This evening, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is expected to hold a conference call with RNC members to discuss whether he'll seek a second term. The smart money -- because he has disappeared from the public view as other Republicans have lined up to replace him -- and because he hasn't assembled a campaign team -- is that Steele won't run.
Despite the GOP's political success in the 2009-2010 cycle, Steele's numerous critics charged that he failed at the two biggest responsibilties for a party chairman: money and message.
The money criticism was summed up by his former political director, Gentry Collins, who is now running to replace Steele as RNC chairman. “In the previous two non-presidential cycles, the RNC carried over $4.8 million and $3.1 million respectively in cash reserve balances into the presidential cycles,” Collins said. “In stark contrast, we enter the 2012 presidential cycle with 100% of the RNC’s $15 million in lines of credit tapped out, and unpaid bills likely to add millions to that debt.” You can add stories like the RNC's $2,000 expenditure at a sex-themed nightclub to that complaint.
As for message, Steele's gaffes were legion. In fact, here's what we consider to be his Top 10 gaffes/statements that got him into trouble -- with the press and his own party.
1. Channeling Cindy Sheehan
"This is a war of Obama's choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in. ... if he is such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? Alright, because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history has failed."
Then his backtrack...
“As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus’ confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.”
2. Playing the race card
In response to a question from ABC whether he has a slimmer margin of error because he's black, Steele responded, "The honest answer is, 'yes.' Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. A lot of folks do. It's a different role for me to play and others to play and that's just the reality of it. But you take that as part of the nature of it. My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented, it's not old boy network oriented, so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street-wise, if you will. That's rubbed some feathers the wrong way.” (ABC’S GOOD MORNING AMERICA, April 5, 2010)
"I don't see stories about internal operations of the DNC that I see about this operation. Why? Is it because Michael Steele is the chairman, or is it because a black man is chairman?" (WASHINGTONIAN)
3. Doubting that the GOP is ready to lead
STEELE: I think overall -- given what we know so far and what this administration's proclivities are -- we're going to see, I think, nice pick-ups in the House. I think we're gonna see...
HANNITY: [interrupting] ... woah, more specific.
STEELE: Well, I can't give a number yet, because like I said, we're just now beginning to look at the races, and we have races...
HANNITY: [interrupting] Do you think you can take-over the House? Do you think Republicans...
STEELE: [interrupting] ... not this year, and Sean, I'll say...
HANNITY: [interrupting] ... you don't think so?
STEELE: Well, I don't know yet, because I don't know all the candidates yet. We still have some vacancies that need to get filled, but then the question we need to ask ourselves is: if we do that, are we ready?
HANNITY: Are you? …
STEELE: I don't know. And that's what I'm assessing and evaluating right now. Those candidates who are looking to run have to be anchored in these principles.... because if they don't, then they'll get to Washington, and they'll start drinking that Potomac River water, and they'll get drunk with power and throw the steps out the window. (FOX, Jan. 5, 2010)
4. Calling abortion an individual choice
In an interview withGQ: “I think that's an individual choice... The states should make that choice.”
5. Calling Rush Limbaugh "incendiary" and "ugly"
“His whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it's incendiary, yes, it's ugly.”
6. Comparing himself to Obama
STEELE (on CNN): “What would I be jealous of?”
CNN’s Don Lemon: "He's the president of the United States.”
STEELE: “I'm chairman of the RNC, so what's your point?"
7. Maintaining government has never created one job
“Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” (CNN, Feb. 3, 2009)
8. Saying that the earth is cooling, not warming
“We're cooling, we're not warming. Greenland, which is covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? OK? Iceland, which is now green. Ah, I love this, I love it. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? Not very long.” (BILL BENNETT RADIO SHOW, March 6, 2009)
9. Stating Pelosi will sit "in the back of the bus"
Rallying the GOP to win in November and urging supporters to "get on the bus," Steele capped off his call to action by predicting that "Nancy Pelosi will be in the back of the bus." (Aug. 6, 2010)
10. Rationalizing his gaffes
“I'm a cause-and-effect kind of guy. So if I do something there's a reason for it -- even it may look like a mistake, a gaffe, there's a rationale, there's a logic behind it. ... I wanna see what the landscape is, I wanna see who yells the loudest. I wanna know who's says they're with me but really isn't. ... It helps me understand my position on the chess board. It helps me understand where the enemy camp is. And where those who are inside the tent are. It's all strategic.” (CNN, March 25, 2009)
"Folks make mistakes. Lord knows I'm familiar with foot in mouth disease." (MEET THE PRESS, Oct. 24, 2010)
And then there was this about his critics: “I tell them to get a life. That's old Washington, that's the old ways, and I don’t represent that and it kills them. There are some within the party that are still mad that I'm chairman... here comes this 6-foot-4 bald guy bringing hip hop to the RNC... town halls at Howard University and Harlem. ... They hate it, and it's sad. I've had enough of it. If you don't want me in the job, fire me. But until then, shut up. Get with the program or get out of the way.”
Here are some other best-ofs:
On expanding the party:
He told the Washington Times that the party should take its message to "urban-suburban hip-hop settings" and even, “we need to uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets.” He said the party’s message will be “off the hook” and that the party isn’t going to be cutting edge, instead, "We're going beyond cutting edge."
“You wear you're hat one way, you know, you wear it kind of cocked to the left, because you know, that's cool out West. In the Midwest, you know, you guys like to wear it a little bit to the right. In the South, you wear the brim straight ahead. Now, the North east, you know, I wear my hat backwards, you know, because that's how we roll in the Northeast. It's a very... One thing you have to recognize, we are all wearing the hat that says GOP.” (MORNING JOE, April 30, 2009)
Called it "Democrats’ effort to get a little bling, bling." (POLITICO, Feb. 9, 2009)
On empathy and the Supreme Court:
"Crazy nonsense empathetic! I'll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness!" (GUEST HOSTING BILL BENNETT’S RADIO SHOW)