Learning one lesson, forgetting another

LEARNING ONE LESSON, FORGETTING ANOTHER…. In March, RNC Chairman Michael Steele, appearing on CNN, inadvertently criticized Rush Limbaugh. It did not, as you may recall, go over well, and Steele had to grovel for forgiveness. He learned a valuable lesson — Steele may be the chairman of the Republican National Committee, but the real power in the party lies elsewhere.

With that in mind, Steele spoke to Univision’s Jorge Ramos today, and had this exchange:

RAMOS: For instance, when you hear commentators like Glenn Beck saying that for him President Barack Obama is a racist, with a deep seated hatred for white people, how do you react?

STEELE: That’s one man’s opinion.

RAMOS: Yes, but…

STEELE: That’s one man’s opinion.

RAMOS: But should you defend Barack Obama against these types of comments? I don’t know, it’s just a question.

STEELE: No, no, look, the reality of it is when I ran for the United States Senate and I was called an Uncle Tom by leading Democrats in the country, when I was called a slave by Steny Hoyer who is now the majority leader in the House, no one came running to my defense, and no one seemed to think that that was racist at the time.

Steele probably realizes that Beck’s attack was insane, but he can’t bring himself to say so. He touched that hot stove in March, and hasn’t forgotten the burn.

Instead, he tries to turn it around. The president is facing race-based attacks now, Steele argues, but that’s tolerable since he faced race-based attacks as a Senate candidate in 2006.

Except, that’s not what happened. The grand total of “leading Democrats” who called Michael Steele an “Uncle Tom” during his campaign was zero. More important, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer never called Steele “a slave.” In reality, Hoyer characterized Steele’s record as “a career of slavishly supporting the Republican Party.” Steele feigned outrage, and Hoyer walked it back, saying, “If Mr. Steele did in fact take offense let me assure him that none was intended.”

Three years later, Steele is downplaying actual racially-motivated attacks against the president by powerful right-wing activists, and equating them with anecdotes from his own campaign that never occurred.

It’s often hard to believe this guy is the chairman of a major American political party.