Steele dodges bullet?

According to Reid Wilson at Hotline, Michael Steele’s allies worried whether the calls for the RNC chair’s resignation would get amplified on the Sunday talk shows, where Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham would appear.  While both have mainly fallen into disfavor with Republican leadership, both remain respected voices on the war in Afghanistan and the deployment in Iraq, and a call for Steele’s head may have forced the RNC’s hand.  Instead, both ripped Steele but stopped short of demanding his removal — and Steele’s allies think the crisis may have passed:

Steele allies were more concerned about McCain and Graham, who appeared on ABC’s “This Week” and CBS’s “Face the Nation,” respectively. The 2 GOPers were in Afghanistan to assess the situation on the ground, and some Steele allies believed a call for his resignation would reverberate through the 168 voting members of the RNC.

“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there’s no excuse for them,” McCain said on ABC. “The fact is that I think that Mr. Steele is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision.”

“It was an uninformed, unnecessary, unwise, untimely comment,” Graham said on CBS.

“It’s up to him to see if he can lead the Republican Party after this comment,” Graham added. “I’m going to leave it up to the Republican National Committee. But I do praise him for clarifying the statement.” …

McCain and Graham are not widely popular inside the RNC, which tends to be a collection of much more conservative segments of the GOP. But they are respected voices on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their criticism of Steele has not gone unnoticed among members of the RNC, many members told Hotline OnCall on Sunday. But that neither McCain nor Graham called on Steele to resign is a bullet the chairman dodged.

The bullet-dodging isn’t the end of the story, however.  Wilson’s sources tell him that RNC members are making efforts now to redirect contributors away from the RNC to the NRSC and RGA, the latter of which has had big fundraising success this year.  The picture Wilson paints is one of disarray and a lack of leadership, although the second-quarter numbers due out in a couple of weeks may put that in a different perspective.

When an organization is in disarray, what does it take to get it back on track?  An outside attack can sometimes help focus people back on the mission.  Newsbusters’ Noel Sheppard captures this attack by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Cynthia Tucker on Steele, calling him a product of affirmative action during a roundtable on ABC’s This Week:

JAKE TAPPER, HOST: Cynthia, you once called, let me underline “You” once called Michael Steele an affirmative action hire gone bad. What’s your take on this?

CYNTHIA TUCKER, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Well, Michael Steele is a self-aggrandizing, gaffe-prone incompetent who would have been fired a long time ago were he not black. Of course, the irony is that he never would have been voted in as Chairman of the Republican Party were he not black. Let’s remember how the Party wound up with Michael Steele. In November 2008, the Party was devastated that the Democrats had elected the nation’s first black president while the Republican Party was stuck with being seen as largely the party of aging white people, with good reason. A party that was hostile to people of color, especially blacks and Latinos. So the Party needed a new face, preferably a face of color, and they didn’t have very many officials to choose from. So, they came up with Michael Steele. And it is very ironic since the Republicans have been so critical of affirmative action, to watch them stuck with their affirmative action hire that they dare not get rid of because that would generate even more controversy.

What makes this statement most absurd is the idea that the GOP “came up with Michael Steele.” Had Tucker done her job, she would have known that Steele has worked for years among activists, attending conferences and building enthusiasm for conservative causes.  Steele ran for the US Senate and lost in a tough year for Republicans, and also hosted a talk-radio show for years.  They didn’t “come up with” Steele; he has been there a long time.  It’s fair to say that Steele has disappointed those who thought his greatest strength would be media relations (myself included), but he was not plucked from obscurity on the basis of an affirmative action hiring impulse.