Priebus fails to deliver

While there clearly are bigger things to worry about, the GOP can’t seem to let go of “gaffe-gate.” 

Game on.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus’s silence and tacit support throughout the birther debate suggests he might not be familiar with the kind of effective leadership that takes responsibility, where appropriate, and calls out injustice — even when it is difficult to do so, and even when some in your party can’t see it.

When Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz called out the GOP “War on Women,” she wasn’t the first to do so (I and others have been writing about this for a while), but she wasn’t wrong. The GOP’s medieval attempts to redefine rape or calls to “let women die” are blatant attacks on our rights as equal American citizens, literally threatening women’s lives (as we are now seeing in Indiana, where women are being denied life-saving care) and questioning whether we have the mental capacity to know when we’ve been sexually attacked.

Trust me, I know that, by the very nature of the job, party chairmen have ample opportunity to misspeak. 

For example, like most in his party, Priebus repeatedly parrots the attack on President Obama’s efforts to save America from the very real possibility of a second Great Depression and turn huge monthly job losses into gains — albeit more modest gains than any of us would like to see. The fact remains, we are no longer losing jobs at the rate of 750,000 per month, as we were when Obama took office.

During a June debate on “Meet the Press,” Priebus claimed that the unemployment level today “rivals the Great Depression” — a claim that Politifact rated as “false,” noting the RNC was unable to supply a single statistic in support of Priebus’s assertion. The Washington Post said Priebus had gone “too far” and awarded him “two Pinocchios.”

Let’s not ignore Priebus’s own history. While he now attacks the stimulus program, as a lawyer at Best & Friedrich LLP, he was part of a “Stimulus Legislation Team” that helped clients “identify opportunities, prepare appropriate proposals and make targeted contacts to secure funds.” Priebus has tried to dispute his participation despite listing his work on “Stimulus and Economic Recovery” as one of his services in his biography; underlining his co-authorship of four client alert briefings for the Stimulus and Economic Recovery Team; and listing his name on the announcement of the team’s creation.

Some would argue a party leader’s role is not to litigate policy differences but to raise the money required to support candidates and leaders who will hash out those differences in political offices across the country. Indeed, Priebus was selected in part to help his party climb out of the staggering debt left by former Chairman Michael Steele. But RNC fundraising has continued to lag behind the DNC under Priebus — as of April 2011, the DNC had $14.8 million cash on hand, versus the RNC’s $5 million.

Perhaps that’s why Priebus was reportedly considering an unethical scheme to try and sell the broadcast rights to proposed RNC-sanctioned primary debates in order to raise quick cash. 

Americans expect a vigorous debate between leaders of both parties. We can have such a debate without playing a ridiculous game of back-and-forth, instead working to engage and involve Americans in the discussion over our country’s future — as the DNC is doing under Wasserman Schultz.

Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant.