Has RNC Chairman Michael Steele lost his ever-lovin' mind? Or does he have a death-wish for his job? Ya gotta ask, because no sooner does he get out of sticky situation with his own committee members, than he lets his mouth toss him back into the fire.
On Tuesday, Steele gave a rousing speech at the Republican National Committee's organizational meeting: he said that it was time for Republicans to stop apologizing for past mistakes and now had to take President Obama "head on." But, he said, that it had to be done in a way that showed the dignity and "class" that Democrats didn't when criticizing President Bush. So far, so good. Then, on Wednesday, Steele convinced the RNC members not to try to brand the Democrats as the "Democrat Socialist Party." Great.
But then, on Friday, while filling in for Bill Bennett -- a role that has, arguably, gotten him into trouble before -- Steele declared that Obama was not properly vetted by the press because he was black:
"The problem that we have with this president is we don't know him. He was not vetted, folks. He came out of nowhere," Steele told listeners to Bill Bennett's radio show Friday morning. "….We don't know his political background, we don't know his political philosophy, the ideology that shapes his thinking on policy.
"He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office. 'Oh gee, wouldn't it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn't it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We could continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky be alive and in an America with a black president,'" said Steele. "Okay, that's wonderful — great scenario, nice backdrop. But what does he stand for? What does he believe?
"And that's why I keep going back to the point, the missed opportunity was dissecting and understanding Rev. [Jeremiah] Wright," he added. "It wasn't about Rev. Wright, it was about the philosophy that emerged and the directions that he was given, the lessons he learned at his knee. We never got a chance to understand that. People got lost on what Wright said about America instead of focusing on what Obama understood from what Wright was saying, so that you could understand and track that political philosophy. So we don't know. We just don't know."
OK, let's follow this train of thought: What does Steele think this line of attack gets him? Is this his idea of an attack that shows "class" and "dignity"?
Does he think that it will lessen Obama's popularity -- which Steele admits? Does he think the public will suddenly turn against the press and Obama for being "duped, bamboozled, hoodwinked"? Instead of looking ahead and taking on Obama's policies, Steele is inviting a look backward -- on what the press woulda, coulda, shoulda done. Even worse, this politically-charged speech is playing with fire in Steele's own house.
Does he really believe that people in the media -- and a growing number in his own party -- don't believe that he became chairman because he was black? And, controversial as some of Obama's decisions may be, he is still seen as basically competent and good leader -- that's more than can be said for Steele's rocky tenure so far. Would another chairman who had committed so many faux pas -- including hiring friends for six-figure salaries -- still managed to have held onto their job? So, who's the one getting a pass because they are black?
This is vitriolic language that Steele should never have introduced -- taking the usual GOP claim that the press is liberally biased and introducing a race element into it. But, again, this is what happens when someone feels that they have to be a regular fill-in host for a radio show. You forget what your day job is and just roll into the host position. Statements that are perfectly fine to proffer as a conservative talk show host become decidedly problematic when they are uttered by the head of a party.
Steele should decide what he wants more: to be the leader of the Republican Party or just Rush Limbaugh with a better tan.
Robert A. George is a New York writer -- and African American too. He blogs at Ragged Thots.