Installing Martinez at the RNC

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jan 19, 2007 12:50 PM

Sen. Mel Martinez will officially be taking over the helm of the RNC today. As a sitting U.S. Senator, Martinez will serve as "general chairman" -- a position which does not exist under the written rules of the RNC.

As you probably have guessed, Martinez is essentially being "installed" by the Bush administration. Supporters of Martinez argue that a Republican president's prerogative is to decide who heads the RNC, and besides, Ronald Reagan set the precedent for this when he pushed the chairmanship of his good friend, Sen. Paul Laxalt of Nevada.

Of course, any leader would probably want to put his loyalists in charge of the party apparatus. That's not uncommon. But in the case of Martinez, there are really three problems: 1. Many conservatives are concerned about his position on amnesty, 2. It is hard to imagine that a sitting U.S. Senator would also have the time to effectively chair the RNC (in fairness, someone else will be tasked with the day-to-day operation), and 3. it is in direct violation of the written rules.

While it is probably a fools errand to attempt to stop a sitting U.S. President from choosing anybody he wants to head his party, it should be noted that this sort of meddling -- whether at the local or national level -- rarely works. Just as local citizens should have the right to choose their leaders, RNC members ought to have the right to choose their leader.

And at the very least, the White House should be expected to play by the rules.