Those of our readers here at the Hayride who have been around for some time will recall that we’ve treated Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele rather harshly; Ryan Booth has gone so far as to call for him to step down, even starting a web site to oust him from his position called DumpSteele.com. Michael Youngblood has also called for a new party chairman amid some of the criticisms of Steele which have circulated during his time atop the party in the past year. And while I have not gone quite that far, I myself have taken some pretty substantial shots at Steele for some of his goofy statements and questions about his management style.
So it is within that vein that I’m going to say today’s donnybrook surrounding the latest set of revelations about Steele and his stewardship of the Republican Party is overblown.
The Daily Caller broke the story today which has set off the controversy. It seems that among a number of other expenses, the RNC reimbursed Erik Brown, a campaign consultant who does work for a number of California Republican candidates here and there, some $1,900 for food and a bar tab he bought at a strip bar in West Hollywood. The event occasioning the expenses was apparently intended to cultivate donations from 30- and 40-somethings the party was hoping to reel in as donors.
Steele apparently didn’t attend the strip bar gladhandling soiree, and the RNC denies he had anything to do with organizing it. The Daily Caller claims he and Brown apparently have a working relationship of sorts, though that’s hardly major news within the political world where everybody seems to know everybody else. Meanwhile, the RNC says Brown is going to return the reimbursement since they’re embarrassed and upset about this imbroglio, and it’s not the party’s policy to schmooze its donors at peeler bars.
The free-for-all today, though, centers around two things: first, is Steele a profligate waster of money for which this episode is an example? And second, does this incident explode the Republican Party as a morally superior alternative to the Democrats?
The latter is a question which doesn’t impress me. It seems the James Carville-masterminded Charlie Melancon U.S. Senate campaign is going to have as its sole focus David Vitter’s 10-year old issues with ladies of the night and the three-year old disclosure of those issues, with Vitter’s supposed morally-superior rhetoric providing the dagger in his throat.
Having standards that you can’t always meet doesn’t invalidate those standards. The Democrats don’t seem to have any standards at all, and in the confused logic of our time that immunizes them from all manner of scandal, sexual or otherwise. Besides, in this case strip bars are legal. If somebody took a few 30-somethings out for a night on the town, it doesn’t appear any laws were broken or that anyone was sold into slavery.
I don’t like Steele and as a Republican I’d prefer not to have the bad publicity about this thing. But it’s not like laundering drug money into political campaigns or selling nuclear secrets to the Chinese in return for donations to the president’s re-election effort. Or whatever. That this is something of a controversy (no matter how overblown) in and of itself is proof the GOP still holds itself to a higher standard than does the other side. Go to any high-priced strip club and you can find either Democrat politicians or operatives, or both, more nights than not. Strip club donor scandals involving Democrats? Don’t hold your breath.
Because the charge of “hypocrisy” is such a worn-out and stupid one, the question I’m more interested in is this – was Brown’s night on the town with these 30-somethings a good investment? How much did that $1,900 generate in donations from the 30-somethings? If it pulled in $5,000 or so, then I’m absolutely fine with it. If it pulled in $50,000, then we have a successful business model to work from.
What’s the complaint here? Everybody knows it takes money to make money. Everybody who donates decent money to a cause expects to get his or her butt kissed and shown a good time. That’s a cardinal rule of development. Some donors want a steak dinner, some want to meet Terry Bradshaw or Barbara Streisand, some want to drink Courvoisier and apparently some want to look at boobs. So long as it’s not illegal, if it works what’s the difference? If all that happened to reel in some cash from a few donors was a whiskey-fueled frat party redux, that’s a lot more innocent than what’s happened in exchange for George Soros’ donations to the DNC and his various other political cabals.
Now, Steele might well be a wastrel as the RNC chair. I’ve heard that charge made, and there is evidence it might be a valid one. I’m going to withhold judgement on his spending as a whole. If he is sloppy with the party’s money but that $1,900 ended up making the GOP a few sheckels, then it might just be that the strip club scandal is the best example of his stewardship.
At the end of the day, I see it like this – if a few thousand bucks raised at a burlesque joint makes the difference in getting rid of Harry Reid or unseating Nancy Pelosi as the Speaker of the House, my conscience won’t bother me in the least. Let’s evaluate Steele on issues of substance, not whether somebody got to see a show.