I doubt there’s a Democrat much of anywhere who hasn’t enjoyed the contretemps between RNC chairman Michael Steele and Rush Limbaugh, which ultimately produced an apology by The Chairman for suggesting that Rush isn’t exactly a serious and constructive figure in American politics. It’s always fun to observe the godlike status assigned by conservatives to a man considered despicable by, well, pretty much everybody who doesn’t think he’s godlike.
But the brouhaha is also raising broader questions about Steele, who occupies a singular niche in a Republican Party that doesn’t have any obvious set of consensus leaders this side of Limbaugh.
From his new perch at the DC Examiner, veteran conservative reporter Byron York suggests today that Steele’s drawing a lot of behind-the-scenes flack for spending most of his time making questionably effective TV appearances while a host of key positions at the RNC remain empty:
Shortly after his January 30 victory in the chairman’s race, Steele fired virtually everyone at the RNC — a move many outsiders applauded after the party’s back-to-back losses in 2006 and 2008. But Steele has yet to replace many of the people he sacked. Now, as Steele enters his second month in the chairman’s office, there is no chief of staff for the RNC. There is no political director. There is no finance director. There is no communications director. Many lesser positions remain empty as well.
“I think it’s been a disaster of a first month,” says one Republican who has served on Capitol Hill and the RNC. “He needs to disappear for 60 days, go and staff the building, put his personal energy into making sure he has the people he wants, and go from there. That’s what people are hoping he will do.”
“It’s not good,” says another GOP politico. “People feel that it’s been very erratic at a time when we really need some sort of stabilizing force.”
Over at National Review Online, Jim Geraghty gives a soapbox to an unnamed “Steele ally” who shares the sentiments reported by York, and also to Steele aide Kurt Anderson, who pretty much dismisses and and all criticism as emanating from job-seekers and hacks. Real Republicans, suggests Anderson, dig Steele deeply. This line of argument led a correspondent of Geraghty’s to respond:
What the heck is this guy smoking? It’s one thing to screw up. It’s another to screw up and insist “people love me”. I see nothing but dismay from Steele supporters on the blogs.”
I personally have no idea whether Steele is a comically inept bozo or just the temporary victim of unrealistic expectations among people in dire need of some leadership. But it’s never a particularly good sign when a national party chairman has to spend this much time explaining himself.