MAYBE STEELE DOESN’T UNDERSTAND MODERN COMMUNICATIONS…. There was a point, before media satellites and the Internet, when political figures found it relatively easy to cater their messages to specific audiences. Candidates and party leaders could offer one message to one constituency, and an opposing message to a related constituency, confident that the contradictory rhetoric wouldn’t be noticed.

Those days are largely a thing of the past. Someone probably ought to tell Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

Last month, the embattled RNC chief was caught distancing himself from his party’s line on the war in Afghanistan. This month, Steele suggested to Univision, the nation’s largest Spanish-language network, that his party is not fully on board with Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant law. Asked how Hispanic-American voters might respond to Steele’s outreach in the wake of Arizona’s measure, he replied:

“Well, let’s be clear. The actions of one state’s governor is not a reflection of an entire country, nor is it a reflection of an entire political party. The governor and the people of Arizona made a decision that they thought was in their best interest, and that’s the beauty of a republic, that’s who we are. […]

“We hope, now that this debate is in full bloom, level heads will prevail and that we’ll reach a common sense solution with regards to immigration.”

To be sure, that’s not a total repudiation of the Arizona statute, but it’s hard to interpret this as anything but an effort to put some distance between the Republican Party and the state measure.

And that relates back to Steele’s larger problem (or one of them, at least). He wants to be able to tell the angry, anti-immigrant right-wing base that the Republican Party is taking bold steps like supporting Arizona’s SB1070. He also wants to be able to tell Univision’s audience that the Republican Party shouldn’t necessarily be seen as anti-immigrant at all. But in an age of modern communications, both groups are now aware of what Steele is telling the other — and now no one is inclined to trust him.

Amanda Terkel, now writing for the Huffington Post, added, “Most other national GOP figures have defended the legislation and sharply criticized the Obama administration’s lawsuit against Arizona.”

Quite right. One wonders what they’ll think of their party leader’s remarks to Univision.

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.