Media Analysis: Michael Steele, knocked from all sides, fights on
December 14th, 2010
12:00 PM ET
4 years ago

Media Analysis: Michael Steele, knocked from all sides, fights on

(CNN) - RNC Chairman Michael Steele announced last night he would seek re-election, surprising some detractors and others from inside the party who were hinting he would be done at the end of the year.

Instead, Steele will fight on – after an onslaught of jabs from the left and right media, and new media in general, during his tenure at the helm of the party.

"Yeah, I have stumbled along the way, but I have always accounted to you for shortcomings," Steele told RNC members during a call last night. "I have made no excuses, I have told no lies, and I have no agenda. I have tried to be honest, sometimes to a bloody fault."

While Steele may win points for his honesty, it was his regular media appearances, which took on a 'what will he say this time' quality, that truly ingratiated him into the news world. His presence as party leader is also what made some in the GOP squirm as Steele's various 'stumbles' became national media stories.

It started in only his third month in March 2009, when he took some shots at radio titan Rush Limbaugh – an almost unthinkable activity by a GOP head. During a CNN interview, he said Limbaugh's rhetoric was "ugly" and "incendiary," and the pushback he received from Limbaugh forced him to walk back the statement only a few days later.

In March of this year, Steele took heat from a story broken by the right-leaning website The Daily Caller, about excessive spending by the party – most notably, an RNC trip to a "bondage-themed nightclub." This led to relentless 'coverage' of Steele by "The Daily Show," making fun of the experience and the leader.

There were smaller controversies too, like the launch of GOP.com – which led to chuckles from the blogging world about everything from an animated Steele guiding readers to his personal blog, titled (briefly) "What Up?"

But likely the seminal moment of the Steele Era was his declaration in July that Afghanistan was "a war of Obama's choosing" and that "this is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in." It was caught an amateur video recording at a small fundraiser in Connecticut – and it set off a national firestorm. Sen. John McCain ripped Steele, Rep. Darrell Issa said he was "not my leader" and prominent conservative pundits Liz Cheney and Bill Kristol called for his resignation. Others defended Steele – in a way, it came down to a "professional right" versus new GOP situation.

And with the Tea Party wave and considerable outside help, Steele was the RNC's leader when it scored major pick-ups in the House and Senate, flipping the House red and ushering in an entirely new set of first-time members of Congress.

He survived the extreme media scrutiny and inter-party rumblings. But gaining re-election in January will be a challenge. He will have at least five challengers, including one of his former advisers Reince Priebus and a former competitor for the job Saul Anuzis. Former RNC Political Director Gentry Collins is also running.

But while Steele has his occasional gaffe, his party did have a good year. And no one can deny the media attention he attracts. It's now up to the GOP to decide whether Steele is worth another go.


Filed under: Michael Steele
soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Lolo

    Mr. Steele should just go ahead and resign. Face it, the GOP used himagainst President Obama and made him look like a fool. Now that they have gotten some power back thay do not need him anymore. Everyone saw this but Mr. Steele. Hejoined the undercover Klan, now he must pay the price. I guarantee you that he has been black-balled.

    December 14, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  2. once upon a horse

    Steele is in BIG denial...the GOP used him as a token to counter President Obama and now that they have at least HALF of what they wanted, the House, Mike is no longer needed. Big problem is where does he go from here? The way he talked about President Obama to please his right wing buddies is NOT going to make him very welcome in the African-American comunities because most consider him a sell-out like Justice Thomas. And after slaming Rush Limbaugh then crawling back to ask for forgivness didn't help his cause either. Plus DeMint and several other GOP bigwigs don't want him back. Sorry Mikey but you burned your bridges when you made a "deal with the devil". Better go someplace and write a book.

    December 14, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  3. Frankie

    C'mon Michael Steeke. Can't you see that you were the token black when the Republicans needed you to show the black voters they are all inclusive. Now that Obama has proven himself to be less than the stellar president we thought he would be, the GOP no longer needs you. It's back to the "Old White Guy" mentality for the GOP. Welcome to the real world, Mr. Steele

    December 14, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  4. Joe

    Isn't this the guy from that movie "Lean On Me"? LOL Just kidding...

    Michael, you should appeal...or whatever has-beens do in this situation. They placed a ring in your nose and you've done everything they COMMANDED you to do:

    1. Bash any idea or thought that makes logical sense...even if it came from another Republican.

    2. Take credit for things your party didn't do or things that would have happened anyway...regardless of who was in office.

    3. Cling to the jock straps of every Tea Party candidate...while grinning feverishly.

    4. Bow down gracefully and keep grinning when they tell you that you suck or are "not good enough."

    5. Look "typical" with your wire-framed glasses, balding head, and "preacher" suits. It's 2010, not 1978!

    6. Tell lies and deny facts on demand without any regrets or remorse.

    I don't understand what the problem is now...unless it's...oh God, don't make me say it...because you're *****?

    December 14, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  5. EddyL

    Steele is an arrogant imbecile. he should go back to his counter job at Kentucky Fried Chicken and shut up.

    December 14, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. Conservative

    Steele has long since proven he is NOT the person for the GOP chief job. If the Republicans cannot see that they are drifting in the wind and deserve the losses they will take accordingly. The shellacing handed to the Dems had nothing to do with Steele's lack of leadership and everything to do with the leadership of Obama. The shellacing of 2 years ago, however had Steele' s prints all over it!

    December 14, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  7. NC

    Steele they don't want you. They used you to make racist remarks at the first Black President. Go write a book about your experience and learn from what happened to you.

    December 14, 2010 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |