Some time ago conservative radio personality Mark Reardon characterized current GOP Senatorial contender Sarah Steelman as “not the sharpest fork in the drawer.” While his comments were replete with good old boy sexism – he also felt the need to note that she was “hot” (dumb blonds, anyone?) – he may have been onto something.
Yesterday, Steelman revealed that despite dabbling in GOP politics for the past several years, she had no idea about what the Violence Against Women Act was. Even more surprising, given the recent news reports, she was also unaware that there was any controversy about renewing the Act, which dates from 1993.
Steelman’s ever-alert campaign staffers quickly responded that, of course, she is “open to the Republican version of the law’s reauthorization.” That’s the version that denies protection to LGBT people, immigrants, and Native American women on reservations. But not to worry – assurances to the contrary aside, there’s no real guarantee that she really knows much about either version of the legislation.
This sort of lapse is something of a pattern with Steelman – just for fun, let’s just do a quick and dirty compilation of the things she doesn’t know that have made the news:
— Most recently, she, (admittedly, along with the rest of the GOP gubernatorial primary candidates) had to admit she didn’t know what the minimum wage was set at in Missouri, although she was pretty sure that she was against it. Bear in mind that Steelman, purportedly, has a degree in economics.
— In a fundraising appeal at the beginning of her senatorial campaign last year, she begged “1000 friends to contribute $100 each to raise $10,000 by midnight … .” Gee, when I do the math, $100 multiplied by 1000 friends equals just a little bit more than Sarah thinks. And I can figure that out without a degree in economics.
— During her 2008 gubernatorial campaign, Steelman tried to capitalize on anti-immigrant fervor in the GOP base, emphasizing the burden that undocumented workers place on Missourians. Sadly, she completely misinterpreted the findings of a report on immigration and got her facts all wrong in an effort to magnify what is basically a non-problem in Missouri:
Steelman’s report overstated the estimate of illegal workers in Missouri by 5,800 to 10,800 workers. It overstated the unemployment rate among illegal workers by more than two-thirds. It also assumed that not a single illegal immigrant living in Missouri works for an employer who withholds and pays payroll taxes….
— Our own Michael Bersin participated in a twitter exchange where this holder of an advanced economics degree displayed major ignorance of current economic thought.
Given the economic nature of so many of Steelman’s public faux pas, it’s tempting to question her vaunted academic background. But of course, committed to equality of opportunity though we may be, we know that not everybody brings the same equipment to the game. We’ve all seen those students who sit with their mouths hanging open at the back of the class – they aren’t always the sharpest forks in the drawer either. Nevertheless, some of them manage to get degrees.
Slightly edited for clarity.