Saturday, January 31, 2009

GOP's Man is Steele

In the 2nd most important political moment of the month, the Republican National Committee yesterday elected former Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele as our party Chairman. The 50-year old Steele, elected on the 6th ballot after a spirited 3-man battle, thus becomes the first-ever black American to hold the top position within the Republican Party national governing body. Steele, who has been charged within the party by some of his rivals as being a closet social liberal immediately set the tone by stating unequivocally that "Conservative principles have made us the strong and proud party we are." Only the most ideologically far-right wing members of the party would try to make a case for him being anything other than conservative, as Steele has always espoused solid conservative principles even as he has occasionally taken more moderate positions on particular issues. His election shows that the majority of the party wishes to retain those conservative values while also being unafraid to show moderation when situations warrant, not for political expediency, but out of common sense. "It's time for something completely different and we're going to bring it to them," Steele said in referring to the Republican Party and its relationship to all Americans. "We're going to bring this party to every corner, every boardroom, every neighborhood, every community." Michael Steele is a family man, he and wife Andrea have two sons, Michael and Drew. Steele was born in 1958 at Andrews Air Force base and grew up near Washington, D.C., and interestingly enough has a sister who was once married to former boxing champ Mike Tyson. Always studious and a leader from an early age, Steele was named to the National Honor Society in high school and elected his class president. He won a scholarship to the prestigious Johns Hopkins University and was elected as the freshman class president there. He received his degree in International Relations in 1981, and then his life took a very interesting turn. He entered the seminary and for three years studied for a life in the Catholic priesthood at Villanova University, serving for a short time as a teacher at Malvern Prep. Ultimately this was not his calling. Steele entered the Georgetown University Law Center and obtained his law degree there, and as he entered into private practice he also began to become involved in Republican political activities. In 1995, he was selected as the Maryland Republican Man of the Year, and he went on to serve in delegate positions with the RNC at both the 1996 and 2000 national conventions. In 2000, he was elected as Chairman of the Maryland Republican Party, and in 2002 as the Maryland Lieutenant Governor under Governor Robert Ehrlich, becoming the first African-American to hold these positions. Steele then ran for a Maryland U.S. Senate seat in 2006, only to be wiped out in a 55-44 margin by Democrat Ben Cardin as opposition built against the policies of President George W. Bush. He recovered in February of 2007 when he was elected to be the chairman of GOPAC, the Republican Party's largest political action committee. Steele is considered to be a likely candidate for either the Maryland Governor position, or a Senate seat in the 2010 elections. As the head of the RNC, Steele will have tremendous influence in the direction that the Party takes in moving forward. On the Iraq War his position has been that we need to withdraw and allow the Iraqis to control their own destiny, but that we should set no firm timetable for this withdrawal, and instead allow circumstances and conditions on the battle fields determine how and when this should happen. On energy policy he has called for rescinding the gas tax, and for greatly increasing research into alternative fuels. On taxation he has called for further tax cuts, making those now in place permanent, repealing of the death tax, and adherence to "sane spending guidelines." He has not been in favor of socializing health care, but instead has favored increased access to quality health care through Health Savings Accounts and other methods. Not unlike the original 'Man of Steel' (Superman), the GOP's new leader faces a daunting assignment against a difficult foe as he tries to lead our Republican Party back to power at both the state and federal levels. Steele has shown himself to be a strong, intelligent, articulate, principled leader during his lifetime. Michael Steele has all of the tools and talent to lead the Party back to prominence, but it will take the combined efforts and cooperation of all Republicans and conservative thinkers to make it happen.

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