Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why Is Michael Steele a Republican Candidate?

The NYT Magazine says:

Because Karl Rove and Dick Cheney called and asked him to run for the Senate. Because Maryland has the highest percentage of African-Americans in any state outside the Deep South. Because the party of Lincoln thinks it can again be the party of the African-American.

It was last spring when Karl Rove called Michael Steele, the lieutenant governor of Maryland, to sell him on running for the Senate, and to close the deal, Rove paused to put President Bush on the phone. As Steele recalls it, the president's adviser said, "Here, the boss wants to talk to you." Steele froze, then demurred. "I went, 'No, no thank you.' I was so stunned that he was going to hand the phone to the president. I said, 'That's all right, we'll have that call later.' I couldn't believe it." Other top Republicans called. Senator Elizabeth Dole. Ken Mehlman, the party chairman. One day Steele's cellphone rang, and Vice President Dick Cheney was on the other end.

.....................If the Republicans can win in a state like Maryland because they pried away some of the black vote from the Democrats, Trippi said, "It will be over." Over for whom? I asked. "The Democrats," he responded. He didn't mean just in Maryland — he meant in the whole country, because the electoral math for Democrats begins with an assumption of capturing something like 90 percent of the African-American vote.

.................Why is he a Republican, anyway? Steele's answer is that it all goes back to his mother. (No politician ever lost votes by overreferencing his mother, who, in this case, was not made available for an interview.) In his neighborhood growing up, "everyone — cousins, friends and neighbors — was always asking her why she didn't take public assistance. 'Why don't you stand in line and get a check?"' His mother, a Democrat with pictures of Martin Luther King Jr. and J.F.K. on the wall at home, would answer the same way every time: "Because I don't want the government raising my kids." Read it all


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