STEELE HAS A CHANGE OF HEART…. Just two weeks ago, when prominent Republican voices were throwing around insulting, racially-motivated attacks against Sonia Sotomayor, RNC Chairman Michael Steele encouraged his party to take a rhetorical detour.

“I’m excited that a Hispanic woman is in this position,” Steele said on May 29. He added that instead of “slammin’ and rammin’” on Sotomayor, Republicans should make a “cogent, articulate argument” against her on purely substantive grounds.

Twelve days later, Steele seems to have changed his mind.

In an interview with CNN’s Campbell Brown on Tuesday, the Republican Party leader insisted that white males would not be granted even-handed jurisprudence under a Court with Obama’s nominee.

“God help you if you’re a white male,” said Steele. “If you’re seeking justice, this may not be the bench you want to go before.”

Got that? On May 29, Steele saw no value in attacking the Supreme Court nominee with racial politics. On June 9, Steele wants white men to think that Sotomayor is incapable of treating them fairly in a court of law.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee, in other words, is effectively accusing the judge of racism, after encouraging Republicans to stop accusing the judge of racism.

What’s worse, of course, is that Steele’s race-based fear-mongering has no basis in our reality.

Tom Goldstein of Scotusblog conducted a much-cited study of the 96 race-related cases that have come before her. Like almost all judges, she has rejected a vast majority of the claims of racial discrimination that came to her. She dissented from her colleagues in only four of those cases. And in only one of them did she find racial discrimination where they did not. Even with what she calls her “Latina soul,” she saw almost every case pretty much as they did.

When you read her opinions, race and gender are invisible.

Steele isn’t just smearing a qualified judicial nominee, he’s using ugly racial attacks. What an embarrassment.

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.