In an era when so many people seem to be focused on "the first" of any group to do something, maybe it was not so surprising when someone on television pointed out the first Australian to play in a Super Bowl.
After all the hoopla over Barack Obama's becoming the first person of his complexion to become President, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be a small echo of that when Michael Steele became the first black head of the Republican National Committee.
For those of us who are still so old-fashioned as to be concerned about someone's ability to do the job, the question about Michael Steele is whether he can pick up the shattered pieces of the Republicans and put them together again to form a winning party. That is going to a whale of a job, for anybody of any complexion, "gender" or whatever.
As a political candidate, the question about Michael Steele would be the usual ones about his ideology, his track record in office and the like.
As chairman of a political party, however, the question is whether Michael Steele can represent that party to the public. This is especially important when the party is out of power and has neither a President in the White House nor a leader commanding a majority in either House of Congress.
One of the huge and perennial handicaps of the Republicans is that they seldom have anybody who can articulate their case to the public. It is hard to win the White House with candidates like Bob Dole and John McCain.
That was why Governor Sarah Palin was such a sensation in arousing the grassroots Republicans. She could talk!
Try to name five articulate Republicans. Ronald Reagan, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln come to mind. After that, you have to rack your brain.
Newt Gingrich has been good at the low-key, understated kind of discussion that a professor-- which he once was-- conducts around a seminar table.
But the rough and tumble of politics is not a seminar. Bill Clinton completely out-talked Gingrich and the whole Republican leadership during the government shutdown crisis of 1995.
It was painful watching the Republicans trying to explain the simple truth half as well as Clinton promoted a lie. Republicans got blamed for shutting down the government, even though they had appropriated plenty of money to keep the government running.
Michael Steele can talk. That is even rarer among Republicans than being black.
Too many Republicans don't even seem to understand the need to talk. They seem to think it is something you have to go through the motions of doing but, really, they would rather be somewhere else, doing something else.
When the first President Bush looked at his watch during a nationally televised Presidential debate, he epitomized what has been wrong with Republicans for years.
A member of the audience had just asked a stupid question. Ronald Reagan would have been all over him, like a linebacker blitzing a quarterback. But Bush 41 just looked at his watch, as if he couldn't wait for this to be over.
Michael Steele not only knows how to talk, he seems to understand the need to talk. In his appearances on television over the years, he has been assertive rather than apologetic. When attacked, he has counter-attacked, not whined defensively, like too many other Republicans.
When criticizing the current administration, Steele won't have to pull his punches when going after Barack Obama, for fear of being called a racist.
Beyond that, one can only hope that Michael Steele understands what has been so disastrously wrong with the inept way Republicans have gone after the black vote for the past 30 years, by trying to be imitation Democrats.
There are numerous issues on which Democrats have pushed policies that are very harmful to blacks, especially supporting the teachers' unions instead of parental choice. But, however good the case, somebody has to make it. Somebody has to talk.
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