Here is a lesson in how not to do messaging from FORMER GOP Chairman Michael Steele. I think this article from Daily Beast indicates why Steele no longer has his job. He still obviously doesn’t get it. There is a time to shut your mouth and–despite his explanations of being “an honest broker”–there is always a time to develop and follow the script. That can be done with honesty, and without gaffes.
“My style is, I’m an honest broker,” Steele explains. “I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. I don’t do talking points—which is a problem.” He grins sheepishly. “Yeah, I’ll take your talking points and I’ll digest them, but I’ve got to put it in my own words, in my own way, to make it authentic. I’m not going to say the sky is blue when it’s really gray—because people aren’t stupid. And if you continue to treat people like they’re stupid, you wind up with the results you’re seeing now—an outraged public.”
Indeed, his style seems better suited to cable television than party bureaucracy—and the former chairman, a savvy observer with an appealing sense of humor about himself and the process, seems far happier as “Michael Steele Unplugged” than when he was struggling against the shackles of the GOP machine. He says that when he was chairman, he frequently directed the RNC communications staff to set up media interviews to put out his side of the story. But I pointed out that my repeated attempts to meet with him were rebuffed by those same staffers.
“I think a lot of it was, ‘We don’t know what he’s going to say,’” Steele explains. “My attitude was, look, if I made it this far without all that—if what I had to say was so out there and so crazy—I wouldn’t have been successful as lieutenant governor of Maryland [an elected position he held from 2003 to 2007, interrupted by a failed campaign for the U.S. Senate], as the head of GOPAC [a political action committee focused on state and local candidates] or anything else I’ve done.” Steele says he couldn’t help but be amused by Republican establishment’s hero-worship of the outspoken governor of New Jersey. “I was laughing,” he says. “All these people are asking Chris Christie to run, and I’m saying be careful what you wish for.”
Steele, who spent two-and-a-half years in an Augustinian seminary and almost took his priestly vows before plunging into politics (and becoming a lawyer to earn a living), has a complicated relationship with the GOP. Growing up in the majority-black District of Columbia—where Republicans, especially black Republicans, were all but invisible—Steele looked for role-models among the city’s Democratic office-holders.
“I didn’t come up through this political system the way a lot of these Republicans did,” he says. “I wasn’t hanging out in College Republicans and Young Republicans and central committees, because I grew up in D.C. I didn’t have that structure. I didn’t learn my politics from the likes of a Haley Barbour”—the governor of Mississippi and former RNC chairman who, much to Steele’s disappointment, worked behind the scenes to foil his reelection bid. “I learned my politics from the likes of John Ray, Marion Barry and Joe Yeldell, who were the political-leadership Democrats of this town. I learned how they operated. I learned a lot from them.”
- Michael Steele Blasts GOP Enemies (thedailybeast.com)
- Michael Steele Weighs In On Rick Perry’s N-Word Ranch (littlegreenfootballs.com)