Has RNC Chairman Michael Steele now stepped in it by giving the New York Times a quote about how the Republicans are mired in it? Or, rather, is a party stuck in its own…. Here’s the quote:
Most chairmen wave the party flag; Mr. Steele smiles and shreds it. A man of constantly colliding analogies, he compares Republicans to drunks in need of a 12-step program and to the mentally ill. He has insulted Rush Limbaugh and moderate Republican senators alike, and he has promised a “hip-hop makeover” that would attract even “one-armed midgets” to his party.
Mr. Steele is the party’s first African-American chairman, his election a response to a history-making Democratic president. But now his performance is raising questions: Does he have a strategy, or is he simply saying whatever comes to mind? Republican moderates have staked hopes of reform on him, betting that his race and frank style will foster a new image of the party, but is this what they expected?
“I’m trying to move an elephant that’s become mired in its own muck,” Mr. Steele said in an interview last week in his sunlit Capitol Hill office, pausing whenever he appeared on the giant television close by his desk.
“You can say, ‘He’s crazy, he’s running off at the mouth,’ ” he said. “Or you can say, ‘It kind of makes sense, and I get it.’ ”
Steele’s problem is that this isn’t 1999. A comment such as this is most likely to be seized upon by the professional outrage industry of talk show hosts (it will most assuredly be mentioned by a certain one whose initials are “R.L.” ) and new media pundits in an age when any comment that can be used to express utter outrage is seized upon.
If there’s a political “three strikes law” from the standpoint of conservatives — particularly members of the Republican party’s talk radio political culture whose icon is Limbaugh — Steele passed it some time ago. This quote won’t go over well with them (they don’t see the party being stuck in its own muck at all but betrayed by bigwigs who weren’t conservative enough)k and if this isn’t the final strike to many it will symbolize Steele now being 3/4 of a swing through the final one.
Candor does count for something in politics, but the current incarnation of the GOP puts its biggest premium right now on the True Believes and moderate Republicans, Republicans who were closer ideologically to the first President George Bush, are basically invited to take it or leave it.
Steele is approaching the moment when they’ll do more than invite him to leave.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.