Why Is Michael Steele Emailing Foreign Diplomats?

"They can't give any money and they can't vote."

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Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is once again puzzling journalists and fellow party members. What happened this time? An RNC intern sent emails to the offices of foreign diplomats offering them a private meeting with Steele in advance of the November congressional elections. For what possible purpose, everyone is wondering, would Steele reach out to foreign ambassadors? Here's the email and, below, what observers are saying, with a fair share of the mockery that usually comes with Steele coverage.

As you know, the November election is just 103 days away and the chairman would like to extend to you an invitation to sit down either at the RNC or at your embassy to discuss the upcoming 2010 midterm elections. With literally hundreds of congressional seats up for grabs in just under four months, Chairman Steel [sic] would love to have the opportunity to discuss the party's outlook with you.
  • Why This Is So Strange  The Washington Monthly's Steve Benen explains, "Since it's illegal for foreign nationals to contribute to American candidates or political parties, and it's largely unheard of for international diplomats to offer candidate endorsements, the whole thing is a bit of mystery." Conservative blogger Paul Mirengoff speculates, "Steele, in short, appears to be working on his resume by trying to 'forge' more 'key international relationships.' He is looking forward to life after his time at the RNC, and so is nearly every Republican I know."
  • Everyone 'Exasperated' With Steele Again  Politico's Jonathan Martin and Josh Gerstein report the emails have "puzzled diplomats as well as fellow Republicans. ... RNC spokesman Doug Heye declined to comment on why Steele would want to set up individual meetings with the foreign diplomats, whether he’s had any meetings with them, and if he would continue to pursue such get-togethers. ... Steele’s outreach to foreign representatives heading into the final stretch of the midterm election cycle is exasperating senior Republicans, already fed up with the controversial chairman’s knack for bad publicity."
  • How Seriously Should We Take This?  Foreign Policy's Joshua Keating calls Steele an "international man of mystery," writing, "Given that the task was delegated to an intern who failed to spell his own boss's name correctly and sent the invitation to a European embassy's general inquiry inbox, it's not quite clear how serious to take these invitations. But it's still not clear why Steele would want to meet with foreign diplomats about the election at all. As former RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson told Politico, 'They can't give any money and they can't vote.'" 
  • Obviously Planning a Coup  Wonkette's Josh Fruhlinger explains, "It’s fairly obvious why Michael Steele is doing this, to the consternation of his fellow Republicans: having been stymied by tyranny in his attempt to climb the ladder of political power beyond the 'Lieutenant Governor of Maryland' rung, he has decided simply to set up a government in exile, which will seamlessly assume power once the bloody coup has taken place. This government is not based on the outdated and degenerate 'constitution,' but on the organizational structure of the Republican National Committee; this means that Steele will simply retain his title of 'Chairman' when he becomes American head of state. He also will change the spelling of his last name to 'Steel,' because that is more bad-ass."
Lesson number one: It is very important to spell correctly the name of the person who runs your organization. Here at The Atlantic, for instance, interns are warned early that the magazine's editor, James Bennett, is a stickler on this point;

Lesson number two: It is best not to take an internship with Michael Steele, for any number of reasons;

Lesson number three: If, because of the recession, the only internship you can land is one with Michael Steele, you should avoid causing international incidents for no discernible reason, in particular international incidents that could conceivably prompt newspaper investigations of your activities.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.