Commentary Magazine


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The Silver Lining

Some conservatives are miffed that Republicans are criticizing Michael Steele. Don’t fight among yourselves! The Democrats will prosper! There are three responses.

First, when your side says something more than dumb but offensive and just plain wrong — whether it’s Rand Paul on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or Steele claiming that Afghanistan is Obama’s war — it’s important to speak up. The public generally respects candor and can figure out when a statement is out of bounds, so it does no good to circle the wagons or pretend it’s all the “media’s fault.” (Plenty of things are, but transmitting a politician’s words isn’t a journalistic crime.) The alternative is doing what the Democrats did with regard to Richard Blumenthal — defending the indefensible at the cost of one’s own intellectual credibility.

Second, aside from Ron Paul, who is the touchstone of foreign policy quackery, the entire Republican Party told Steele he was wrong. There was no messy food fight or any circular firing squad — just a straightaway barrage aimed at Steele. So how is it a bad thing when Republicans show they are foursquare behind a critical military operation and stalwart in the war against Islamic fascists?

Third, how is the left, which can’t decide if this is a “good war” still,  going to make hay of this? “The party is in disarray over the Afghanistan war!” applies to the Democratic Party, not to the Republicans.

And finally, this seals Steele’s fate. After the election, he can be dumped, and a less gaffe-prone, more effective chairman can be installed. That is a good thing for the GOP as well.