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Analysis: Steele Double-Dealing the Race Card

Date: Tuesday, April 06, 2010

By: Michael H. Cottman

Michael Steele couldn’t wait to play the race card.

Steele, the beleaguered chairman of the Republican National Committee, has spent nearly every waking moment criticizing President Barack Obama. But now, with his job being questioned, Steele claims he’s not getting unanimous support from fellow Republicans because he’s black – and he’s comparing himself to Obama as brothers in the struggle for racial equality.

Appearing Monday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Steele was asked by a viewer if he has a “slimmer margin” for error at the RNC because he’s African-American.

Steele not only took the bait – he snatched it right off the hook.

“The honest answer is yes,” said Steele.

But he didn’t just leave it there. Not Steele. He had to drag the president into the mix.

“It just is,” Steele said. “Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do. I mean it’s a different role for you know, for me to play and others to play. And that’s just the reality of it.”

Steele is desperate. To suggest even subtly that he and Obama somehow share a social justice connection because both men are black politicians who experience discrimination on the job is bordering on the absurd.  This is the same Obama, Steele says, who is single-handedly ruining this country, lying to the American people and lobbying for policies that will sink citizens deeper into financial despair.

Just a few weeks ago, Steele was courting African-Americans and insisting the Republican Party appreciates diversity. So how can Steele honestly sell black people on the notion that Republicans want racial inclusion when he’s now admitting that some in the Grand Old Party don’t even want to include him?

While Steele is trying to quiet a chorus of critics, he suddenly feels compelled to align  himself with Obama, his political adversary, because it’s now become convenient to embrace Obama’s blackness – and hint of racism within his own party.

It’s clear that Steele suffers from some kind of racial-political schizophrenia.

He beats up on Obama, then rushes to invoke his name as a fellow brother when his GOP crew turns on him. He encourages black folks to join the Republican Party, yet he claims to be under fire from Republicans because he’s black. He believes some in the GOP want him out because he’s African-American, but he refuses to quit. He plays the race card before a national audience knowing Republicans will be furious about the unwanted attention.

And here’s what Steele told Washingtonian Magazine: “I don’t see stories about 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?”

This was a direct shot over the RNC bow.

Republicans have been reluctant to get rid of Steele because he’s black, even though it has become clear in recent months that Steele’s loose-cannon style of leadership is not working out. But now the RNC hierarchy is stuck with Steele, who is sitting in his office essentially daring them to come get him.

Meanwhile, Steele remains under fire for what many of his fellow Republicans call lavish spending. The RNC spent more than $17,000 on private jet travel in February, as well as nearly $13,000 for limousines, the RNC’s financial reports show. The GOP also spent big money at luxury hotels, including the $9,000 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,600 at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons and $15,000 at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C. The RNC even came under fire by its own members for holding its winter meeting at a lavish resort in Hawaii earlier this year.

Steele defends his spending, saying he’s outraised Democrats with donations, and insists that he’s not fazed by the criticism.

Why? Because Steele is a walking contradiction, a man who can dial up different political personalities to fit the moment. He can appear as an accomplished black man who is still confused about race, or a skilled manipulator of the media and the GOP, or a high-stakes gambler who uses hip-hop slang and always keeps a crisp race card up his tailored sleeve.

So, it’s no wonder he hasn’t been fired yet. Republicans aren’t sure which Michael Steele to give the pink slip.


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