THE BIG TENT AND MICHAEL STEELE

elephantgop.pngSometimes we go overboard for the best of reasons.   Here is an email I just received that demonstrates the problem.

Republican National Chairman Michael Steele says abortion is a choice, homosexuality is not

Attention Republicans! Take our poll.

March 13, 2009

Dear Friend,

In a recent interview, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele told GQ magazine that he supports abortion rights. “I think that’s an individual choice (to have an abortion),” he said.

GQ: Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Steele: Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.
GQ: You do?
Steele: Yeah. Absolutely.

Steele later issued a statement “clarifying” his comments regarding abortion saying he is “pro-life.”

Steele also disputed the view that being homosexual is a lifestyle choice. “I don’t think I’ve ever really subscribed to that view that you can turn it on and off like a water tap.  …You just can’t simply say, oh, like, ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being gay.’ It’s like saying ‘Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black,'” explained Steele.

Steele said an amendment to define marriage as a union between one man and one woman is a state issue and is “mucking around with the Constitution.”

In light of Chairman Steele’s remarks, should he resign as Chairman of the Republican National Committee?

We ask that only registered Republicans, or those who voted Republican in the last election participate.

Click Here to Vote Now!

What is the problem with this organization’s assault on Michael Steele?  The Republican Party exists to win elections.  If we do not want our own people lying to us, we have to give them a little rope.   We have to live with one of life’s basic facts.  Nobody totally agrees with anybody else.  The best we can hope for is that our fellow citizens will agree with us most of the time and leave us in peace most of the rest.

Consider one of Ronald Reagan‘s famous dictums.

The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.  (from here)

According to Wikiquote, Reagan said this as chastisement to his staff for canceling a meeting with opponent when he was the governor of California.

Is Steele on our side or a Republican in Name Only (RINO)?  Well, let’s consider the two accusations.  What exactly did he say?  Here are Steele’s comments on the abortion issue from here.  The questions are in bold print.  Steele’s answers follow.

How much of your pro-life stance, for you, is informed not just by your Catholic faith but by the fact that you were adopted?
Oh, a lot. Absolutely. I see the power of life in that—I mean, and the power of choice! The thing to keep in mind about it… Uh, you know, I think as a country we get off on these misguided conversations that throw around terms that really misrepresent truth.

Explain that.
The choice issue cuts two ways. You can choose life, or you can choose abortion. You know, my mother chose life. So, you know, I think the power of the argument of choice boils down to stating a case for one or the other.

Are you saying you think women have the right to choose abortion?
Yeah. I mean, again, I think that’s an individual choice.

You do?
Yeah. Absolutely.

Are you saying you don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade?
I think Roe v. Wade—as a legal matter, Roe v. Wade was a wrongly decided matter.

Okay, but if you overturn Roe v. Wade, how do women have the choice you just said they should have?
The states should make that choice. That’s what the choice is. The individual choice rests in the states. Let them decide.

Do pro-choicers have a place in the Republican Party?
Absolutely!

How so?

You know, Lee Atwater said it best: We are a big-tent party. We recognize that there are views that may be divergent on some issues, but our goal is to correspond, or try to respond, to some core values and principles that we can agree on.

Do you think you’re more welcoming to pro-choice people than Democrats are to pro-lifers?
Now that’s a good question. I would say we are. Because the Democrats wouldn’t allow a pro-lifer to speak at their convention. We’ve had many a pro-choicer speak at ours—long before Rudy Giuliani. So yeah, that’s something I’ve been trying to get our party to appreciate. It’s not just in our words but in our actions, we’ve been a party that’s much more embracing. Even when we have missed the boat on, uh, minority issues, the Bush administration did an enormous amount to advance the individual opportunities for minorities in our country. In housing. In education. In health care.

The fact of the matter is that any law that simply outlawed abortion would be unenforceable.  The key issue is the one Steele hits on.  Roe v. Wade was unconstitutional.  Unfortunately, Steele is not particularly inclined to overturn Roe v. Wade.  Just the same, Steele’s position on abortion has been known for some time (see here).

What about the Steele’s statement on homosexuality (from here)?

Do you have a problem with gay priests who are celibate?
No, it’s your nature. It’s your nature. You can’t—I can’t deny you your nature.

Let’s talk about gay marriage. What’s your position?
Well, my position is, hey, look, I have been, um, supportive of a lot of my friends who are gay in some of the core things that they believe are important to them. You know, the ability to be able to share in the information of your partner, to have the ability to—particularly in times of crisis—to manage their affairs and to help them through that as others—you know, as family members or others—would be able to do. I just draw the line at the gay marriage. And that’s not antigay, no. Heck no! It’s just that, you know, from my faith tradition and upbringing, I believe that marriage—that institution, the sanctity of it—is reserved for a man and a woman. That’s just my view. And I’m not gonna jump up and down and beat people upside the head about it, and tell gays that they’re wrong for wanting to aspire to that, and all of that craziness. That’s why I believe that the states should have an opportunity to address that issue.

So you think it’s a state issue?
Absolutely. Just as a general principle, I don’t like mucking around with the Constitution. I’m sorry, I just don’t. I think, you know, in a pluralistic, dynamic society as the one that we have, every five years you can have a constitutional convention about something, you know? I don’t think we should be, you know, dancing around and trying to amend it every time I’ve got a social issue or a political issue or a business issue that I want to get addressed. Having said that, I think that the states are the best laboratory, the best place for those decisions to be made, because they will then reflect the majority of the community in which the issue is raised. And that’s exactly what a republic is all about.

Do you think homosexuality is a choice?
Oh, no. I don’t think I’ve ever really subscribed to that view, that you can turn it on and off like a water tap. Um, you know, 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.” It’s like saying, “Tomorrow morning I’m gonna stop being black.”

So your feeling would be that people are born one way or another.
I mean, I think that’s the prevailing view at this point, and I know that there’s some out there who think that you can absolutely make that choice. And maybe some people have. I don’t know, I can’t say. Until we can give a definitive answer one way or the other, I think we should respect that.

Look closely at Steele’s answer to the last question.  Here Steele admits that he doesn’t know if conventional wisdom is correct.  So what is the problem?  Like most of us Steele does not know when to say “I do not know.”  Is homosexuality a choice?  Steele does not know.  Nonetheless, Steele takes a position against same-sex marriage, and he expects homosexual priests to be celibate.

Like it or not, we are not going to get perfect people to run for public office or for responsible positions in the Republican Party.  Like it or not, elected Republicans are going to say and do stupid things.  Sometimes they are even going to say things with which we disagree.  At times like that, the best we can do is to compare the Republicans we don’t like with their Democratic Party counterpart.  When the difference does not amount to much, it is then we have a real problem.

Whatever else we may want to say of Steele, he is not a Democrat.  So if we have to give somebody hell, let’s stop giving it to Steele and start giving it to Democrats.

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