Thursday, December 24, 2009

Michael Steele's bad idea

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Michael Steele was still giving speeches at $20,000 a pop while serving as chairman of the RNC. It is, apparently, unprecedented for a party chair to keep charging for speeches although many chairman have held down other jobs while chairman. For example, Tim Kaine, the DNC chair is still governor of Virginia.

It's still a bad idea. Steele was chosen because he was billed as a charismatic speaker who could articulate the party's message and perhaps bring in some new people. I've heard him in public once at a symposium with Harold Ford and I was very impressed with him. Despite his several gaffes since he took over, I still hold out hope that he will fulfill the promise for which he was chosen. But part of his job is giving speeches. He should be all over the place trying to whip up the faithful, fund-raising, and inspiring new Republicans. That task would be diluted if sometimes he's charging for those speeches. To keep that $20,000 price, he has an interest in limiting his appearances. And if he doesn't, then there are uncomfortable questions about whether those fees are for something other than a well-delivered speech. After all, why would an organization pay him to give a speech when he's already all over giving speeches regularly?

He'll have plenty of opportunities to make the big bucks on speeches after this year's election if the Republicans do well. Let him focus on his main job and consider it a personal investment in his price tag for future speeches.