Politics: Steele's Stumbles, Obama's Staff Issues
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
From NPR News it's Day to Day. The week in politics now, and let's begin with the Republicans. The chair of the party Michael Steele has the base of the party just fuming. From their point of view, he has made a serious of gaffs including saying abortion is an individual choice. Joining us now is NPR News analyst Juan Williams, and Juan, tell us more about this saga. What else has he said that's riled the party?
JUAN WILLIAMS: Well, remember, you have to go back to Rush Limbaugh where he said that much of what Limbaugh says is ugly, and that he had to back pedal on that and make apologies to the radio talk show host, who is such a favorite among right-wing males, such as the heart of his constituency and a key part of the Republican base. And then in this interview with GQ that you are referring to Madeleine, he said that abortion should be an individual choice and he explained by saying, individual states should decide the matter themselves. It shouldn't be a matter that's decided by the federal government or the courts in Washington. And he also use profanity in this interview with GQ and also said that requests to ask people to stop being gay it would be like asking him to stop being black. So it was quite an interview. People like former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said, you know, how can life be left up to choice, you know, it's a reversal of GOP policy and something that's at the core of what Republicans stand for and, as far as Huckabee was concerned, a reversal of human rights in this country.
BRAND: Yeah, and isn't that a part of their party platform?
WILLIAMS: It is, that's why I'm saying. For Huckabee, for so many who were in the anti-abortion movement in this country, it was an anathema. So, again, weakens Michael Steele just now in his first month as head of the Republican Party.
BRAND: And yet, it doesn't look like he'll be ousted, right.
WILLIAMS: Well, I think they're going to have trouble ousting the first black leader of the Republican Party. And he says - and I think lots of people respond to this as a matter of tone and intention - that he's trying to expand the base of the party. He's interested in the suburban hip-hop crowd, the younger people who might be attracted to this kind of more free-willing thinking and attitude. So you know, I think right now, though, he's on the hot seat, Madeleine, and he's going to have to pick up the pace pretty quick. He's trying to do it by putting lots of money on the plate for people, but he's going to have to raise that money. And if he keeps antagonizing the base, he won't be able to raise the money.
BRAND: OK, let's switch gears now. President Obama is having some problems. He keeps losing nominees to vetting issues. What's going on?
WILLIAMS: Well, he just lost another one in the Treasury Department, which has been beset by this problem. Now, four people have been lost or pulled out in recent weeks. The latest man by the name of H. Rodgin Cohen, who is the head of a New York law firm, a fairly prominent law firm Sullivan and Cromwell. Paul Volcker, who's an adviser to the president, said it's shameful how the top 17 posts at Treasury had been vacant until this week, and now they got some nominees going in. But again, they haven't been confirmed. So even in the midst of a tremendous economic crisis, what you see is that Tim Geithner, the Treasury Secretary, was operating at a disadvantage.
BRAND: All right, Juan, your best political conversation of the week?
WILLIAMS: Well, Madeleine, I missed you. But while you were gone, Alex Cohen and I had a conversation about the fact that President Obama's family got a swing set installed right outside the Oval Office, on the grounds of the White House. So guess what? Somebody at the White House was listening and called and said hey, I heard you say that the president got the swing set put in, but you didn't mention that he paid for it himself.
BRAND: The swing sets can cost you pretty penny.
BRAND: I know. All right, NPR news analyst Juan Williams. Thanks.
WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Madeleine.
BRAND: Stay with us. NPR's Day to Day continues.
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