Is Steele's tenure at the RNC over?
Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman, is in trouble.
Yes, those words have been said before. In fact, they have been said many times before. But this time the chorus of those saying it's time for him to go is bigger and more vocal than ever.
The latest brouhaha started last Thursday when, at a party rally in Connecticut, Steele was caught on a YouTube video calling Afghanistan a "war of Obama's choosing" and suggesting that it was not winnable.
Initially, the outrage came mostly from Democrats, who were angry at Steele's effort to politicize a war that began well before President Obama took office.
But then more and more Republicans weighed in. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), appearing on ABC News' "This Week" from Kabul, called Steele's remarks "wildly inaccurate" and questioned whether he could remain as GOP chair. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), on "Fox News Sunday," said Steele's comments were "unacceptable" and called on him to "apologize to our military, all the men and women who've been fighting in Afghanistan." On CBS' "Face the Nation," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said he was "dismayed, angry and upset" with Steele, calling his remarks "uninformed, unnecessary, unwise," and said they "couldn't have come at a worse time."
Indeed, Republicans sense they are on a roll en route to the midterm elections, with more and more polling — including one conducted for NPR — indicating that the GOP is headed for sizable gains.
With Steele's comments came calls for him to step down, notably from Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard; Liz Cheney, a daughter of former vice president Dick Cheney and head of "Keep America Safe;" Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former head of the National Republican Congressional Committee; and Katon Dawson, the former South Carolina state GOP chair who ran against Steele to head up the national party.
Kevin Williamson, blogging at National Review, has a solution: Replace Steele with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin:
Palin would be a much better RNC chairman than presidential candidate or freelance kingmaker. She'd raise tons of money and help recruit good candidates, i.e., she'd excel at doing the things Steele should have been doing instead of appointing himself Republican pundit-at-large.
A Chairman Palin would help set the right tone for the Republican party without having to get herself entangled in the minutiae of policy-development, which has not been her forte. Sure, she'd be polarizing, but so is Barack Obama, and these are polarized times. And it's one thing to have a polarizing party chairman, another to have a polarizing candidate.
The Daily Constitution, a right-wing blog, likes that idea:
There is no other Republican today that the progressives hate or fear more than Palin. The GOP desperately needs her leadership, star power, and fund raising abilities to accomplish the political victories in November that the party is hoping for to regain either the House or Senate. After the latest foot in mouth incident by RNC leader Michael Steele, the time for Palin may be near if she is up to the challenge.
The most caustic response to that idea that I've seen came from "soze169880," who wrote this comment on the left-wing Media Matters for America Web site:
I'm scratching my head over anyone whose thought process goes "Our chairman is off-message and gaffe-prone! We need Sarah Palin to undo the damage!"
Steele's two-year term as GOP chair ends in January. He serves at the pleasure of the members of the Republican National Committee. The question for these members is whether dumping him now, four months before the November midterms, makes sense or would be more of a distraction.