Rahm Emanuel yesterday:

Mr. Limbaugh has “called for President Obama to fail. That’s his view,” Mr. Emanuel said. “And whenever a Republican criticizes him, they have to run back and apologize to him and say they were misunderstood.”

Michael Steele today:

“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”…

“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said…

“He brings a very important message to the American people to wake up and pay attention to what the administration is doing,” Steele said. “Number two, there are those out there who want to look at what he’s saying as incendiary and divisive and ugly. That’s what I was trying to say. It didn’t come out that way. … He does what he does best, which is provoke: He provokes thought, he provokes the left. And they’re clearly the ones who are most excited about him.”

Asked if he planned to apologize, Steele said: “I wasn’t trying to offend anybody. So, yeah, if he’s offended, I’d say: Look, I’m not in the business of hurting people’s feelings here. … My job is to try to bring us all together.”

Rush’s fans will hold Steele in contempt for criticizing him in the first place and Rush’s critics will hold him in contempt for apologizing now. Well played, sir. Exit question: Whose contrition was more groveling, Steele’s or Phil Gingrey’s?

Update: Coulter repeats the boss’s point from earlier today about how it’s perfectly okay to criticize Rush. Since when? Did CPAC pass a resolution?

Update: Rod Dreher skewers Steele: “Please Rush, don’t hurt me!”

Update: Tim Kaine seizes the moment:

“I was briefly encouraged by the courageous comments made my counterpart in the Republican Party over the weekend challenging Rush Limbaugh as the leader of the Republican Party and referring to his show as ‘incendiary’ and ‘ugly.’ However, Chairman Steele’s reversal this evening and his apology to Limbaugh proves the unfortunate point that Limbaugh is the leading force behind the Republican Party, its politics and its obstruction of President Obama’s agenda in Washington.”