RNC loses token- crucified over hate

“Shamnesty”? Could they have come up with a better epithet than that?

“Shamnesty” that’s what they yelled in Martinez’s face as he tried to negotiate a comprehensive immigration reform bill that would fix our broken system, while respecting human life. Let’s say, if Sen. Martinez was a baseball player, I wouldn’t necessarily collect his baseball card- BUT when it comes to trying to broker a compromise on immigration reform I admire his dedication and the efforts he put forth, even if he couldn’t get the job done.

Wow, I never thought I’d write something like that here- but in light of the commentary from a Miami Newspaper (below)- I feel compelled to say a word or two (a eulogy?) for (soon to be former)Mr. RNC himself, Mel Martinez.

When Mel was first chosen to be the head of the RNC, one word went through my mind… token. “Oh ok, they’ve chosen a latino NOW to try and court the vote…” Yes, he has a great track record, and he probably deserves the position- but really…. how pure are the machinations of EITHER party when it comes to putting leaders in positions of power.

He was admittedly put in a terribly difficult position on the comprehensive immigration reform bill, and at some level he crashed and burned with the legislation. But let us not be too hasty as to think that his failure on the legislation was all due to his own missteps. Sure, he made mistakes. But it was clear that key members of the RNC were going to use him as a punching bag on this issue to protect themselves.

Put a latino in power, and then crucify him on “his own” issue. et tu brutus?

I think we need to sit back and think deeply about the dynamics of this scenario in the US. congressional power politics do not take place in a vaccuum. Member’s gender and race play MAJOR roles in the power dynamics, and I’d like us to just reflect on that for a moment.

Put a latino in charge and it’s no longer the anglo-saxon’s fault for something going wrong? mmm i don’t know folks…..

I want to throw out these thoughts for us to think about. And frankly, I’d like to hear what you think about Mr. RNC, and his relatively quick demise….

George Diaz
October 7, 2007

Finding a natural fit in politics involves a journey of discovery no different than the rest of us face.It’s clear that Sylvester Stallone is a good action hero but miscast as a comic foil (see, or don’t see, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot). Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player of this generation but a second-rate outfielder in the minor leagues. Rush Limbaugh is great as a Republican bulldog but out of his league in an ESPN studio talking about black quarterbacks.

This brings us to Mel Martinez, and the non-news news item that he is resigning as general chairman of the Republican Party as soon as the GOP establishes a presidential nominee. Martinez is downplaying the story that “broke” when columnist Robert Novak reported it earlier last week.

Fittingly so, you will find no mention of it on the good senator’s Web site.

The GOP position is part of a legacy that Martinez likely wishes would just go away, buried in a small closet of unwise political choices. His tenure has been less than a year, after taking the position on Jan. 19. It was never a natural fit, for obvious reasons.

Martinez had other priorities, most notably trying to serve the people of Florida as one of their senators. He then became President Bush’s point man on the push for comprehensive immigration.

The crossfire became so divisive that even his own people turned on him. Martinez, born in Cuba, more than once heard Cuban-Americans decry his passion for immigration reform, focused heavily on Mexicans crossing the border. “Why are you helping them?” they asked.

Immigration became the scarlet letter in Martinez’s otherwise impressive resume. His approval ratings dropped. Critics on both sides of the contentious issue hammered him.

He was too soft on immigrants. “Shamnesty,” screamed the anti-immigration brigade, many of them conservative Republicans. But he was accused of pandering to the conservative base by agreeing to enforced border protections, including fencing, as part of the bipartisan package deal he tried to help broker. Predictably, it fell apart on Capitol Hill, and Martinez became one of the poster children for a broken immigration policy.

You would think on most divisive issues there is a clear line of demarcation between your support base and your critics. Martinez couldn’t catch a break anywhere he stood.

It wore him down. He was the point man for a party that was turning on him. But the overbearing circumstances weren’t the only part of the bad-fit scenario as GOP chairman.

It is not Martinez’s nature to push and prod from a political pulpit, a prerequisite for the head of any party. It is the position of an attack dog, a style that does not play to Martinez’s strengths.

In political circles, Martinez is a big dawg with a gentle disposition.

Looking for love after taking the position as a favor to his friend, Bush, he got kicked in the tail.

“I’m not really a person who charted a political course,” Martinez told me a few months back. “Things just happen. You do a good job, and other people ask you to do another job.”

For almost a decade, Martinez was a good fit everywhere he served. He made giant strides, from the Orange County Commission to Bush’s Cabinet to the U.S. Senate.

Martinez would finally take a misstep that still smarts, but he must move on and be true to himself and work for the greater good of this state as a senator. He no longer has to pick and choose between what’s best for the Republican Party and what’s best for his state.

Sometimes in the journey of discovery, you take a few steps back and realize you’re right back where you belong.

George Diaz can be reached at 407-420-5533 or gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com

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