STEELE CONCEDES HE’S IN ‘A LITTLE BIT OF TROUBLE’…. It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion.

We talked earlier about RNC Chairman Michael Steele’s difficulties, which seemed to reach a new level yesterday when Republican staffers on the Hill organized a conference call and urged party officials, “You really need to have him be quiet.”

Steele conceded today that he’s “been in a little bit of trouble but I don’t care.” He added that his Republican critics are trying to “muzzle the chairman.”

Part of the problem seems to be that Steele didn’t tell anyone he was working on his controversial new book. When he was supposed to be heading the RNC, Steele was secretly working on this project.

Republican congressional leaders say they did not know that their party chairman, Michael S. Steele, was publishing a book until it was released this week, and they had no input in drafting what Steele is promoting as the blueprint Republicans should follow to win back power.

The release of Steele’s book, “Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda,” surprised Republican congressional leaders, some of whom first learned of the book by watching Steele’s television appearances this week, three top GOP congressional aides said Friday. […]

“The book came out and everybody went, ‘Whoa, what happened?’” one aide said, adding that his employer, a senior House Republican, learned of the book by watching cable news.
“No one in the House or Senate leadership knew he had a book contract.”

“He’s freelancing,” said another top congressional aide.

Also interesting, as the pressure grows more intense, Steele seems to be more combative, not less. Yesterday, he told ABC News that his Republican critics need to “shut up” and “get a life.” Soon after, he told a St. Louis radio station, “I am in this chair. If they want it, take it from me. Until then, shut up, step back and get in the game and help us win — and stop the back-biting and the name-calling and the finger-pointing…. I hope you play this tape over and over again because these folks are the problem, not the solution. Get with the program. I’m the chairman. Deal with it.”

And just to make things a little more interesting, Katon Dawson, the former South Carolina Republican Party chairman who Steele narrowly defeated for the RNC chairmanship last year, is suddenly “re-emerging ahead of an important RNC gathering later this month.”

Steele’s future is bleak.

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.