*Michael Stephen Steele was born on Andrews Air Force Base in Prince Georges County, Maryland on October 19, 1958, but given up for adoption while still in infancy. He was then raised by William and Maebell Steele, although Maebell eventually remarried following her husband’s untimely death in 1962.
Michael attended Archbishop Carroll Roman Catholic High in Washington, DC, before matriculating at Johns Hopkins University where he earned a BA in international studies. He subsequently studied to become a monk for several years, until he decided to leave the seminary shortly before being ordained. Instead, he proceeded to earn a J.D. at Georgetown University en route to landing a position as a staff attorney at a leading, international law firm.
Steele first entered politics in 2000, which is when he was voted Chairman of Maryland’s Republican Party. A couple of years later he won the State’s race for Lieutenant Governor, and by 2008 he had become the first African-American ever elected to serve as Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC).
He is currently a commentator on MSNBC, where he’s generally the lone conservative in a sea of liberal pundits. Here, the former RNC Chairman reflects on his life and philosophy, on his hopes for the GOP, and on the Party’s prospects for attracting more African-American voters in 2012.
Robertson Treatment: Is it lonely being a black Republican? How did you even get mixed-up with the wrong crowd in the first place?
Michael Steele: [LOL] Well, I tend to be a contrarian, so that makes it pretty easy for me to get mixed-up with the wrong crowd. Look, you chart your own path in life. You assess the various options that lie before you, and you figure out where you can make a difference. When I first considered getting involved with the Republican Party, I decided to make the GOP confront not only its past and its present, but its future, including all the young African-Americans, the entrepreneurs, businessmen and women, teachers, moms and dads that we need to go out, talk to and attract.
RT: What could Republicans do to attract more African-Americans to the Party?
MS: A couple of things. One is to own up to our failures as a party, when it comes to making important investments in the black community when it counted, like during the Civil Rights Movement. While we had been the architects of great civil rights legislation like the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments and the 40 Acres and a Mule policy of the Reconstruction Era, the party hesitated when it really mattered in the 1950s and early 1960s, and thereby lost an opportunity to preserve the longstanding relationship between African-Americans and the GOP. And we probably wouldn’t be in the position today where we’re suffering from an erosion of support from African-Americans. Step Two would be for us to show up in the community prepared to have meaningful discussions about issues that actually matter to us, like job creation, in a way which makes sense. That’s why my very first official act as Chairman was to host a town hall meeting in Harlem. To me, that was a very important step to take.
RT: How can people of color reconcile the social and economic platform of the Republican Party with the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King?
MS: We could start off with the debate about whether or not Dr. King was a Republican. We know that Daddy King was. We know that African-Americans of that era were largely Republican. Set that aside, since what Harriet’s asking here is more fundamental. I would argue that, historically, major pieces of civil rights legislation were sponsored by and fought for by Republicans. There would not have been a Civil Rights Act or a Voting Rights Act were it not for the Republicans in the Senate who beat back Southern Democrats who stood in the schoolhouse doorway and other doorways of progress. So, that link to me is very, very important in terms of building the bridge that is necessary for this generation going forward.
RT: What did you think of Governor Christie’s decision not to run, and which Republican do you think has the best chance of beating Obama in 2012?
MS: I think Governor Christie made the right choice because, as he says in his own words, he’s not ready. He’s a friend, I take him at his word and, when the time comes, I look forward to supporting his leadership nationally. In terms of who’s going to take on Barack Obama, that’s going to be measured out over then next four or five weeks, quite honestly. I don’t have a particular favorite in the race. In fact, I’m contractually bound not to under my analyst’s responsibilities at MSNBC. However, we have on the stage individuals who will be able to go toe-to-toe effectively with Barack Obama.
RT: Given the success of the Tea Party and now the demonstrations against Wall St. in NYC which is mushrooming into a national movement, do you think the time is ripe for a viable third party?
MS: Yes, I do. The real seedlings for what could become a third party or at least a third way probably began around 2005 with people who were disappointed with the party. The Tea Party grew out of a frustration with big government Republicanism. And this movement we now see on Wall Street is something that started in Wisconsin this past winter in response to what Governor Walker was doing with respect to state employees and collective bargaining. So, you’re seeing these elements in society beginning to voice their opinions. Personally, I think that’s exciting, and we should pay close attention to it. And if you’re really moved by it, get involved.
RT: Do you ever get embarrassed by fellow Republicans, like Governor Perry’s association with a place called N-word Head Ranch?
MS: Yes, I do, and it frustrates me to no end because, in politics, perception is reality. And it’s doubly painful when reality exacerbates the perception. I know the Governor, and this wasn’t a racist act on his behalf.
But it wasn’t enough just to paint the rock over. Remove it, because you know what’s still beneath the paint. And you know what that rock stands for and symbolizes. That is a measure of your appreciation and your sensitivity that we as a nation can’t and won’t tolerate that.
RT: Do you think that there is really any difference between the left-wing and the right-wing in terms of concern for the plight of black America, or is that an illusion?
MS: Ahhh, that’s a good question… That’s a good question, and an important one for how we as a community go forward. On paper, yes. In reality, no. It is true that Democrats, Liberals and the Left take the African-American vote for granted every single moment of every single day while Republicans, Conservatives and the Right ignore the African-American vote every single moment of every single day. As a result, there is no political effort addressing what have become systemic problems for the African-American community. For all of the talk and hand-clapping, Democrats have not produced a hell of a lot to fix what’s wrong. Meanwhile, we have not made the concrete effort to help the community figure out how to tackle those problems. That being said, we are just as responsible for our situation as the political parties for being in the mess we’re in because we take the one thing politicians want the most, the vote, and misuse it. We don’t leverage the vote effectively by pressuring politicians to pay attention to our agenda. Just look at other communities and ask: Do they have the same problems that we do?
RT: As a political trailblazer, what advice do you have for minorities, the handicapped and females who want to break through the glass ceiling?
MS: Have the courage of your own convictions in terms of what you believe, and don’t back down from that for one moment, because every day, you have to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I like that person. I understand that person.” If you can’t do that, then your dreams won’t materialize. They just won’t. They’ll be co-opted by others, put on a shelf, or dismissed. But when you believe very firmly in who you are, everyone will pay attention and respond to that and appreciate the leadership and the qualities which make you unique, and they’ll embrace it and want to be a part of it, even if they disagree with some of your beliefs, because they’ll see the total person. That’s the key, getting people to see the total person.
2011 LEXUS CT 200
Widely recognized as one of America’s favorite luxury cars, the Lexus CT 200 very artfully combines its weather well-noted reputation for on the road precision and handling, with a sexy new exterior and green technology. I had the pleasure to drive one recently through the streets of Atlanta and found the ride to be all that is advertised and more…
Wow Factor: Well to start, my ride was a Lexus, which alone gave me reasons to celebrate. In addition, to that the new CT provides rides sporty exterior also added drive with confidence. This ride didn’t let me down, as it solidly performed on various road and weather conditions.
Ride: Outfitted with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a pair of electric motors combine that delivers some 134 horsepower, this ride is also supported by an electronically controlled continuously variable transmission (CVT) works as ringleader. The technology worked seamlessly to provide a ride that was consistent and extremely confident.
Comfort: The Lexus CT 200 is the first Lexus to offer a lateral performance damper system, which is a unique design meant to reduce body vibrations and promote a more comfortable ride. Added value was also evident with its Remote Touch controller that allowed me easy access to direct all riding features.
Spin Control: The Lexus CT more than lives up to its world renowned pedigree. With a base price that begins in the early $30,000, plus a driver friendly fuel economy that delivers 43 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, the Lexus CT 200 will appeal to a variety of driving demos. Add to that it’s environmentally friendly EV technology, and what you have is a ride that is going to attract a lot of attention.
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