Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is taking heavy fire from social conservatives over the apparently pro-choice leanings he discussed in his recent interview with GQ. In particular, two important figures -- former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell -- have come out with sharp denunciations of Steele's comments.
Neither Huckabee nor Blackwell has all that much sway within the Republican Party, really, but they're significant because of their popularity with the Christian right segment of the GOP's base. Blackwell's criticism is especially interesting. He ran against Steele for the RNC chairmanship, but his unexpected endorsement midway into the voting process ultimately helped deliver the post to Steele. And yet Blackwell was far rougher in his response to the GQ interview than Huckabee was.
"Chairman Steele, as the leader of America's Pro-Life conservative party, needs to re-read the Bible, the U.S. Constitution, and the 2008 GOP Platform," Blackwell told the conservative Web site Townhall. "He then needs to get to work -- or get out of the way."
Meanwhile, on his blog, Huckabee said:
Comments attributed to Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele are very troubling and despite his clarification today the party stands to lose many of its members and a great deal of its support in the trenches of grassroots politics. Since 1980, our party has been steadfast and principled in believing in the dignity and worth of every human life. We have supported a Constitutional amendment to protect life and the party has taken the position that no one individual has the supreme right to own another person in totality including the right to take that life. For Chairman Steele to even infer that taking a life is totally left up to the individual is not only a reversal of Republican policy and principle, but it's a violation of the most basic of human rights--the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. His statement today helps, but doesn't explain why he would ever say what he did in the first place.
Update: Huckabee has put up a second post about Steele. This one strikes a more conciliatory tone:
I have spoken this afternoon to Chairman Michael Steele and have received clarification from him as to his comments regarding the sanctity of life issue. I appreciate his candor and most of all his willingness to personally discuss this with me.
Michael affirms his pro-life commitment, including support for the party platform of a Constitutional amendment to protect life and his conviction that life begins at conception. The point he sought to make was that words like “choice” and “individual decisions” have been co-opted by the left, when in fact his mother made a choice as an individual—the CHOICE to give birth to him as an unmarried college student. It would have been easy for her to have made a choice to end his life, but she chose life.