For the third time in his short tenure as RNC chair, Steele has fumbled a media appearance, this time on abortion, and had to reverse himself afterwards. Steele told an interviewer that he thought abortion was a matter of personal choice and that it should be regulated by the states. Now, as Ben Smith reports at Politico, Steele explains that what he really meant was that abortion should be banned by a Constitutional amendment:
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 In my view Roe vs. Wade was wrongly decided and should be repealed.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.
Try squaring that with this:
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 can’t. The two statements cannot be reconciled with each other. They are mutually exclusive. And Steele has offered both as his views in two successive days.
I’m pro-life, as anyone who has read this blog knows. I don’t think that’s a litmus test for Republicans, although some may differ on that point. Pro-choice Republicans exist in significant numbers, and will grow as Obama’s Deadbeatonomics fails and drives people out of the arms of the statists in the Democratic Party. We will want to partner with people to build a coalition that can win national elections, and economic freedom will probably have to form the basis of that coalition.
However, the problem with Steele isn’t the GQ interview. It’s the fact that he can’t seem to make up his mind and stick with it. Steele seems to have environmentally-dependent political views. When he’s talking with DL Hughley, the Republican Convention looks like a Nazi rally. When he’s talking on TV, Rush Limbaugh is ugly and incendiary. When Steele talks with GQ, he’s pro-choice. And Steele reverses himself with amazing alacrity when speaking in entirely different environments. He appears to have no convictions and no principles when he makes these gyrations on the national stage, as though he stands for nothing but Michael Steele and access to the media spotlight.
I have seen the man speak with conviction and passion at conservative events and leave everyone mightily impressed, but now we have to wonder whether Steele just tailored the message for the audience, as he appears to have done with Hughley and GQ. I don’t necessarily buy that, as he has easier ways to get media air time than being in the Republican Party, but it’s hard not to ask the question these days.
One thing is certain: he’s a lot less media savvy than most of us thought. And since he doesn’t seem to have much skill in organization, we have to ask ourselves why we should support his continued tenure as RNC chair.
Update: Philip Klein sums it up in one word: Zelig.
Update II: My friend John McCormack defends Steele on this point:
Ed Morrissey writes: “The two statements cannot be reconciled with each other. They are mutually exclusive. And Steele has offered both as his views in two successive days.”
I disagree. Steele was asked whether there is a right to abortion–not whether there ought to be a right to abortion. Under the current legal regime dictated by the Supreme Court, abortion is an “individual choice” throughout all nine months of pregnancy for effectively any reason.
Well, I certainly hope that’s what Steele meant, but calling abortion a “right” and an “individual choice” sounds quite a bit like he’s surrendering substantial ground. People think of “rights” as something government can’t eliminate. “Absolutely” sounds like an endorsement of that position. If that’s not what he meant to convey, then I think Steele needs to work on his delivery, and again that goes to whether we got the media-savvy spokesman we expected when we cheered his victory.