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Steele bumbles literary reference: Cites Tolstoy, but quotes Dickens

By David Edwards and Stephen Webster
Monday, January 3, 2011 16:51 EDT
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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele has been called many things during his tenure atop the Republican party. Literary connoisseur was not one of them.

Even in announcing his intent to seek a second term at the RNC, Steele himself admitted that he’d “stumbled along the way.” Stumbled, maybe more than a few times.

But here’s a new one for what Politico called Steele’s “gaffe track”: Confusing the immortal works of Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy with those of British writer Charles Dickens.

During a debate with all the candidates vying for the RNC chairmanship, Steele told the audience that his favorite book was Tolstoy’s 1869 epic “War and Peace,” one of the most celebrated books ever published.

But, then he followed up his answer with a peculiar quote: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

A wave on uneasy laughter swept across the room.

That’s because his quote is the most famous line from Dickens’ classic 1859 novel “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Both books are usually required reading for American students.

Defending his time as RNC chairman, Steele told the crowd that he’d been a success because “we won.” By contrast, he told Fox News Republican opinion host Sean Hannity back in January that the GOP would not take the US House of Representatives in the 2010 mid-term elections.

Steele, who was not favored to be reelected as RNC chairman, faced a similar situation in 2009, when he was selected as the victor after five previous ballots produced no clear consensus.

This video is from C-SPAN, broadcast Jan. 3, 2010.


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