What is going on with Michael Steele? In the last year, the Republican National Committee chairman has become one of the most confusing and controversial figures in politics. Last week brought yet another example of his troubles representing the party: an outburst during an interview in which he said his critics should “fire him or shut up.” It was alarmingly immature coming from someone who is supposed to be a leader.
Steele also protested recently that he “didn’t ask for and didn’t seek” the job of RNC chairman.
Unfortunately for him, there are those records of him attending the RNC election last January, not to mention videos announcing his candidacy where he states, “I want the gig. I’m ready, I’m ready to lead this party.”
Steele’s had his role for only one year, and, like the rest of the party, is still adjusting and struggling to find his identity.
When a leader is so indecisive about whether he wants his own job, how is anyone supposed to want to follow him? When Steele was initially elected chairman of the RNC, like many others in my party I was excited about a fresh and different voice, especially because Republicans were in need of new inspiration after the last election. However, since his appointment, it’s been one snafu after another, giving the impression that he’s disorganized and full of mixed messages. From his early criticism of Rush Limbaugh as an “entertainer” to recent reports of his $20,000 speaking fees, one thing is certain: From a public-relations standpoint, his actions are killing him in the eyes of the GOP.
But let’s hold off on the firing squads. He’s had his role for only one year, and, like the rest of the party, is still adjusting and struggling to find his identity. I understand from personal experience how hard it is to be criticized by fellow Republicans. There is something that particularly stings about negative comments by people whose side you are on.
• John Batchelor: The Michael Steele Debate• Peter Beinart: Harry Reid Was RightAnd there is plenty to respect, starting with his call on Fox News Sunday this weekend for Harry Reid to give up his position as Senate Majority Leader because of his racially insensitive comments about President Obama not having a “Negro dialect.” Chairman Steele rightly took a hard stance, emphasizing the double standard of Democrats and Republicans making racially insensitive remarks, and comparing Reid’s comments with Trent Lott’s to Strom Thurmond in 2002.
I also admire that he has resisted the urge to placate the Tea Party fringe of the GOP in the name of fundraising. And he is willing to admit when he is wrong, as he did a week ago when he used the slang term “honest Injun” in an interview, and apologized for his mistakes.
Has Michael Steele made mistakes and questionable decisions? Yes. But he deserves more time before we jump so quickly. Michael Steele should know that the clock is ticking, but we’re in no hurry to see that time run out.
Meghan McCain is a columnist for The Daily Beast. Originally from Phoenix, she graduated from Columbia University in 2007. She is a New York Times bestselling children's author, previously wrote for Newsweek magazine, and created the Web site mccainblogette.com.