Posts Tagged ‘Beltway Drama’

Obama’s entourage outside 1789 in Georgetown

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Not making this up – An FCC commissioner who voted to approve the NBC/Comcast deal is taking a new job lobbying for… the new NBC/Comcast conglomerate.

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The Hill is reporting that one RNC member is calling on Michael Steele to step down as chairman barely a month into his tenure.

Josh Marshall has a few background details on the RNC member, who is one out of only three African Americans on the national committee.

From a PR standpoint, the past few weeks have been a series of self-inflicted gaffes for Michael Steele, culminating with his apology to Rush Limbaugh, which was politically embarrassing for him and the party at large. Add to this the fact that his campaign expenses from the 2006 Maryland Senate race are now in question, and you have some nervous Republicans with preliminary stages of buyer’s remorse.

DNC Chairman Tim Kaine enters the Limbaugh-Steele fray and takes a few shots at both of them. The most interesting thing in watching all of this is that Limbaugh and Kaine Steele effectively played right into the Democrats’ hands. The Democrats are going to get a lot of political mileage and talking points out of this episode.

As for Steele, I don’t know how effective he’ll be as a national party leader from here on out. I mentioned in a previous post that there is no media or political figure on the right or left who has the kind of muscle or influence that Limbaugh and his listeners do. The only national GOP figures who have criticized Limbaugh and avoided apology so far are Rep. Eric Cantor and Gov. Jon Huntsman. But if this becomes some sort of ideological litmus test for any Republican who has hopes for national exposure, then it will make for a very interesting set of election cycles in 2010 and 2012.

Update: Some very good observations from Greg Sargent:

The problem for Steele, of course, is that by hitting Rush — and provoking a response from the talk show host — he’s left himself in the unenviable position of having to answer Rush’s implicit demand that he say whether he’s With Rush Or Against Him when it comes to Rush’s desire for Obama to fail. It’s not a good position to be in: Either Steele distances himself from Rush and angers the base, or he throws in his lot with the GOP’s pro-failure brigade and makes it easier for Dems to paint the GOP as petulant, partisan obstructionists.

Amusingly, either choice would help Rush: The first gives him a potent rallying point, and the second demonstrates his power over the party. What’s more, all this underscores again the astonishing degree to which the interests of Rush and Democrats are aligned here, since both Rush and Democrats want Steele, and every other Republican, to publicly make exactly the same choice.

Much has been made of Rush Limbaugh’s widely quoted “I hope Obama fails” comment, which he first made on his radio show a few days before Obama’s inauguration, and repeated it again at CPAC this past weekend.

Democrats have seized the initiative and are trying to make Rush Limbaugh the face and driving force of the GOP. Rahm Emanuel himself threw down the gauntlet on the Sunday talk shows yesterday.

Keep in mind Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey publicly apologized after making comments in a Politico story criticizing Rush Limbaugh.

Eric Cantor, the second highest ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, distanced himself from Limbaugh’s comments yesterday.

Now, we’ll see if Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican Party, is going to face the same kind of pressure to make amends with Limbaugh.

These episodes show just how large of a shadow Limbaugh and his audience casts on the Republican Party. I can’t think of anyone else in political or media circles on the right or left who has this much muscle that they can force a sitting member of Congress to issue a public apology. The question now is how far will he go with his rhetoric and how far is the Republican Party and the base willing to follow him?

Update: Limbaugh responds to Steele:

“Why do you claim to lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it President Obama succeeds?” Limbaugh addressed Steele.

“I frankly am stunned that the chairman of the Republican National Committee endorses such an agenda. I have to conclude that he does because he attacks me for wanting it to fail,” said Limbaugh.

Late last week, Steele told CNN’s D.L. Hughley that Limbaugh is an “entertainer” whose comments are “ugly.”

Also on his radio program Monday, Limbaugh said Steele is being used by the “liberal media.”

“Michael Steele has been around long enough to know that the liberal media will use him by twisting what I say or what others say,” he said. “He took the bait, he bit down hard on the bait, he launched an attack on me, even though the premise of what was said to him was false.”

Update II: Damn, that was fast. Steele apologized to Limbaugh.

Limbaugh said he’s not in charge of the Republican Party, but every time a Party leader or elected official has to kiss his ring every time they say or do something that annoys him, it just reinforces the Democrats’ message strategy that Limbaugh is the de facto leader of the GOP.

Update III: Andrew Sullivan has reactions to the Limbaugh-Steele feud from the conservative blogosphere.

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Politico ranks the ten most influential Twitter users in DC.

This story in the Washington Post is unbelievable. If this had happened in the private sector, people would have been fired immediately.

This exchange really captures the severity of it all:

“Isn’t that a terrible way to look after the taxpayers’ money and to make purchases anywhere?” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.), ranking member on the Senate Banking Committee, said at a hearing on oversight of the bailout.

Warren replied, “Senator, Treasury simply did not do what it said it was doing.”

“In other words, they misled the Congress, did they not?” said a visibly flustered Shelby.

When a Republican senator is openly accusing the Bush Treasury Department of misleading Congress, you know it’s bad.