RNC chair Michael Steele claimed today in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America that he has a “slimmer margin for error” at the RNC because of his ethnicity. George Stephanopoulos asked Steele in the middle of a discussion about the criticism that he’s getting as a result of a series of embarrassing missteps whether Steele felt more pressure because of his race. Steele replies at the one-minute mark of the video, “The honest answer is yes.”
RNC chair Michael Steele defended his spending practices Monday morning, saying he has no plan to resign, and at one point suggesting that criticism of his tenure may be rooted in racism.
“I tend to come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more streetwise if you will,” Steele explained to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, in his first interview since the Daily Caller broke the news last week that the RNC paid almost $2,000 at a risqué, bondage themed night club. “That’s rubbed some feathers the wrong way. At the end of the day, I’m judged by if I win elections and raise the money. That’s a standard I’m very comfortable with and meeting in November.”
Asked if “as an African-American” he has “a slimmer margin for error than another chairman would,” Steele replied: “The honest answer is yes.” Steele went on to explain that, like Barack Obama, he has had to contend with racism as someone who is “not ole boy network.”
That’s not likely to quell calls for his resignation over the revelations of free-spending leadership at the RNC. Steele attempts to dodge that at one point by claiming that the money isn’t being spent on him. However, the issue people have is that the money is being spent by the RNC on corporate jets and lesbian-bondage-themed nightclubs under his leadership. Would an RNC chair of a different ethnicity face calls to resign after those expenditures got exposed? I’d guess yes, especially in this economy and with the RNC needing every dollar to drive turnout in November.
I’ll go out on a limb and predict that Steele’s attempt at victimhood isn’t going to do anything to bolster his popularity as RNC chair.
Update: Robert Gibbs gets in a zinger at Steele’s expense:
GOP Chairman Michael Steele shouldn’t blame criticism of his actions on race, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday.
Gibbs called Steele’s remark that criticism of his leadership is motivated by race “silly” during a meeting with reporters.
“I think Michael Steele’s problem isn’t the race card, it’s the credit card,” Gibbs added.
Update II: More problems at the RNC?
In another serious blow to the Republican National Committee, one of its top fundraisers — and its few remaining connections to the traditional GOP donor base — has resigned a senior, unpaid position.
Former Ambassador Sam Fox, a top supporter of George W. Bush who was one of the co-chairmen of the Republican Regents — the RNC’s top-level fundraising board — has left the post, two Republican sources said. …
But Fox was “deeply troubled by the pattern of self-inflicted wounds and missteps,” another major Republican fundraiser told me today, and had “lost confidence” in Steele.
The only constituency Steele has to satisfy is the RNC’s big donors, like Fox. If they’re retreating, Steele may be in big trouble.
Update III: Dan Riehl thinks that the criticism is mostly overblown:
Is he the type of manager best suited for the RNC? I don’t know. But the GOP has been winning recently and he has a more wide open shoot from the hip, unapologetic style that gives old GOP hands fits. But then, they always have been a bunch of tight-assed white guys, if you ask me. Does that make them racist? No. And Steele said no such thing. We’ve come a long way on matters of race in America, but just as Jackie Robinson had to meet a somewhat different set of standards when he went to the major leagues, prominent black leaders in business and politics do experience something similar, though not nearly as bad. And that’s all Steele really did here, speak something of a truth.
Unfortunately, some of the same GOP hands that gave us Dede, Crist and Carly freak out everytime some Republican goes off script. They want to control, not just the candidate selection process, but the message from top to bottom. And it simply doesn’t’ work in this New Media age. Finally, as I’ve long advocated for a less apologetic, more free-wheeling GOP, I’m not nearly as bothered by Steele as they seem to be.
If I had to pick what looks more like the future for a GOP that can engage more young people, grassroots conservatives and minorities, personally, I’d go with Steele over the GOP old guard. You might disagree. But at least know what we’re all fighting about right now. I can assure you, it has nothing to do with strip clubs and booze. While they may, or may not have shown up on expense reports, they’ve been part of DC politics for years. I’m not defending it, just stating the facts.
And given Rove’s and the old guard’s willingness to sell out conservatism to create some new catchy brand of GOP politics gives me less reason to trust them, as opposed to Steele, who, for better or worse, is at least willing to tell people what he really thinks. As I’ve always appreciated the candid over the contrived, it just doesn’t bother me as much as it may some.
Be sure to read it all. However, the party that demands fiscal discipline should model it within their own practices. I agree that the kind of nonsense exposed over the last week or so at both the RNC and the DNC have gone on for years — but that doesn’t mean it should continue or that criticism of it is something extraordinary.