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Published:March 10th, 2009 10:09 EST
Michael Steele Pumps Iron for Limbaugh

Michael Steele Pumps Iron for Limbaugh

By George Curry (Former Featured Editor)

Michael Steele, basking in the celebration his sixth-ballot election as the first Black chairman of the Republican Party, was quick to pick a fight with President Barack Obama, saying, "It`s going to be an honor to spar with him."

However, Steele refused to get into the ring with Rush Limbaugh, the reigning GOP champion. After giving an accurate description of Rush Limbaugh on D.L. Hughley`s CNN show, Steele bent over backwards - or just plain bent over - profusely apologizing to Limbaugh.

The kowtowing was prompted by this exchange between Hughley and Steele:
 
HUGHLEY: You know what we do, we talk like we`re talking now. You have your view. I have mine. We don`t need incendiary rhetoric.

STEELE: Exactly.

HUGHLEY: Like Rush Limbaugh, who is the de facto leader of the Republican Party.

STEELE: No, he`s not.

HUGHLEY: I will tell you what ...

STEELE: I`m the de facto leader of the Republican Party.
 
But Steele did not stop there. He added, "So let`s put it into context here. Let`s put it into context here. Rush Limbaugh is an entertainer. Rush Limbaugh, his whole thing is entertainment. Yes, it`s incendiary. Yes, it`s ugly."

And it only got uglier when Limbaugh posted a response on his Web site, titled, "A Few Words for Michael Steele," which was actually 2,491 words for Michael Steele, none of them complimentary.
Telling Steele that, in effect, he should be seen rather than heard, Limbaugh wrote,

"It`s time, Mr. Steele, for you to go behind the scenes and start doing the work that you were elected to do instead of trying to be some talking head media star, which you`re having a tough time pulling off."
Steele told Politico, "I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh. I was maybe a little bit inarticulate...There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."

As if that weren`t enough, Steele offered this poorly-worded explanation:  "I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren`t what I was thinking. It was one of those things where I thinking I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people... want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he`s not."

Steele is a lot of things, but inarticulate is not one of them. When it comes to Rush Limbaugh, he is spineless. Steele should have had the courage of his convictions rather than caving in to a blowhard who demands - and gets - serial apologies from Republicans willing to take him on.

Rush Limbaugh is not only the face of the Republican Party, he`s the death of it. And a few Republicans, Steele not among them, are willing to say that for fear of risking Limbaugh`s wrath. An exception is longtime Republican activist David Frum.

In an article in Newsweek, he said: "And for the leader of the Republicans? A man who is aggressive and bombastic, cutting and sarcastic, who dismisses the concerned citizens in network news focus groups as `losers.` With his private plane and his cigars, his history of drug dependency and his personal bulk, not to mention his tangled marital history, Rush is a walking stereotype of self-indulgence-exactly the image that Barack Obama most wants to affix to our philosophy and our party. And we`re cooperating!"

Frum worries about the future of the Republican Party. "We lost the presidency in 2008. In 2006 and 2008, together, we lost 51 seats in the House and 14 in the Senate. Even in 2004, President Bush won reelection by the narrowest margin of any reelected president in American history," he said. "The trends below those vote totals were even more alarming. Republicans have never done well among the poor and the nonwhite-and as the country`s Hispanic population grows, so, too, do those groups. More ominously, Republicans are losing their appeal to voters with whom they`ve historically done well."

But Limbaugh has another agenda, according to Frum.

"Rush knows what he is doing. The worse conservatives do, the more important Rush becomes as leader of the ardent remnant. The better conservatives succeed, the more we become a broad national governing coalition, the more Rush will be sidelined."

Limbaugh is anything but sidelined. He said on his radio program, "I`m not in charge of the Republican Party, and I don`t want to be. I would be embarrassed to say that I`m in charge of the sad-sack state that it`s in. If I were chairman of the Republican Party, given the state that it`s in, I would quit."

And that`s exactly what some Republicans are saying Steele should do, including Ada Fisher, a Black national committeewoman from North Carolina.

For now, however, it looks like Michael Steele is safe. And the only thing he`s going to quit doing is criticizing Rush Limbaugh.
 
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.