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Playing the Race Card, Michael Steele Style

Michael Steele
RNC Chairman Michael Steele AP

Robert Gibbs probably isn't mulling a career in standup comedy once his current gig as White House press secretary ends, but he got in a zinger after RNC Chairman Michael Steele suggested that race was a factor in the public's perceptions of his job performance.

"That's a fairly silly comment to make," Gibbs told reporters. "I think Michael Steele's problem isn't the race card, it's the credit card."

Ba-da- BING!

Gibbs was probably thinking all weekend how to slip in a reference to "Bondage-gate," the racy tale which surfaced last week in which a Republican contributor was reimbursed by the RNC after spending almost $2,000 during an outing at a West Hollywood bondage-themed lesbian nightclub. (The staffer who organized the event was fired.)

Up until now, the GOP establishment has looked the other way at Steele's sometimes antics. But goofiness comes with a price: today comes word that the RNC has lost one of its top fund raisers. His latest outburst left conservative commentators in the blogosphere flummoxed.

A sampling:

  • William Jacobson at Le-gal-in-sur-rec-tion: "Such comments do infinitely more damage than any excessive spending ever could do. Suggesting racial motivations in others merely because they disagree with you has become the dominant theme of the attacks on opponents of Obamacare. By using the race card himself, Steele has given indirect aid and comfort to those behind the smears of the Tea Party movement."
  • Ed Morrissey of Hot Air: "...the issue people have is that the money is being spent by the RNC on corporate jets and lesbian-bondage-themed nightclubs under his leadership. Would an RNC chair of a different ethnicity face calls to resign after those expenditures got exposed? I'd guess yes, especially in this economy and with the RNC needing every dollar to drive turnout in November."
  • Michelle Malkin: "A small number of readers have e-mailed to complain that I criticize the GOP too much. The vast majority of readers, however, have been disgusted with the Beltway Republican (un)leadership for a long time. And the rejected RNC solicitation forms keep coming in. There are so many that I've created a whole new blog category for them... I'm sure the latest race-card lamentation of Michael Steele will result in another avalanche of rejected RNC donor forms. How much longer will the hemorrhaging continue?"

You get the drift. Of course, none of this should shock Steele. He reads his press clippings and knows what the Republican rank-and-file are saying about him. From the outset, this has been an uncomfortable. But as one of the very few senior-level African-Americans in the GOP hierarchy, Steele's decision to play the race card wasn't a bad idea, as far as professional longevity goes. Barring some other gigantic embarrassment, he probably bought himself a little extra time on the job. Assuming he still wants it. (Interesting side note, courtesy of the Atlantic's Joshua Green, Steele only got the nod to head the RNC because the then-frontrunner, Katon Dawson, once belonged to a )

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