If you're in charge, you don't have to say anything. You just behave like you're in charge. This political truism was clearly demonstrated by the Limbaugh smackdown of Steele.
This was Michael "Man of " Steele, so called leader of the Republican Party, on CNN's D.L Hughley show this past weekend:
Steele belittled Rush as an "entertainer" and called his rhetoric ugly and incendiary.
Here's an excerpt of Rush's response on his show on Monday 3/2/09. Note that Rush states in no uncertain terms that Steele is not the head of the Republican Party.
This was Michael Steele today, talking to the Politico in a phone interview.
“My intent was not to go after Rush – I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh,” Steele said in a telephone interview. “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.”
“I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said. "It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people … want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he’s not."
“I’m not going to engage these guys and sit back and provide them the popcorn for a fight between me and Rush Limbaugh,” Steele added. “No such thing is going to happen. … I wasn’t trying to slam him or anything.” “He brings a very important message to the American people to wake up and pay attention to what the administration is doing," Steele said. "Number two, there are those out there who want to look at what he’s saying as incendiary and divisive and ugly. That’s what I was trying to say. It didn’t come out that way. …
Asked if he planned to apologize, Steele said: “I wasn’t trying to offend anybody. So, yeah, if he’s offended, I’d say: Look, I’m not in the business of hurting people’s feelings here. … My job is to try to bring us all together.”
Steele has now been effectively demolished as a credible party leader as far as I'm concerned. This was not simply an apology, this statement goes further than that. This my friends is groveling. Read his quote again - “I was maybe a little bit inarticulate. … There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership.” “I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren’t what I was thinking,” Steele said."It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently.
Are you kidding me? Steele calls himself inarticulate and essentially says that he didn't know what he was saying. This is a 64 year old, grown black man with a law degree from Georgetown. You cannot possibly expect me to take you seriously after you cave in such a cringing, spineless fashion. I thought Steele got off to a very poor rhetorical start from the jump with his Kool Mo Dee stylings when he won the post of RNC chair. My estimation of his rhetorical and party building skills dropped even further when he declared if we rap it, they will come. Now, he has written a check with his mouth that his behind can't cash on the bank of Rush that could endanger his post as RNC chair in just a few short weeks. Again, for the record, Rush told Steele "you are not the head of the republican party". Which begs the question, who is?
Steele's done himself some near irreparable damage with this, because its hard to respect a guy who will backpedal that fast and that hard. I would have respected him more if he had stuck to his guns and I suspect that so would a lot of other republicans who don't care to belong to the ditto head crowd. He'll have to be stellar going forward to regain a modicum of the regard I had for him. Like the One himself, his promise seems outmatched by his reality. Steele had recently promised to roll out a beyond cutting edge PR campaign. If that campaign is as ill advised and clumsy as these most recent gaffes, the GOP is going to have a real problem.
Then again, the GOP already has a problem that is pretty ginormous and of which Steele's humiliation (don't kid yourself, thats what it is) is merely a symptom. Simply put, the party is bankrupt, both in ideas and most sorely in leadership. Rush Limbaugh is indeed what Steele said. He is an entertainer. That is how he makes his living. His product is what John Derbyshire calls low brow conservatism. Here's why this sticks in my craw. For all his 2+ decades in radio and his audience of 20 million, Rush is not now nor has he ever been accountable to a single voter, has not held office nor run for any public position of responsibility. Yet, there does not appear to be a single republican in the House or the Senate who would dare disagree or be critical of him without walking those words back within 24 hours. Men and women elected by voters who do not dare to challenge anything Rush wants to say. Indeed, when Rush essentially calls republican lawmakers out as gutless, that comment appears to have some validity, because they won't say boo to Rush.
Of what possible use is such a party? When one man commands such fealty? When no elected official dares challenge his opinion or voice a strongly held criticism or opinion contrary to his? I find it pathetic.