Frank Rich writes in the New York Times, The Great Tea Party Rip-Off , about current Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele. (Emphasis added.)
Steele is widely regarded as a clown by observers of all political persuasions, but he is clownish like a fox. His actions in this incident offer some hilarious and instructive insights into what’s going on in the Republican hierarchy right now as it tries to cope not just with our first African-American president but with a restive base embracing right-wing tea-party populism that loathes the establishment in both parties. And though Steele is black, and perhaps the most enthusiastic player of the race card in American politics today, race was a red herring in his Reid vendetta. It threw most everyone off the scent of his real motivation, which had nothing to do with black versus white but everything to do with green, as in money.
A profligate spender, Steele had inaugurated his arrival as party chairman by devoting nearly $20,000 to redecorate his office because he found it “way too male” for his sensitive tastes. In the weeks just before “Game Change” emerged, Steele was in more hot water. Over the holidays, G.O.P. elders were shocked to learn that their front man had a side career as a motivational public speaker at up to $20,000 a gig. The party treasury, which contained $22.8 million upon Steele’s arrival at the end of January 2009, was down to $8.7 million by late November, with 2010 campaign expenditures rapidly arriving. “He needs to raise money for the party, not his wallet,” one Republican leader griped to Politico.
His behavior is not anomalous. Steele is representative of a fascinating but little noted development on the right: the rise of buckrakers who are exploiting the party’s anarchic confusion and divisions to cash in for their own private gain. In this cause, Steele is emulating no one if not Sarah Palin, whose hunger for celebrity and money outstrips even his own. As many suspected at the time, her 2008 campaign wardrobe, like the doomed campaign itself, was just a preview of coming attractions: she would surely dump the bother of serving as Alaska’s besieged governor for a lucrative star turn on Fox News. Last week she made it official.
Since the era of Reagan the Republican party has become the epitome of the party of P.T. Barnum, the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age, combined with the best of the snake oil merchants that roamed the West in the late 19th century.
The Robber Barons
Modern Snake Oil
Throw in a healthy serving of diced ‘know-nothing” and good old American “anti-intellectualism”: Anti-Intellectualism.
Top this pie with an icing of the neo-con philosophy of Leo Strauss, a key element of which is the manipulation of the ignorant, gullible masses by pushing into key public offices compliant individuals who can be controlled by the real powers behind the throne, those who “know best” what the future of the American Imperium is (see Project for New American Century).Leo Strauss; Project for a New American Century.
Bake well for a couple of decades, until the crust turns a rich, well-done color by the end of the Bush/Cheney era.
And what do you have?
The biggest debt in the nation’s history. Ongoing, Orwellian un-ending wars that are destroying our military and economy. Wall Street and investment bankers that now own Congress, and are living high on the hog of tax dollars of the working and middle-class, without which dollars their businesses would have collapsed, leaving them not with millions and millions of “bonus” dollars, but selling apples on the street where they belong.
And we working and middle-class boomers, who were planning to retire starting this year, have watched our retirement funds devastated, and the prospect of a comfortable retirement threatened.
That is the context of RNC chair Steele. Who, by the way, really has no shame whatsoever, considering he heads up a party one of the fundamental tenets of which is pure, un-adulterated racism and classism.