A meltdown of Steele-ian proportions

The RNC chairman's latest series of travails is bizarre, even by his standards


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Alex Koppelman
January 9, 2010 1:09AM (UTC)

This should have been a good week for Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. He has a new book out, after all -- "Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda" was released Monday, and he's been out promoting it. But instead, the week's been filled with criticism coming from within the Republican Party, and with more of the eccentricity that has characterized Steele's tenure as head of the RNC.

Friday didn't start off great for Steele; Think Progress caught an odd statement he'd made Thursday, in an interview with Dennis Miller: " I feel this is part of a calling for me. I mean, I didn’t ask for, I didn’t seek this job, I didn’t ask for it. It wasn’t part of my, you know, charted course in life to wind up as chairman of the RNC. You know, there was a convergence of moments here." It was a strange thing for him to say, because, in fact, Steele did ask for his job -- he had to, because he was elected to it, and that took no small amount of politicking.

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Then Steele touched off a minor kerfluffle within the world of political news when, 30 minutes before he was scheduled to appear on "Top Line," a show on ABC News' Web site, he suddenly canceled, though an RNC spokesperson had confirmed the interview only 15 minutes earlier.  The cancellation was blamed on an "emergency meeting" that apparently didn't exist, though the RNC has since said there was a regular meeting that was the reason for the chairman's sudden change of heart.

Friday also saw more criticism of Steele from within the GOP. The Washington Post reported that Republican congressional leaders had no idea he was writing a book until it was released. Worse, they had no input in the book, which wouldn't be a problem except that it's about his ideas for how the party should come back to power in D.C. The Post quoted one anonymous aide to a "senior House Republican" as saying, "The book came out and everybody went, 'Whoa, what happened?' No one in the House or Senate leadership knew he had a book contract."

Then, for the second time in two days, Steele gave an interview in which he responded to his critics in his own truly unique fashion.

"Let’s just say I’ve been in a little bit of trouble but I don’t care because I didn’t write this for them. This book is a book a lot of those staffers who are trying to get the chairman on message or muzzle the chairman -- it’s a book they don’t want you to read. They don’t want you to read this book because a guilty conscience is a funny thing," he told the Christian Broadcasting Network's David Brody.

Update: Another bit of Steele weirdness -- he told Laura Ingraham that he wrote the book before he started his job as chairman of the RNC. But the book "was clearly written in late 2009, either in November or December, and is based entirely on current events up to that point," TPM reports.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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