News & Politics

Embattled RNC Chair Michael Steele calls for Harry Reid to step down


Michael Steele, who’s spent the last two weeks fending off calls for him to step down or get fired from his job at the head of the Republican National Committee, leaped for the opportunity to turn the heat on someone else this morning. Steele is calling for Harry Reid to step down as the Senate Majority Leader in the wake of a recently published book which quotes Reid expressing his support for candidate Obama in a somewhat indelicate way

He was wowed by Obama’s oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama — a “light-skinned” African American “with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,” as he said privately. Reid was convinced, in fact, that Obama’s race would help him more than hurt him in a bid for the Democratic nomination.

Reid’s apologized, and Obama’s accepted, but dammit, that’s just not good enough for Michael Steele (who’s still a little bitter about Trent Lott)

“There is this standard where Democrats feel that they can say these things and they can apologize when it comes from the mouths of their own. But if it comes from anyone else, it is racism,” Steele told “Fox News Sunday.”

That actually sounds pretty familiar. Remember the Magic Negro controversy that pretty much nailed down the RNC job for Michael Steele?

Way, way back before Barack Obama was the president, a writer named David Ehrenstein wrote an Op Ed piece for the Los Angeles Times which compared candidate Obama to a sociological archetype called the “Magic Negro,” an omnipotent but unthreatening and, more importantly, anger-free figure who just wants to help.

In the fullness of time, and in the hands of some guy who writes labored politically incorrect parodies for Rush Limbaugh, that article became a song called “Barack the Magic Negro,” which contained, among others, these pithy observations

Some say Barack’s “articulate”
And bright and new and “clean.”
The media sure loves this guy,
A white interloper’s dream!
But, when you vote for president,
Watch out, and don’t be fooled!
Don’t vote the Magic Negro in –
‘Cause —

‘Cause I won’t have nothing after all these years of sacrifice
And I won’t get justice. This is about justice. This isn’t about me, it’s about justice.
It’s about buffet. I don’t have no buffet and there won’t be any church contributions,
And there’ll be no cash in the collection plate.
There ain’t gonna be no cash money, no walkin’ around money, no phoning money.
Now, Barack going to come in here and ……..

Remarkably similar, I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m also sure you’ll be astonished to hear that Limbaugh threw around the David Ehrenstein gets to say it and I don’t thing quite a bit after that.

Well, that song entered the race for RNC Chair last year when one of the candidates, a young man named Chip Saltzman who previously worked for Mike Huckabee, sent out a Christmas mailer to RNC members with a CD of some of Limbaugh parody guy’s more charming efforts. “Barack the Magic Negro” was one of the songs included (to give you an idea of the overall level of wit involved here, “The Star Spanglish Banner” was another).

You know who was volubly offended by that? That would be another of the candidates, one Michael Steele

[Think Progress]: A big theme on the panel today was how to get the GOP to embrace minority voters. Do you think that Mr. Saltsman’s CD that he released to the RNC members helps or hurts that effort?

STEELE: Oh it doesn’t help at all. Absolutely, it reinforces a negative stereotype of the party. […] And so now we have a opportunity to step in the breach and clear that up and make sure that people appreciate and know that look, this is not representative of the party as a whole, this is not a direction that we want to go in or a system that we believe.

Saltzman was forced to bow out of the race a few days before the voting took place. You’ll be amazed to hear that he was, to the end, upset that David Ehrenstein got to say that and he didn’t.

There are those who think that Steele eventually got the job because of the bloody nose Saltzman gave the GOP with the whole mess.

Of course, there were others who thought it wasn’t such a big deal. One prominent instance: RNC Chairman Michael Steele, here discussing President Obama with a caller on William Bennett’s radio show

CALLER: It’s just like the LA Time said last year or two years ago: He is the magic Negro.

STEELE: Yeah he — [laughing]. You read that too, huh? [still laughing]

CALLER: Oh yeah. I read that too. Even when things go wrong, he still manages to come out smelling like a rose.

STEELE: Well, yeah.

Now, just imagine if Chip Saltzman had said that…

I’d suggest Steele step down, just out of fairness, but I hate crowds.


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