Steele rediscovers the ‘race card’

STEELE REDISCOVERS THE ‘RACE CARD’…. Michael Steele’s first year as chairman of the Republican National Committee has not gone well. There have been controversies surrounding his gaffes, his budget, his lucrative side deals, his mismanagement, and his tantrums. Talk of his ouster has been quite common, especially after Democrats went five-for-five in winning congressional special elections in 2009.

But in the new issue of the Washingtonian, Steele suggests his problems are not of his own making, but rather, are the result of racism.

Steele acknowledges that at times he has a tendency to take things too far. “And I get checked on that, just as when I was a young boy and I pushed the envelope too far and my Mama was there to check me.”

But there’s an edge to his voice when he talks about a double standard that he believes has been applied by his critics, and he posits racism as the cause: “I don’t see stories about the internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?”

It’s unclear exactly who Steele is accusing of racism. As Greg Sargent noted, “Either Steele is suggesting the media gives more ink to the RNC’s inner workings because a black man is chairman, or he’s suggesting that fellow Republicans are leaking damaging info about the RNC because a black man is chairman.”

That’s right, and the difference matters. Either the RNC chairman is lashing out at the media for being racist, or lashing out at his own Republican colleagues for being racist. It’d be interesting to know which. Indeed, if Steele believes his own RNC team is engaged in race-based leaking, he should say so.

Either way, Steele’s comments are curious. For one thing, he’s generated more attention because he’s always screwing up in some very high-profile way. If Tim Kaine had the same kind of self-destructive tendencies as the RNC chairman, he’d probably be in the news a lot, too. If memory serves, Howard Dean’s tenure at the DNC sparked all kinds of media coverage when Dean would push the rhetorical envelope a bit.

For another, Steele has said, repeatedly, that he’s offended by attempts to play the “race card.” Is that no longer operative?