Michael Steele: Arizona's law isn't a reflection of an entire party

Commenters in the Headlines thread are howling about it, but come on. Some of you guys are just yelling at him for the sake of yelling at him at this point. He’s a national party spokesman, like it or not; he was doing an interview with Univision that plenty of Latino voters in purple districts are bound to see; and he didn’t slam the law but rather used a federalist hedge to suggest that the party’s big enough to encompass different views of the statute. Frankly, coming from Captain Gaffe-tastic, it’s an unusually politic statement.

“The actions of one state’s governor is not a reflection of an entire country, nor is it a reflection of an entire political party,” he said, referring to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer and her support for S.B. 1070.

“The governor and the people of Arizona made a decision that they thought was in their best interest, and that’s the beauty of a republic, that’s who we are.”…

He said Tuesday that since the immigration debate is now “in full bloom,” he hopes that “level heads will prevail” in finding a “commonsense solution” to the immigration issue.

We know what he means by that last bit, but again, he’s not making any promises or disparaging anyone in the GOP who’s demanding border enforcement. He’s … pandering for votes, which makes this a rare instance of Steele doing what he’s supposed to be doing as RNC chair. In fact, here’s his “clarification” of the Univision remarks to CNN:

“We support the Republican governor of Arizona in her efforts, but we also recognize that this is a transcendent issue and that for different parts of the country they look at it and approach it differently and Republican candidates and the Republican leadership in those states and those communities have to be able to respond to the needs at that time,” Steele told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien as part of her series “In America: See How They Run.”…

“We have pro-choice Republicans, we have pro-life Republicans, so I can’t say that one of them is a reflection of the entire party,” he said. “The same is true on this question on Arizona. Some people see that law one way, some people see that law another way. It depends on where you live and what your background is.”

What he’s trying to do here, after four months of leftist demagoguery about Jan Brewer leading some sort of Nazi revival in Arizona, is convince Latinos that you can have issues with the statute and still be a Republican. (Harry Reid, take note!) In fact, he sounds a bit like Marco Rubio, tea-party rock star, who recently declined the chance to cheerlead for Arizona’s law when asked about it by the NYT. Instead he said this:

“I don’t want Arizona to serve as a model for other states,” said Mr. Rubio, a first-generation American whose parents fled Cuba in 1959. “I want Arizona’s law to serve as a wake-up call to the federal government to finally do its jobs with regard to illegal immigration.”

Would have been nice if Steele had added that last part, but then Rubio’s talking points on the statute haven’t always been perfect either. Remember when Brewer first signed the bill, before the legislature amended it simply to clarify that racial profiling was prohibited, and Rubio started expressing misgivings about it on the trail — including an analogy involving a “police state”? (He brightened up about it after the racial profiling amendment passed.) He had to balance what grassroots conservatives wanted to hear with what Cuban voters wanted to hear. Politics, in other words. Same here with Steele.