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Government, Politics & Issues

More than one Steelman is creating political buzz

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, May 8, 2009 - While speculation continues to swirl around former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman's political plans, her husband -- prominent lawyer David Steelman -- is continuing to provide some partisan sparks.

Missouri's GOP world is abuzz about his commentary piece this week in the new Missouri Record , an online political site that just went up this week. It's created by Patrick Tuohey, a Kansas City-based pollster and communications consultant.

Entitled "Can the GOP Change,'' Steelman quotes the legendary cartoon character "Pogo" (age alert -- most folks under 40 or 45 don't know who Pogo is. Recommend "Googling." ), best known for saying, "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Says Steelman in the article about his fellow Republicans:

"There are voices of joy at the elimination of the moderate "RINOs" and others bemoaning the ascendancy of right wing extremists. There is even a "listening tour" with the Party’s handpicked elite. But, regardless of the message, the overarching goal of the messengers is the same; they will say whatever it takes to keep the same folks who drove the car into the ditch behind the wheel.

"Unfortunately, the labels and platitudes have confused what should be a simple charge. Elected Republicans should govern by the principles they profess in campaign rallies and advertisements.....

Elected Republicans, particularly in Congress, have expanded government; ignored the Constitution; bailed out failed big businesses with taxes collected from successful small businesses; and spent, and spent, and spent...."

Steelman said in an interview Friday that his chief point was that the public was now wanting more government regulation -- which he opposes -- because the public mistakenly believes that the free-market approach hasn't worked.

What didn't work, said Steelman, was how Republicans failed to implement properly the less-government approach they espoused. "Those in power redefined conservatism to what they wanted,'' Steelman said.

David Steelman already has ignited political talk over his acceptance of an appointment by Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat and old political nemesis, to a board overseeing the state government retirement system.

He denied that his article was tied to, or coordinated with, his wife's continued mullings over whether to run for the U.S. Senate in 2010, setting up a primary challenge with a fellow Republican, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Strafford.

Blunt was campaigning Friday with the incumbent senator, fellow Republican Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

David Steelman said he'd sent his article to a number of news outlets, some of which are expected to run his piece this weekend. It's just that the Missouri Record opted to publish it first, Steelman said.

There's no doubt that Steelman's article has delivered a kick-off kick to Tuohey, whose site joins a growing number of Missouri-based political Web offerings.

Tuohey said he drew some rebukes from Republicans, one of whom told him he was "losing credibility'' by publishing Steelman's piece -- especially during the site's first week online.

But Tuohey, 37, says his aim is to offer a broad spectrum of political opinion than what he says is now available on most online sites. "If you want to be well-read, you have to view dozens of different sites,'' he said, because many offer just a single point of view and reinforce "what people already believe."

His site now features an interview with CNN pollster Bill Schneider, and Tuohey hopes to soon feature articles on two freshmen members of the Missouri Legislature: one Republican and one Democrat.

The Missouri Record is a nonprofit and is still looking for underwriters, Tuohey said. He expects it will be at least two years before he has any sort of full-time writing staff.

Tuohey acknowledged that he and the Missouri Record's board are indeed "right of center,'' but that he hopes to publish a variety of political opinions and writings. "I am not concerned about political ideology. I am more concerned about the quality of writing,'' he added.

Shortly after Steelman's piece went up, Tuohey added another in response, by Republican Jay Barnes, who defended the current crop of Republicans holding office.

In any case, David Steelman is just pleased to have prompted any debate within GOP ranks about how their party's performance compares with what it claims to stand for.

"I'm just an old curmudgeon,'' said Steelman, 56. "I remember 'Pogo.'"

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