Back in 2009 a newly elected, bristling Michael Steele told CNN he (as Republican Party Chairman) and not Rush Limbaugh was the leader of the GOP and added, ‘Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh’s whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it is incendiary. Yes, it is ugly.’
Limbaugh didn’t take that lying down – he landed a verbal hay-maker of his own on Steele’s jaw, Steele went weak-kneed and apologized saying the words that had come out of his mouth did not reflect what he was thinking, meaning, I guess, Steele’s lips have an odd biological capacity for independent speech.
Over the coming year Steele landed himself in hot water over and over – by holding a fundraiser in a Los Angeles strip club, using his position as RNC Chairman to charge $20,000 speaking fees (while he was being paid $223,000 to work full-time to elect Republicans) and writing and publishing a book Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda.
Michael Steele was having a tough tenure as head of the RNC until President Obama saved him by handing Republicans their biggest election sweep in decades.
Now Steele’s up for reelection – so does it matter if he leads the RNC’s campaign to defeat Obama? No, not unless you’re a Republican political consultant looking for an RNC contract, except for one caveat: The RNC Chairman gets to decide how to spend the party’s $170 million budget and a lot of people think Michael Steele bungled that job last election – so now there’s a race on to replace him. And the rumor mills are churning.
Karl Rove, rumor has it, opposes Steele. Sarah Palin supports him. Newt Gingrich backs Saul Anuzis, Steele’s only announced opponent. For their parts, Rove, Palin and Gingrich aren’t saying a word one way or the other.
Saul Anuzis, the former Michigan Republican Chairman who has a goatee ‘Skitch’ Henderson would admire, the day he announced declared that since he believes in loyalty his natural instinct wasn’t to oppose his former leader Steele. But then, in the next breath, adroitly sidestepping that hurdle explains as much as he treasures loyalty his duty to answer the challenges facing the Republican Party is a higher calling – challenges, Anuzis says, he but not Steele can overcome.
So in the iconic world of Washington Republican politics next January a cache of trunk waving Pachyderms – the 168 members of the Republican National Committee – are going to meet in the Eisenhower Center in Washington to decide whether to give Steele or Anuzis or another (yet unknown) candidate the check writing authority over the GOP’s $170 million for the next two years.