Rarely have the e-mails flowed in as quickly as they did Monday as news spread of the RNC's profligacy and of its highly objectionable choice of entertainment venues. They are coming from individuals who, as recently as Friday, had at my urging sent money to the National Republican Congressional Committee to help in the effort to oust Nancy Pelosi. They are coming from people who are living on tight budgets in an era of economic uncertainty but who had sacrificed because the country cannot afford another two years of a Pelosi-Reid led Congress.
They are coming from very, very angry Republicans.
And they are right to be angry.
Whether or not RNC staffers share the very traditional beliefs on moral questions of the vast majority of their regular voters, the idea of partying at even "upscale" sex-themed nightclubs is quite obviously not only at the top of the stupid charts, it also reflects thorough-going contempt for the folks that sent them to work in the first place.
This latest scandal follows another one wherein the crackerjack staff at the RNC circulated a memo dripping in disdain for the conservative rank and file . The memo-flap soon passed as staff memos just aren't that interesting.
This scandal will not soon pass. It is a huge blow at a time of otherwise gathering momentum, and the GOP's elected leadership need to respond decisively, as do Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, John Thune and Sarah Palin – the four Republicans most likely to seek the party's nomination in 2012 and to have a shot of gaining it.
The RNC has two jobs right now – to raise money for the campaign ahead and to secure the presidential primaries against the almost-certain monkey-wrenching that President Obama's most zealous supporters will try to effect come the first quarter of 2012.
There has been almost no attention paid to the latter issue, and the results on the search for funds have been mixed. Whatever progress had been made is now certain to be pulverized at least among the small donor category so vital to building a party's grassroots. Who is going to sacrifice the cost of a night out at the movies with the family so that GOP staff and high rollers can party with the pole-dancers?
What is needed now urgently is a top-to-bottom accountability exercise on expenses: Who spent how much on what and on whose authority? The RNC's members ought even now to be scrambling to get to D.C. (flying coach) to address this story and decide whether or not Michael Steele stays as Chair. They may chose to keep Steele, but he will need a vigorous show of support if he is going to stay on, and almost certainly a new Deputy Chair for Management should be named and vested with the authority to oversee the finances and administration of an organization which, at best, has enormous blind spots.
There isn't a moment to spare, and at the same time the NRCC.org and the NRSC.org will have to spend effort to message that they are not the RNC, and that their practices are not the practices of the national committee. It would help a great, great deal if either or both of the Congressional committees actually posted an online target list with links to GOP candidates for competitive seats so that the energized base could decide where to direct money and volunteer efforts to most effect.
In this new age of speed in communications and total transparency, whether voluntary or forced, the D.C. GOP still seems incredibly slow to transform itself and tone-deaf to the urgency felt by its core voters and newly arrived converts. The leadership from John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Mike Pence in the House as well as from Mitch McConnell, Jon Kyl and Lamar Alexander in the Senate was excellent through the battle over Obamacare. The display of expertise by Congressman Paul Ryan and others provided the hope that a new architecture of ideas on how to repair the damage was emerging. Great candidates were appearing across the country to challenge incumbent Democrats or contend for open seats.
2010 could indeed be a watershed year, a "Black Swan" moment for Democrats.
But not if serious self-inflicted wounds are left untreated and a staff that is building a reputation for miserable judgment left undisturbed in its evident complacency.