Who's Afraid of Michael Steele?

Everyone--including his own party

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Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is no stranger to left-wing scoffing, but his latest gaffe seems to have startled even veteran Steele-watchers. In an interview with News One's Roland Martin on the subject of the GOP and minorities, Steele agreed to the suggestion that "white Republicans have been scared of black folks," saying "you're absolutely right." Not only that, but Steele alleged that white Republicans were afraid of him, personally. Amid liberal laughter, conservatives ask: is this any way to defend a political party?

  • Jonathan Capehart, The Washington Post: "You know what, if I were a Republican and in a room with Steele, I'd be afraid, too. Afraid of what he'll say next to embarrass the party and highlight its vacuum of ideas and leadership. Steele is all about keeping it real when he really should just keep his mouth shut."
  • Kathryn Jean Lopez, National Review: "I have never encountered any white Republican," begins Lopez, "who is scared of Michael Steele, or people who share his skin tone." On the other hand, she says, "I know Republicans of all colors who are scared of what Michael Steele might say next."
  • Sister Toldjah: "[M]ainstream Americans," writes the conservative blogger, "have got to be wondering why he’s even a member of the Republican party, let alone the Chairman of it."
  • Steve Benen, The Washington Monthly: "Why, exactly, would a room full of Republicans be 'scared' of him, unless he thinks his fellow party members are racists? ... Steele really isn't helping with that minority outreach effort. It's not exactly a pitch that's likely to resonate with minority communities: 'Vote GOP, The Party That Finds Non-Whites Scary.'"
This is yet another example of Steele being hilariously off-message and contradicting the central contract of his selection as RNC chair, which is that he is meant to deflect accusations of racism against Republicans--not confirm them, challenge them, and thus change the party for the better. I'm not even sure that he's capable of doing the latter--partially because I don't sense any great conviction from Steele on this point. All of his high profile "gaffes" aren't really examples of him "being honest" so much as they are attempts to please the audience he's communicating with.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.