WASHINGTON -- If the latest family spat within the Republican National Committee about Chairman Michael Steele is ever turned into a play, it should be titled "Much Ado About Nothing."
The story so far is that a few disgruntled RNC members (some of whom are whining that Steele never calls) have complained that he is giving paid speeches to professional and trade organizations that want hear his message. Like Ronald Reagan, the former Maryland lieutenant governor has made his living on the chicken-dinner circuit, delivering inspirational speeches, and he has continued doing that on his own time when he is not traveling the country speaking to any and all Republican Party audiences -- and other political groups -- that hear him free of charge.
In other words, his full-time job is chairman of the party, but that in no way forbids him from adding to his income in his off-hours -- as many Republican national chairmen have done before him. He is said to be paid between $10,000 and $20,000 -- low by Washington standards -- but there is no evidence he has trimmed back the job he is doing for the RNC, which is to deliver his party's message and raise money.
Steele had a bit of a bumpy period in the beginning of his tenure, but has generally acquitted himself well on the speaking circuit and on TV and radio. He has made hundreds of speeches and other appearances as chairman and has raised tens of millions of dollars for the party in the past year in the midst of a deep recession and a post-election period when contributions tend to fall off anyway. The RNC has had a record number of new donors for an off-year election cycle, which is remarkable.
But his pipsqueak RNC critics, who apparently have nothing better to do than beat up their party chairman, are also attacking him for writing a book that urges his party to stick to its core conservative principles and values and praises the rise of the tea-party activist movement that he believes will lead the GOP back to a majority in Congress.
The book, recently published by Regnery, is "Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda." He didn't write it secretly, as his critics charged, but talked about its development with many advisers. It's in all of the bookstores, prominently displayed, delivering the GOP's message, which, after all, is his job.