My man Michael Steele is acting like someone does when they know they are about to get whacked these days. The Republican National Committee Chairman's demeanor, usually jocular, has become extremely defensive over the last few days, flailing out at critics from his own party in print and on radio while GOP congressional flacks corner every reporter with a deadline to let them know off the record how upset their bosses are with Steele.
A lot of this turmoil stems from recent statements by Steele that acknowledge frankly what anyone who regularly follows politics already knows - the GOP has little to no chance of gaining a majority in either the House or the Senate. And that's before factoring in the turmoil within the GOP or the effect the Tea Bagger movement, with its emphasis on running all Republican moderates out of office, will cost the party in terms of money and momentum.
It doesn't take much imagination to guess what is being said behind closed doors about Steele. The sixty four thousand dollar question the party faces is, how does they get rid of him without looking like they had it in for the black guy? The irony is, the racial angle really isn't relevant to African Americans, most of whom know as much about Steele as they do about Alan Keyes. The black Republicans who matter probably want him gone worse than the GOP establishment, but they know how the game is played - I doubt any of them, including my own father, would come out publicly against Steele.
The biggest problem the party has isn't with the public, who don't really care all that much about the chairman of the RNC or the DNC, but with the press and political pundits, who will have a field day cooking up the kind of simple, black-versus-white, conflict-rich narratives that they will keep insisting, week after week, are still as true today as they were twenty years ago.
For a party that has run its vast campaign and messaging machinery like clockwork for the last thirty years, Steele is an aberration, a man with a constituency of one, who threatens to wreak havoc on the 2010 campaign season by taking some of the hot air out of the Big Tent. As a stockbroker long ago, I learned that people never want to buy a stock that's going down. But they'll chase it all day long when it is going up. Which is what the Republicans in Congress know - no "we're winning this thing" hype means no leverage with the heavy hitters when it comes to begging for bigger donations.
Okay, Steele did raise some money. He did bring their website into the present. And he's on TV almost every week talking about the party's aims and goals.
But when a fellow tells you to fire him, you need to do it. Because once he realizes you won't, you've got nothing but trouble. However bad they think Steele has been this week, it can only get worse.
Since I'm pulling for the Democrats this week, and the president every day all day, I'll have to admit - it would be fun to see Steele hang around long enough to thoroughly gum up the works. And as hard as times are, I hate to see a brother lose his job.
But I'd be damned if I would pay Steele $223,000 a year to act a fool on my dime.
See ya, buddy.