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Michael Steele: For Medicare and abortion before he's against them

August 27, 2009 |  5:37 pm

Steele GOP Chairman Michael Steele was for Medicare before he was against it, which was before he couldn't give an answer to the question of whether he was for or against it. In other words, the leader of a major political party is confused about his position on a massive government program that consumes more than one-fifth of total federal budget and has been around since the Vietnam War.

The question that comes up is how this guy ever managed to become the leader of a political party. Having looked through our archives for coverage of Steele's selection earlier this year as GOP chairman, it's apparent that he wasn't a very inspired pick by Republicans. Here's an excerpt from a Times news article published on Jan. 31, the day after his election:

But it was clear even from Friday's voting process that, in addition to remaking the party's image, the new chairman faces hurdles in asserting his power within Republican circles.

It took six contested ballots before Steele defeated a slate of candidates that included the party's incumbent chairman, Mike Duncan. In the end, it was a divided Republican National Committee -- 91 out of 168 members -- that backed Steele over the last challenger standing, Katon Dawson, the white chairman of the South Carolina GOP, who had presented himself as the rock-ribbed conservative in the race.

Steele, relatively new to the national stage, will have to jockey for attention with other Republican leaders, as well as with talk show giant Rush Limbaugh, who in recent days has gained traction as a leading conservative challenger to Obama. Limbaugh, for example, took credit this week for pressuring House Republicans to vote in a solid block against the president's $819-billion stimulus package.

What Steele needed to do was shore up party support. Instead, he engaged in a useless public turf war with Limbaugh for which he later apologized. In a preview of his current indecisiveness over bread-and-butter issues for Republicans, he suggested that abortion is an individual choice. And after promising to make the GOP available to "every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community," he threatened to withhold party funds from moderate Republicans who voted for President Obama's stimulus package.

So now we're on to healthcare reform, and enormously complex field of public policy. Republicans, don't say you didn't see this train wreck coming.

-- Paul Thornton

Photo: Steele speaks at the annual Indiana GOP state dinner in Indianapolis July 8. Credit: AP Photo / Tom Strickland.

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