April 5th, 2010
10:37 AM ET
12 years ago

Steele says he has 'slimmer margin' for error

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/09/29/art.steelem.0929.gi.jpg caption="Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending."](CNN) - Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his leadership of the organization amid recent reports he has engaged in excessive spending, and says he has a "slimmer margin for error" because he is African-American.

"Barack Obama has a slimmer margin," Steele said in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America.' "We all - a lot of folks do. I mean, it's a different role for me to play and others to play. And that's just the reality of it. It's more of because you're not somebody they know. I am not a Washington insider even though I grew up in DC. My view of politics is much more grassroots-oriented. It's not old-boy-network-oriented."

The interview was Steele's first since reports surfaced that the RNC paid for a night out at a risqué Hollywood nightclub. Steele has also come under criticism for the costs associated with his use of private jets, limousines, and five-star hotels.

News of the excessive expenditures are the latest in a series of gaffes involving Steele – the party's chairman since January of 2009 - leading some Republicans to privately and publicly question whether he is the best leader for the GOP going into a crucial round of midterm elections.

"This kind of thing has got to stop or they won't get any contributions," Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl said on Fox News Sunday. "The people that contribute to the committees, both Democrat and Republican, want to know that their money is well spent for the cause, and it needs to be that way."

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council - an influential social conservative organization - also urged supporters last week to stop donating to the RNC and instead contribute to its own coffers or to candidates with like-minded goals.

And a group of influential Republicans launched a new independent organization last week with the goal of raising over $50 million to help their party topple Democrats in this year's midterm elections. With its ambitious fundraising goal, the new group, called American Crossroads, is likely to compete with many of the same donors the RNC is targeting.

But In his interview Monday, Steele maintained he is the right leader for the organization and touted his fundraising success since assuming the chairmanship 14 months ago.

"At the end of the day, I've raised more than the Democrats in seven out of 12 months," he said. "I carried over the same amount of money as the [Democratic National Committee] in 2010. We had a very good march and will have a very good April. The bottom line is I hear my donors, I hear the base out there, I hear the leadership. "

Federal Election Commission reports filed at the end of February showed the RNC with more than $9 million cash on hand while the DNC reported $10.7 million in the bank. But the RNC had no debt at the time while the DNC reported close to $4 million in debt.

UPDATE: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs told reporters Monday "Michael Steele's problem isn't the race card, it's the credit card."

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soundoff (185 Responses)
  1. SWB

    The slimmer margin has to do with this craven political plot to stop the government from functioning at the expense of the American citizen, not his race.

    April 5, 2010 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  2. Tom

    Irregardless that this idiot is now playing the race card, republicans certainly must consider him a liability. While he becomes more of an asset to the democrats every time he opens his mouth.

    April 5, 2010 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  3. Jay

    Shut up idiot. Still trying to pretend that as a puppet/showpiece you still belong to the party of rich white guys. "Grew up in DC" and are the RNC Chairman and claim you're not an "insider". You are so stupid Steele, just like your corporate interest only Party of No.

    April 5, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  4. Jean (Plantation, Florida)

    Steele is right. All this talk about his running of the RNC is because he's black. All RNC heads have made the same mistake in the past. However he never acknowleded this fact before. Now that heat is really on and burning he's pulling the race card. Republicans elected him as head of the RNC because he is black to compete with Obama. The same way RNC picked Sarah Palin to run as Vice President candidate because she was a woman to steal away women voters from democrats. No doubt here.

    April 5, 2010 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  5. jbakaregit

    Notwithstading their obstruction/lies/tea partiers over the last year, the GOP thinks America will just hand them back some seats in Congress just b/c conventional wisdom says so? Steele is one of the biggest reasons why they have celebrated too soon.

    April 5, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  6. Jane Doe

    It has always got to come down to race doesn't it, Mr. Steele? I am a registered Republican and was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt regarding these monetary issues, thinking it was just poor judgment on the part of a staff member. However, I am coming to believe it is probably poor judgment on the part of the leader in charge of the staff. Your cop-out regarding your race is exactly that – a cop-out. Obama is no more held to a different standard than any other president except for the fact that he has socialist leanings and basically has a selfish attitude. Its all about his 'mark' on the world and not what is in the best interest of the country. You seem to have the same deluded idea. If you are held to any standard it is because we, the American people, are sick and tired of leadership that is in it for themselves versus being in it for the benefit of serving their country and its citizens!

    It is time for you to go home and the Republicans to get a leader for the party! You have worn out your welcome!

    April 5, 2010 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  7. tony_n_atl

    oh now he wants to be black....brother dont go there...you know you were in the lions den when you got the job. Now you getting what we all knew you would, and deserve, oh well! Dont "liken" yourself to the president now! lol...HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    April 5, 2010 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  8. NatTurner

    Uh oh! Steele just sealed his fate. You never mention that white people have it easier when you work for them. The last thing white folks want to hear is how much easier they have it than black folks. Now Mr. Steele...you have become the enemy. Good luck getting out of that one! LOL.

    April 5, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  9. shucks

    Micheal Steele now pulling out the race card? That is just too laughable. He is a complete and utter moron. He blasts anyone everytime they even mentioned race regarding the President, and now he wants to use it as his excuse? He is truly a republican. Maybe he should pray and ask forgiveness too. LOL

    April 5, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  10. John

    You don't have a slimmer margin of error because you're black. The color of your skin doesn't dictate the nature of the decisions that you're making and the content of the messages that you're sending out to constituents. President Obama didn't need to lean on his racial background as a crutch to his decisions.

    We get it, you're African American. You're also a buffoon who makes awful decisions and says ridiculous things that make your party look even more foolish than it already is. President Obama is African American, but he makes good decisions and doesn't go out in front of reporters and subsequently goofs up and makes a fool of himself. Although, i'd like to thank Steele for eliminating the race card argument from the standard Republican talking points memo.

    Bonus points to Robert Gibbs for the slam.

    April 5, 2010 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  11. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    It bears repeating:

    Big dummy.

    April 5, 2010 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  12. Brian

    I can't even begin to explain all the ways this guy is insulting our intelligence.

    April 5, 2010 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  13. Too True For You

    Huh. I thought republican doctrine was that it was the democrats that were always pulling out the race card?

    April 5, 2010 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  14. notfooledtx

    Competence is competence, incompetence is incompetence. Color doesn't matter.

    The problem with Steeles argument is that you have to achieve a level of competence regardless of race – Obama has held his own, Steele thought his color would carry him.

    Steele is nothing but tokenism, it's failed, he's failed.

    April 5, 2010 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  15. ambi

    now steele wants to play the race card for himself??? LOL whatever steele to late now as you would say
    "it has nothing to do with race but with ability and accountability" you sucking on your job deal with it.

    April 5, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  16. KMAN

    Steele is very consistent since he always maintains that he's never to blame for anything that goes wrong under his leadership. It seems to be a very common theme with all Republicans!

    April 5, 2010 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. RG-Tex

    ...says he has a "slimmer margin for error" because he is African-American..
    "Barack Obama has a slimmer margin," Steele said in an interview on ABC's 'Good Morning America.' "We all – a lot of folks do....

    Really! And all this while, I thought Steele was White.

    One can't run with the hare and hunt with the hounds..... can't have it both ways, Steele!

    April 5, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |

    What a jerk – so typical a Republican!

    April 5, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |

    Well unlike Obama.. Steele obviously doesnt have a clue where that margin is...

    April 5, 2010 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  20. Anonymous

    Wow. If he hadn't already jumped the shark he certainly did it with that comment.

    April 5, 2010 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  21. cjinmd

    He has a slimmer margin for error not because he's black but because he's a hypocrite. He likes to get as freaky (or freakier) as other people yet leads a party that condemns those actions.

    April 5, 2010 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  22. FM

    These lavish expenditures he incurred can not be entertained by anyone. Either he reforms or he has to let others do the job as required!

    April 5, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |

    Mr. Steele, remember those days when you used to blast anyone who suggested that racism had anything to do with the attacks on the President?

    Now that your leadership is being critized in the strip club and spending spree scandal you are crying racism. How hypocritical. You must be a Republican.

    April 5, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  24. DownSouth

    Wrong sir- you have a slimmer margin because you are an idiot. Your awkward use of colloquialisms to try to endear yourself and the Grand Ole Party of rabid extremists to inner city and urban audiences has backfired while making you look like a new-aged minstrel show in the process.

    You've tap danced long enough only to find out that the audience that you played to has grown tired of your act. Please do not put yourself in the same category as President Obama as the President has not lost his soul nor sold it to gain favor with others.

    April 5, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  25. McLuhan

    The medium has become the message! Winning an election has now become more than the position that is to obtained. The seekers and incumbants are "election specialists" and no longer public servants, which is indicative of the current political and economic climate and the rhetoric that both parties use. Reaching one office is the just the spring board to the next, leaving limited time to do the task at hand. Our government has become a group of gamers that do not know what to do when the game is won. MM wouldn't be surprised at all!

    April 5, 2010 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
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