Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Has Michael Steele Damaged His Credibility Beyond Repair?

By jwilkes

RNC Chairman Michael SteeleIt’s been just over a month since Michael Steele was elected Chairman of the Republican National Committee to raucous cheers from the party faithful, many of whom saw the election of the former Lieutenant Governor of Maryland as the first step toward a new day for the Grand Old Party.

After he was sworn in, Steele promised change, and undertook a media blitz of epic proportions, appearing on morning show after morning show to promote his new idea of a Republican Party filled with minorities and young people and conservatives and independents, and pretty much everyone in America except for hardcore liberal Democrats. And in the process, he’s made a string of jaw-dropping gaffes that scream “inexperienced politician,” and has thrown the entire party into tumult.

There was the appearance on D.L. Hughley’s new CNN talk show, in which he tried to connect with rapper and fellow-guest Chuck D, talking about what it was like using hip-hop music to make it out of “the projects.” Chuck D quickly replied that he’s not from the projects. Oops.

Then, on Carlos Silwa’s morning radio show, Steele sent out some “slum love” to Bobby Jindal, “the slumdog millionaire governor.”

He followed that up with a stop-in for a chat with FOX News’s Neil Cavuto, to whom Steele indicated that he’d be open to withholding party funding for 30-year Republican Senate veteran Arlen Specter’s campaign for reelection in Pennsylvania, by way of a punishment for the legislator’s support of the stimulus plan. Within a week of Steele’s comments, Specter was drawing talk of a primary battle, a contest that could end up handing the seat to Democrats. Oops again.

Then there was the disaster that took Steele from shaky to crumbled. In a moment that we still may not know just how badly will hurt Steele’s career, he proclaimed himself the “de facto leader of the Republican Party” and simultaneously called Rush Limbaugh “an entertainer,” “incendiary,” and “ugly.” That might have hurt him with a few ditto-heads, but that was a smack on the chin compared to the sledgehammer to the face of Steele’s credibility when he publicly apologized to Limbaugh- a glorified disc jockey- for questioning his role among conservatives.

Whether you’re a Steele supporter or not, you have to admit that those antics, especially the last one, were embarrassing to the party as a whole. And Steele was brought on to do just the opposite.

How many people actually know the name of the last RNC Chairman? It was Mike Duncan, a Bush loyalist who was largely installed at the RNC to hold down the fort. And just like every RNC chairman before him, Duncan kept a low profile, stayed off the cameras, and conducted business on a local scale. He spent time with state party chairmen finding out what they needed, and worked from there. That’s a far cry from Steele’ showboat style. And it’s becoming clearer whose method was better.

If Steele can’t even keep from firing torpedoes at himself and his party with what has turned out to be an enormous mouth, how can he possibly accomplish everything he claims he will. As of yet, he still hasn’t said how he plans to accomplish his lofty goals of multiculturalism and bipartisanship in the GOP. In fact, all he has said is that he’s not changing a single plank of the traditional party platform…apparently Steele thinks all those new voters will just come to him.

Michael Steele is good for Democrats. He’s all talk, no substance. And even when he is “talk,” it’s the most damaging kind of talk possible. His buffoonery is alienating the very people he’s trying to court, and leaving the typically reliable rank and file shaking their heads at the media circus their party has become. And worse, it’s created a power vacuum that has pushed the GOP closer to complete chaos.

So the question remains: how much longer will Republicans stand behind him?

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