Thursday, March 12, 2009

So what do you think of THIS??

R.N.C. Leader Under Fire

Stephen Crowley/The New York TimesMichael Steele in the television studio of the Republican National Committee in Washington.

Update | 12:49 p.m. Michael Steele, whose rocky start as chairman of the Republican National Committee had already led to chatter about his job security, has more trouble on his hands.

In an interview with Lisa DePaulo of GQ, Mr. Steele was asked about his views on abortion and homosexuality, and in both cases gave answers that could give heartburn to conservatives.

On abortion, Mr. Steele said that Roe v. Wade was “wrongly decided” and that states should decide the issue. But he also said that the issue was one of “individual choice” and that women had the right to choose abortion. (The R.N.C.’s platform states the party’s opposition to abortion rights.)

Asked whether homosexuality is a choice, Mr. Steele responded no. “I think that there’s a whole lot that goes into the makeup of an individual that, uh, you just can’t simply say, oh, like, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being gay,’” Mr. Steele said. “It’s like saying, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black.’”

On Thursday morning, Mr. Steele issued a statement seeking to clarify his remarks on abortion:

I am pro-life, always have been, always will be.

I tried to present why I am pro-life while recognizing that my mother had a “choice” before deciding to put me up for adoption. I thank her every day for supporting life. The strength of the pro-life movement lies in choosing life and sharing the wisdom of that choice with those who face difficult circumstances. They did that for my mother and I am here today because they did. In my view Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed. I realize that there are good people in our party who disagree with me on this issue.

But the Republican Party is and will continue to be the party of life. I support our platform and its call for a Human Life Amendment. It is important that we stand up for the defenseless and that we continue to work to change the hearts and minds of our fellow countrymen so that we can welcome all children and protect them under the law.

Mr. Steele’s comments to GQ were almost immediately blasted by a number of conservatives, including former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who said Mr. Steele’s remarks could cause the Republican Party “to lose many of its members and a great deal of its support in the trenches of grass-roots politics.”

“For Chairman Steele to even infer that taking a life is totally left up to the individual is not only a reversal of Republican policy and principle, but it’s a violation of the most basic of human rights — the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Mr. Huckabee said. “His statement today helps but doesn’t explain why he would ever say what he did in the first place.”

Mr. Steele’s latest misstep has left commentators on both ends of the political spectrum questioning not only what direction he wants to take the Republican Party but also whether he is capable of taking the party in any positive direction.

On the National Review’s Web site, Kathryn Jean Lopez, a conservative, wrote: “I love Michael Steele’s optimism. I love how he wants to consider no American outside the reach of the Republican party. But beyond that, I’m just not sure what his vision or plan is.” She later added that Mr. Steele “might be in over his head.”

The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates (who is liberal and African American) wrote : “I’ve been reading about Steele for years, but I still have no idea why he’s a Republican. I’ve yet to get any sense of deep conviction from him. Colin Powell, I got. Condie Rice, I got. I even get Clarence Thomas. But what I get from Steele feels almost like a hustle.”

In an interview with Townhall.comJ. Kenneth Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state who had made an unsuccessful bid to be R.N.C. chairman, said: “Chairman Steele, as the leader of America’s Pro-Life conservative party, needs to re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform. He then needs to get to work — or get out of the way.”

Bernie Becker contributed reporting.

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