Happier days: Republican Party Chairman Michael S. Steele, as he was elected to lead the party in January. A series of verbal miscues now seriously endangers his position. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
If for no other reason, the party is in such overall rough shape that tossing aside its new leader after barely six weeks seemed like a truly foolish act.
Besides, Steele wasn't the only one to fall afoul of Limbaugh (that continued just this past week, for example, with Newt Gingrich). All that said, his interview to GQ is the likely final nail in the coffin -- even though it actually took place three weeks ago.
The chairman of the RNC can't go around and say that abortion is an "individual choice" (or even appear to do so). It's one thing to say that it should be returned to the "choice" of the states -- as a legal/constitutional matter. But saying that it is "individual choice" is declaring that the party is effectively pro-choice.
There were people in the party that had suspicions about Steele's commitment on "life" issues before this -- his work with former New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman in the Republican Leadership Council, for example.
But this is too much.
Now, it's not just Rush Limbaugh going after Steele. It's not just rival Katon Dawson or the one black member of the RNC (North Carolina committeewoman Ada Fisher). It's rival Ken Blackwell; it's several other pro-life leaders. It's former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
Actually, Steele's views on homosexuality were -- from a conservative point of view -- almost as problematic:
That could have been finessed. Though, frankly, there are more than a few black folks -- irrespective of party -- who aren't too thrilled with the being gay=being black equation; the problem with racism has always been its visual aspect. While thousands "passed" (as white) back in the day, most blacks can't physically appear to be something other than how the world sees them. Bigotry of all sorts is to be condemned, but a single gay person walking down the street isn't automatically seen as "gay."
To equate race and sexual orientation strikes many people as wrong. But, combined with Steele's seeming wavering on abortion (his GQ comments were in the context of his being adopted and his appreciation that his birth mother chose life), taps seem to be sounding on Michael Steele's tenure.
But if the RNC does dump Steele, members had better think carefully on who replace him. It shouldn't automatically go to runner-up Katon Dawson. That would be stunningly stupid. Even if Steele isn't the right person, dumping a black chairman in favor of a man who was in a whites-only country club only until he got into the chairman race would be unconscionable.
The fact that Dawson is conveniently using a black state committeewoman as his stalking horse to get Steele out (Ada Fisher was the first RNC member to call for his resignation) makes his machinations that more transparent.