YOU CAN’T STOP STEELE, YOU CAN ONLY HOPE TO CONTAIN HIM…. The poor guy is clearly trying too hard.

Last week, when Supreme Court Justice David Souter said that he intended to retire, President Obama said that in naming a replacement, he would not only “seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity,” but also someone who has “empathy” for “the daily realities of people’s lives.” Conservatives quickly latched onto Obama’s use of the word “empathy,” lampooning it and claiming it is a “code word” for an “activist judge.”

Guest hosting Bill Bennett’s radio show today, RNC chairman Michael Steele derided “crazy nonsense empathetic.” “I’ll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind!” said Steele.

“Empathize right on your behind”? Michael Steele, a visionary leader for our times.

What I find amusing to think about is Howard Dean’s tenure in early 2005, shortly after he took over as DNC chairman. He had a tendency to make some provocative comments — including telling a California audience that Republicans are “a pretty monolithic party. They all behave the same. They all look the same. It’s pretty much a white Christian party.”

If you go back and look at that period, however, two things jump out. One, major news outlets not only pounced on Dean, but quickly pressed Democratic leaders whether they agreed with the DNC chairman’s remarks.

And two, leading Democrats — most notably John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Bill Richardson — all publicly distanced themselves from Dean.

Dean’s “controversial” comments were practically meaningless compared to Steele’s near-constant habit of saying dumb things. How about political reporters on the Hill press GOP leaders for their daily reactions to Steele’s odd musings?

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.