant governor under Republican Robert Ehrlich during his single term. Democrat Martin O’Malley defeated Ehrlich in 2006 and again in 2010, but is term-limited from running again in 2014.

Speaking last week on WMAL, Steele similarly admitted interest in a gubernatorial run.

“I love my state,” Steele said, according to the Daily Caller. “I think the potential in Maryland is huge. I look at the last 8 years. I look at the tax increases. I look at some of the things they’ve done to drive jobs away and opportunity out the door. And you just kinda say, ‘Can you contribute something?’ So we’ll weigh it.”

Steele’s previous attempt at politics in Maryland was unsuccessful, when he lost a Senate race to Democrat Ben Cardin in 2006. While Steele didn’t win, his campaign did produce this memorable ad about puppies and political attacks.

Click here to read the full article.

Michael Steele: Republicans at a Crossroads

One of the hardest things to do in politics, believe it or not, is to standout. Sure you can go off and say something crazy; or even do something inherently stupid that will generate attention.

But most politicians and political parties don’t want that kind of attention. I’m talking about truly standing out: to be recognized for pushing against the conventional wisdom or fighting the status quo; or even better, standing against the prevailing winds of one’s party. That is a lot harder than you may imagine.

In a life spent advancing conservative principles, I have had the privilege of serving as a county chairman, a state chairman, a candidate and an elected official.   When I assumed the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 2009 on the heels of humiliating defeats in 2006 and 2008, this would be my opportunity to advance those conservative principles in a new way; to go a bit against the grain, to push back on the “establishment” mindset that had led to these back to back devastating losses.

In short, for the party to survive it was time to turn the elephant to face its future. But have you ever tried to turn an elephant? Invariably, whichever end you start with will test your resolve.

GOP ‘lost its voice’

Republicans lost their voice on the things that mattered not long after the 2004 elections; and by 2008 that gap between our rhetoric and our actions had grown to the point that our credibility had completely snapped. From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the implosion of the nation’s economy, more and more Americans began to view the party as out of step with the direction they believed the country should be heading. To make matters worse, what many inside and outside the arty failed to understand was it wasn’t the fault of our ideals or the principles we espoused, but rather the failure of our leadership to honor those principles.

Over time, our principles had morphed into baser motives. We became more interested in red vs. blue state politics, egged on by political know-it-alls and high-priced consultants. The net effect of their “leadership” diminished the noble vision of the Party of Lincoln—the party I had joined at the tender age of 17—as the GOP became the party of big government Republicanism.

It should be no secret to Republicans by now that the country has changed and continues to do so. You don’t need to spend a million bucks to figure that out. Nor do Republicans have to keep repeating “we need to reach out to [fill in the blank].” Shut up and do it already!

And that doesn’t mean sticking your finger in the air to check the prevailing political winds before “reaching out”; that’s blatantly disingenuous and the equivalent  of the party giving voters the finger. Consequently, most Americans today see a Republican Party that defines itself by what it is against rather than what it is for.

Republicans will scream at President Obama for his spendthrift ways, but then fail to reconcile to voters their own spending habits. Republicans can tell you why public schools aren’t working, but not articulate a compelling vision for how they’ll make them successful. We’re well equipped to rail against tax increases; but can’t begin to explain how our policy prescriptions will help the poor and the middle class.

We’re great at talking about inclusion but not at actually including anyone.

2006, 2008 and now 2012 are painful reminders of the importance of owning our mistakes listening to the American people, and taking action on issues of importance to them — not us. If we are to regain the trust of the American people and restore the credibility of our ideas, a 21st Century GOP must reconnect with its radical past and focus importance on economic opportunity, civil rights, the environment, and individual liberties.

Party failed to heed warnings

During my last months as RNC Chairman, I warned the party that we stood on the precipice of Republicanism, ready to throw each other off, because some want a litmus test party. But that party of exclusion will not and must not succeed. For me, the Party of Lincoln was, and should be again, a party of opportunity and inclusion; assimilation and self-determination.

I still hold out hope that new voices consistent with the radical nature of Republicanism will give rise to a fresh approach to meet the challenges we face.

I will continue to be one of those voices. Let’s start that conversation on the healthcare, economic and political disparities that continue to cripple communities of color; let’s reframe the role of government not because we want to eliminate it; but because its purpose should be limited to serving the people and not itself; and let’s once again be the champion of the poor and middle class.   Yes, a rising tide lifts all boats, but we can’t lose sight of those who don’t have a boat.

Republicans stand at the crossroads to their future and the voters are standing there with them wanting to know what we believe, how we will lead, and which way we intend go. They seek assurances that we are Republicans who see opportunity for every American not just those who donate to us or vote for us.

The Party of Lincoln was built on the uniting principles of hard work, personal responsibility, and self-determination.  Republicans must once again call upon these principles to chart where the Party goes from here.

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

Michael Steele Talks to Mike Huckabee on the GOP’s Future

446px-Michael_SteeleContributing RP and former RNC Chairman Michael Steele talks marriage equality and the future of the Republican Party.

Click here for the podcast.

Michael Steele: Reince Priebus is ‘numb nuts’

From The Examiner:

The catfight between former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele and his replacement, Reince Priebus, has reached screech level, with Steele belittling the party’s new focus on minorities as old news.

Appearing on the “Andrea Tantaros Show,” a nationally syndicated radio show, Steele called the GOP establishment that on Monday unveiled a $10 million minority outreach effort a bunch of “numb nuts” for ignoring the plan he instituted four years ago.

Steele also sounded ready to beat up Priebus. Asked by Tantaros who would win in a cage fight, Steele said, “Oh, no question, I would clean his clock.” How? “Just one knock on the head. It’s done.”

The Steele-Priebus battle is, in a way, a repeat of their 2011 duel for the RNC chairmanship. Steele didn’t have the votes and pulled out, clearing the way for Priebus, a former Wisconsin Republican Party chairman.

What’s more, he said that the current Republican Party is bloated. “The bottom line is you’ve to to be focused on what the purpose and the role of the party is. The national party is too big for its own britches right now. It’s centered around itself.”

Michael Steele: I Won, He Didn’t

From Daily Kos:

446px-Michael_SteeleLet’s be clear, Michael Steele could only have been as competent as the GOP policies allowed him to be. Under his stewardship of the RNC he successfully navigated contempt for the President, idiocy, and the many GOP fallacies perpetrated by the Tea Party into a winning formula. After-all he picked up 63 seats in the House and took control of the House.

Under his tenure Republicans won 51% of the vote vs 44% for the Democrats. While some may say that was done in spite of Steele, if they had lost or not win as big, he would have taken the brunt of the jokes and he would have been fired.

But wait a minute. He won big and he was fired. Reince Priebus lost big and was rewarded with another term. If this is not the good old boy network of entitlement what is? In Joy-ann Reid’s article “Michael Steele calls current RNC chairman’s tenure ‘an absolute failure’” atthe grio Steele summarizes perfectly.

In the end, Steele, who has hinted he may want to run for the job again, sees his past tenure at the RNC as a success.

“You can criticize my tenure and say Steele is ‘buck wild,’ or ‘we don’t like his style and he’s gaffe prone,’” he says. “But the mission that they gave me when they hired me was two things: raise money — over $190 million in two years — and win elections. And in the process, we grew the party.”

Well there is definitely bad blood between the past chairman and the current chairman. At the Press Club when unveiling the party’s autopsy, Priebus states he walked into the RNC in 2011 with suspended RNC credit cards. When a reporter asked Priebus if Chairman Steele ruined the party financially he replied “I am not going to there. Listen, I think the numbers speak for themselves.”

Well maybe the numbers should speak for themselves as to his performance. `Steele replied accordingly on Andrea Mitchell Reports saying, “That’s the problem. I won and he didn’t.”  He then went on stating all the victories he had in Blue and Purple states. He said the Republican Party made the decision to go into debt to win and they did. He said Priebus had surpluses and lost.

He caricatured the report being referred to as an autopsy as poor branding. He said the Party had no message and no focus.

Michael Steele Applauds No Labels’ Problem Solvers

Michael Steele: Climate Change — The Obamacare of the Second Term?


446px-Michael_Steele“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” President Obama said in his inaugural address Monday. The address devoted more sentences to the environment more than any other specific subject. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.”

In that, former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele said the president indicated that climate change would be a crucial part of his second term legacy.

“When I heard that line, what struck me is this is the Obamacare of the second administration” Steele said. “Climate change is going to be the sleeping dog issue that he is going to fashion and put into play, maybe a total package or piecemeal, but I think that’s going to be part of the second term legacy.”

Many assume that social issues would take a central stage in the second term, as Obama came out in favor of gay equality, against guns, and in favor of sweeping immigration reform. While those may also play a role in second-term agenda, Steele believes it’ll be climate change that has the greatest effect.

“It’s not going to be so much the social stuff that a lot of people, certainly in the conservative movement concern themselves with, it’s going to be the bigger idea that falls into that broader vision,” Steele said. “He reformed 1/6 of the nation’s economy with healthcare. Now he’s going to go to the next level with global change in the environment.”

Click here to read the full article.

Michael Steele: NRA Press Conference “Very Haunting and Very Disturbing”

From Talking Points Memo:

Former Republican National Committee chairman and MSNBC commentator Michael Steele on Friday said he found the press conference led by National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre “very haunting and very disturbing.”

Asked by MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts for his immediate response to the NRA presser, Steele initially appeared speechless.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” Steele said. “As a supporter of the Second Amendment and a supporter of the NRA, even though I’m not a member of the NRA, I just found it very haunting and very disturbing that our country now, that are talking about arming our teachers and our principals in classrooms. What does that say about us? And I do not believe that’s where the American people want to go. I do not believe that is the response that should be coming out of the tragedy in Newtown.”

Watch the exchange:

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