How long can Michael Steele survive his own ineptness?
Michael Steele probably saw Blazing Saddles once upon a time and then envisioned himself as the hero, Sheriff Bart: saving the humble citizens of Rock-Ribbed Republican Ridge before riding off into the sunset on his trusty steed, tipping his 10-gallon hat.
But perhaps Steele would have preferred to skip over the part where Sheriff Bart arrives in town, only to be greeted by a wound-up crowd hollering out, "The sheriff is a ..."
He's been digging an ever-deeper hole for himself and his party just weeks after accepting the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. He bragged to the Washington Times about his "off the hook" hip-hop outreach strategy, then he was publicly sonned by Rush Limbaugh, then dressed down by African-American RNC committee member Dr. Ada Fisher for an "ineptness" she says makes blacks and Republicans look "quite foolish." This week Steele again wandered off of the Republican reservation by telling GQ that abortion is "an individual choice" better left up to the individual states to deal with.
Steele also went wobbly on the GOP's stance against homosexuality by acknowledging that you can't "turn it on and off like a water tap." He said gay marriage, too, should be left up to the states—forgetting, perhaps, that if states' rights were the only consideration, then a whole bunch of us—including him—might be slaves right now.
Then he backpedaled.
The predictable conservative scolds chimed in, with the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins gently cautioning that "it is very difficult to reconcile the GQ interview" with his previous understanding of Steele's positions. Former Ohio Secretary of State and fellow black Republican Ken Blackwell was more blunt, saying Steele "needs to reread the Bible, the U.S. Constitution and the 2008 GOP platform."
In the face of intra-party dissent, Steele released a statement to the press Thursday, boiling it all down to "I am pro-life, always have been, always will be."
So the guy brought in to give the Republican Party a makeover, gave himself a makeover ... again.
Plan A could have worked—toeing the line, nose to the grindstone, taking calls from Newt's assistant at American Solutions and raising a pile of cash for the 2010 elections.
Plan B might have been even better—take on Limbaugh and the religious right, put some new-jack conservatives of color like Rep. Joseph Cao on speed dial, and drag the Republican party kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
But that's not how it went down.