Steele slams Obama for bringing up Kennedy letter

The RNC chair says he thinks the president's mention of the late senator "was bad form"

Published September 10, 2009 8:02PM (EDT)

As I said Wednesday night, it was almost a foregone conclusion that Republicans would hit President Obama for bringing up the late Sen. Ted Kennedy during his address to Congress. But as I also said, South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst made it harder for the GOP to get that line of attack to stick -- Republicans are already on the defense about being crass, and so they don't have a lot of room to maneuver.

If the GOP's congressional leadership could have picked anyone to criticize Obama for his citation of Kennedy, though, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele would probably the last person on the list.

Steele came out with that criticism in an interview with the Washington Times on Thursday. He managed not to stick his foot in his mouth too badly (something of an accomplishment for him), but still, the attack floundered -- it felt forced, like even Steele wasn't convinced.

"I'm sorry, but I just felt a bit unnerved by it, in the sense he just passed," the RNC chair said of Obama's mention of Kennedy and the letter the late senator had sent the president earlier this year. "His wife was still clearly emotional. I just thought that was bad form. We all understand and appreciate the role Sen. Kennedy has played in this debate and the passion he brought to health care. I just thought that was a little bit much for me, so soon after his death, using that as a political tool." 

(Hat-tip to Steve Benen.)

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Barack Obama Michael Steele Ted Kennedy War Room