Someone asked Michael Steele a very simple, very elementary question about health care reform—does he support an individual requirement?—and he did not seem to know what that meant.
"What do you mean by an individual requirement?" Michael Steele asked.
The argument for an individual mandate is that when young and healthy people pay into the system, it pools risk and helps reduce the cost of caring for the elderly and infirm, which is what the young and healthy will eventually become, and then they'll certainly want the kids to subsidize them. That is a pretty simple concept, right? Not to the head of the Republican National Committee, apparently! Once it was explained to him, he would not actually say anything about it.
"Again, that is one of those areas where there is different opinions...I don't do policy," he said. "My point in coming here today was to begin to set a tone, and a theme if you will."
Well, no, it is not Michael Steele's job to "do policy," but it should probably be his job to understand his party's position on policy, because he is in charge of selling it?
Steele Struggles To Name His Own Health Care Provider
Michael Steele provided a bit of fodder on Tuesday for Democrats trying to frame both him and the GOP as obstructionist forces in the national debate about health care.
The RNC Chairman stumbled during an appearance on CNN on Tuesday when he was asked to name what type of insurance he has and who exactly is his health care provider.
"What company is it?" host Kyra Phillips asked.
"Blue Cross Blue Shield I believe," Steele replied. "Or maybe not. I think it is Blue Cross Blue Shield."
The slip-up was immediately seized upon by the Democratic National Committee, which charged that Steele's hesitation was further evidence that he and the RNC are out of touch and only interested in political warfare when it comes to health care.
"It must be nice to have the luxury of not even knowing the name of your own health care provider, but Michael Steele's comments today, and the Republican strategy of working to kill reform for their own political purposes, is simply insulting to the millions of American families and businesses struggling with soaring health care costs," read a statement from DNC Press Secretary Hari Sevugan.
Sevugan and others seem to be envisioning a repeat of the 2008 campaign moment when Sen. John McCain couldn't remember how many houses he owned. But it's doubtful that Steele's misstep matches that gaffe. Far more people have trouble naming the insurance provider they have than they do listing the houses they own.
Still, it's clear that Democratic partisans aren't shying away from the heat of the health care debate and the weeks ahead could be the first true test of how well the remnants of the Obama campaign still operate in a fiercely contested political battle.