Steele Controversy Finds Little Consensus Among GOP Pundits

Yesterday’s appearance by Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele, in which he offered his race as a reason why he has been under fire, has sparked a fresh round of controversy among conservatives about what to do with him.

After all, when White House press-goon-in-chief Robert Gibbs can score points at your expense, things are not good:

“That’s a fairly silly comment to make,” Gibbs told reporters. “I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card, it’s the credit card.”

There is no unity of opinion as yet on how to proceed. There is, however, a consensus of dissatisfaction.

Mona Charen at National Review articulately expresses the anti-Steele position:

How to put this politely? Michael Steele is a man of considerable talents — it’s just that he conspicuously lacks those required for his present position. He’s energetic, personable, and articulate. But those are not the qualities most required of a party chairman. The job demands an administrator, a behind-the-scenes schmoozer, and a tactician. Showboating is a hindrance. It’s a job that requires the talents of a stage manager, whereas Steele likes to be the star.

At a time when the Republican party is the indispensable vehicle for thwarting the disastrous policies of the Obamaites, Steele is a costly distraction in more ways than one.

But Dan Riehl has a different take altogether on Steele and race:

“While perhaps not true as regards the majority of Americans today, to suggest that what Steele said isn’t still accurate in significant portions of America is a denial and refusal to engage in the type of frank discussion of race which may ultimately be required to put an end to racism in America for good. And whatever your political beliefs, pretending that it doesn’t to some extent still exist, or that Steele shouldn’t be aware of and sensitive to it is conservative myth-making that does little to advance a conservative agenda into portions of America it needs to reach in order to grow and solve serious problems along the way.

Steele didn’t lead with the race card. He responded honestly to a question when it was asked. Since when in America has it become a good idea to lynch someone for simply doing that?”

At Another Black Conservative, Clifton B. offers a prescription for Steele that virtually everyone can agree with:

“What Michael Steele needs to do is to stop the self promotion, knock off the endless TV appearances and start working on building a brand that inspires confidence with the American people.”

Michelle Malkin hasn’t changed much – she’s still trotting out images of RNC donor solicitations returned with unpleasant messages on them. Today’s entry:

Quin Hillyer at the American Spectator pulls few punches:

Apparently spending nearly $110 million in little over a year merits no criticism unless the chairman who spends that obscene amount of money happens to be of a darker hue. Poor Mr. Steele has he has less “margin for error” because he has darker pigmentation in his skin. This is nuts. It’s outrageous. He then says that the same holds true for Barack Obama — that his margin for error is less because he is black.

Well, no. If anything, both Steele and especially Obama are given far more leeway because they are black than they would otherwise get. Chris Matthews wouldn’t feel chill bumps on his leg if Obama were white. And Michael Steele is the one who always plays up his own race, because he knows it is an advantage to him. This is race-hustling by Steele, pure and simple. It is despicable. And it is one more reason why this spendthrift, self-indulgent, charlatan should not be chairman of the RNC, at least not by standards that would usually, objectively, adhere to the position.

There: I just criticized Michael Steele. And I dare him to call me a racist.

But John Hawkins at Right Wing News, in a balanced piece which supports the chairman while acknowledging there are good reasons to be displeased with what’s going on, assesses Steele’s plight:

The reason things have blown up for Steele is in large part because he has three groups of people gunning for him. Liberals in the media hate him because he’s black and hence, they’re supposed to own him. Black men are not allowed to be Republicans in their eyes; so they’re desperate to create as many problems for him as possible, lest he succeed and lead by example.

Then there are the two groups on our side. There a lot of people on the Right who aren’t sure about Steele’s conservative credentials. They’ve been burned a lot and they simply don’t trust him. Honestly, that has more to do with the state of the Republican Party today than it does with Steele. There’s another group of people at the Republican National Committee who don’t like Steele because he’s not a committee member and he’s not Katon Dawson. These two groups are not behind all the criticism from the Right, there certainly have been some good reasons to beat up on Steele –but every time there’s some minor kerfluffle, these two groups, along with the liberal media, hype things up to the max.

However, here’s the issue: You’re not going to be able to get rid of Michael Steele before the election. Heck, even after the election it may not be as easy as some people think. Keep in mind that we’re going to have a winning year and people don’t like to change horses in mid-stream right after a victory. So, all these “We’ve got to get rid of Steele” complaints aren’t accomplishing anything and, barring some sort of cataclysmic scandal, they’re not even going to be practical to discuss until after the election. Let me also add, that if we were getting rid of the heads of the NRSC, NRCC, and RNC, Steele would be the last one I would fire.

There are arguments to be made on both sides of the Steele question. I think he needs to go, though the timing of a Steele ouster at this point is simply atrocious and would make for a very difficult job for his successor – so when he would be changed out is a consideration open for discussion in my mind.

Ultimately, this is a question not dissimilar to one you’d see in the sports world. Steele is a head coach of what looks like a high-profile, yet slightly-above .500 team in a conference loaded with cupcakes; in other words, the opportunity for a championship is there, and the talent seems to be available as well, but the fans aren’t sure about the coaching.

In the sports world, a situation like this one usually leads to the fans tearing themselves to pieces on sports talk radio and internet message boards. Coaches who flat-out stink generate unanimity among fans; everybody wants them gone. Championship coaches generate unanimity in that the fans will ignore every blemish in their lust to pay them the last dime possible in order to keep them in place. But the coaches in between swing back and forth in the sentiment of the fans; all of the lousy circumstances with which they’ve had to deal are examined in detail on one hand, and on the other comes the sentiment that “what must be done eventually ought to be done now” as a rationale for making a change.

Steele is that coach in between. He’s not a great RNC chairman. He might not stink outright yet, and he can still be defended. And since he took over the party it has been winning elections, whether in spite of him or because of him. But if the November election cycle hits and the party doesn’t capture at least one house of Congress, giving the GOP a seat at the table in governing the country, there will be hell to pay. And no excuse – not race, not Beltway Washington, not strippers or bad luck – will get him off the hook.

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