Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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July 2, 2010

HAS STEELE FINALLY GONE TOO FAR FOR THE GOP?.... RNC Chairman Michael Steele has plenty of experience with humiliating mistakes. I was tempted to put together some links with some of his "greatest hits," but quickly discovered there are so many from just the last 17 months, it would have taken me the rest of the day.

So as the controversy builds over Steele's remarks on the war in Afghanistan, it's not as if the RNC chief is on unfamiliar ground -- he's faced pressure like this before. Given the frequency with which Steele embarrasses himself, there's very likely a folder in the RNC communications department labeled, "Game plan for the next time the Chairman screws up."

But in the case of criticizing the war in Afghanistan, the game plan might need some revising.

RNC spokesperson Doug Heye tried to help Steele soon after the story started breaking, but the "clarification" didn't make a lick of sense, and seemed oddly detached from what the party leader actually said. Demonstrating just how serious a situation this is for Steele, the RNC chairman issued another statement this afternoon.

"During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.

"As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus' confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan."

This might be more persuasive if, just yesterday, Steele hadn't told a room full of Republicans that he believes something very different. Indeed, Steele's message yesterday was pretty much the opposite of the sentiment in this attempted walk-back.

Also note, Steele didn't apologize in his statement, or even express regret.

What arguably matters most now is the limits of tolerance for Steele within the Republican Party. Right now, the landscape is unclear -- Bill Kristol and Erick Erickson have called for his ouster, and a GOP operative told Brian Beutler. "This is the height of stupidity and epitomizes the problem that is Michael Steele."

But, at least for now, no members of Congress have called on Steele to resign, and RNC members haven't weighed in.

I've expected Steele's ouster before, only to be proven wrong, so I'll avoid any predictions on this one. I will say, however, that the RNC chairman has never faced the wrath of the pro-war/neo-con contingent of the party before, and if that doesn't make him nervous, it should.

Steve Benen 3:45 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (17)

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Steel is the designated fall guy for the coming Repub electoral disaster in November.

Can't fire him now.

Posted by: UnEasyOne on July 2, 2010 at 4:04 PM | PERMALINK

Erick erickson? You mean this Erick Erickson?


Posted by: karen marie on July 2, 2010 at 4:11 PM | PERMALINK

We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one.

I am so sick and tired of these fucking clowns (Steele, Kristol, etc.) always waving the bloody shirt of 9/11 to justify their latest heinous actions. Yes, it was horrible. Yes, a lot of people died. No, it was not planned from some cave in Afghanistan and continuing to waste money and lives over there is not going to "win" anything or do a single thing about international terrorism other than create more recruits for Al Qaeda. Afghanistan isn't called the "graveyard of empires" for nothing; all the armies in the world won't change a single thing. This so-called "war" was lost before a single American boot hit the ground and it's time some common sense prevailed and we got the hell out of there.

Posted by: electrolite on July 2, 2010 at 4:20 PM | PERMALINK

Liberals always forget that the GOP is a big tent and welcomes a diversity of opinions.

Posted by: Al on July 2, 2010 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

According to Brian Beutler of Talking Points Memo:


"I'm told that more high profile Republicans -- operatives and electeds -- will come forward shortly with condemnations, and even demands of resignation, later today. Stay tuned.

Posted by: rachelrachel on July 2, 2010 at 4:28 PM | PERMALINK

Well sure he's a dumbass, but he has the main theme of the Rethug Party down pat: Rethugs oppose EVERYTHING President Obama supports. The reasons don't have to make any kind of sense or even be consistent with recent past positions and it does not matter if their opposition hurts millions of people (e.g. unemployment benefits, BP $20 Billion compensation fund). He just overlooked one of the small number of exceptions to the general rule.

If you want nuance Mr. Steele ain't your guy.

Posted by: robert on July 2, 2010 at 4:29 PM | PERMALINK

He'll be gone the day after the election. But not one day sooner. The Republicans have pushed expectations so high there is no way to meet them. No sane person will want to take the blame for not winning the House and Senate. So they'll obviously need an insane person to take the fall. Steele is perfect for that.

Posted by: fostert on July 2, 2010 at 4:35 PM | PERMALINK

He's the gift that keeps on giving!
If the DNC had planted a spy, a Manchurian Dingbat, they couldn't have done anywhere near as good a job of making Republicans look like idiots.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on July 2, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

I just wanted to say for electorlite's sake. Yes, 9/11 was planned from a cave in Afghanistan. That is where Bin Laden and his Al Qaida minions were training for the attack. Also, the taliban were the ones allowing him to use their country as a hide out and training camp.

Posted by: james at home on July 2, 2010 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

can't stop laughing at "Manchurian Dingbat."

Steele is just such a clown. Outside of George W. Bush, or maybe some addled royal, when has a person reached such prominence with no skills other than shamelessness?

Posted by: Rathskeller on July 2, 2010 at 5:50 PM | PERMALINK

Could steele be a closet dem?

Posted by: CDW on July 2, 2010 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Afghanistan? Bush won that war in 2001! How did Obama get us back into that mess? Jeez, those damn libruls.

Posted by: Conservatroll on July 2, 2010 at 6:43 PM | PERMALINK

Steele is safe because the embarrassment of firing him is worse than the embarrassment of what he says. So far.

The GOP has already turned to other channels than the RNC for fund raising, so they're basically just trying to shrink his audience and ignore him until his disastrous term ends.

They're doing everything they can to avoid the humiliation of openly admitting they elected an obvious, blatant moron to be head of their Party.

Posted by: Jon on July 2, 2010 at 7:02 PM | PERMALINK

How dare Steele's pre-July 4th remarks disparage our military! Why does Michael Steele hate America?

I still contend that Steele became GOP chairman to provide Republicans with the model of ineffective black leadership and to provide a scapegoat for their own confusion and ineffectiveness.

Posted by: Carol A on July 2, 2010 at 8:20 PM | PERMALINK

I have no affection for Michael Steele, but the Republicans are pretty much guaranteed to take back both the House and Senate in a few months--and Michael Steele, justifiably or not, can and will take credit for all of it. "We swept into power under my watch," Steele will say. And he will be 100% accurate.

God, it must be great to be Michael Steele these days: The wave you're riding is so high, so powerful and so irresistable nothing you say or do can screw it up.

Posted by: Moonlight on July 2, 2010 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

Michael Steele should take a page from Rush Limbaugh's playbook and declare that his job is to be an entertainer (hey, wear a red clown nose!) -- so saying and doing stupid things is all just part of the job!

Posted by: Raven on July 3, 2010 at 9:51 AM | PERMALINK

You can never go too far for this group, because they have absolutely no shame. They'll lie to the end because they know their constituents aren't smart enough to figure it out.

Posted by: Onlineleft on July 5, 2010 at 6:32 AM | PERMALINK



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