Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele defended his management of party affairs April 5 and attributed mounting criticism to his race and “street-wise” style of management.

Appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Steele was asked if he has a slimmer margin of error because he is African American. “The honest answer is yes. It just is,” he said. “Barack Obama has a slimmer margin. … That’s just the reality of it. But you take that as part of the nature of it.”

His political origins and style are also contributing factors, he added. “It’s more because you’re not somebody they know. … Not old-boy network oriented,” he continued. “My view on politics is much more grassroots oriented … so I tend to, you know, come at it a little bit stronger, a little bit more street-wise. That’s rubbed some feathers the wrong way.”

The White House on Monday decried Steele’s use of the “race card.” Political analyst Lester Spence, political science instructor at Johns Hopkins University, agreed Steele was “no Obama” and the racist overtones are not as clear in the charges made against him.

“He’s the chair of a really White political party, so I know race has to be involved in evaluations of him,” Spence said. “But it’s not clear that others in his position have made the type of gaffes that he has.”

Steele’s appearance on the morning talk show came amid escalating controversy surrounding the RNC’s $2,000 expenditure at a bondage/sex-themed Hollywood nightclub, the last in a string of questionable spending on private planes, limousines, luxury hotels and consultants, according to critics.

“This kind of thing has got to stop or they won’t get any contributions,” said Washington Republican leader Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., April 4 on “Fox News Sunday.”

“The people that contribute to the committees, both Democrat and Republican, want to know that their money is well spent for the cause, and it needs to be that way.”

Already, donors such as the Family Research Council (FRC) are holding back their dollars and advising others to do so. “There’s a pattern here,” said FRC Action Vice President Tom McClusky on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” on April 2, referring to Federal Elections Commission reports on the committee’s expenditures. “The problem with the strip club incident goes beyond the strip club incident. It’s emblematic of two things that supporters of the Republican Party want to see – that’s fiscal responsibility and moral responsibility. And, it just shows how the RNC has failed under Michael Steele’s leadership to provide either of those.”

Steele defended himself against these accusations, saying he had not been “staying at fancy hotels like the Four Seasons and flying around in corporate jets,” nor was he present at the strip club. “When I first heard about this behavior going on I was very angry;” he said, “and we dealt with it.”

The employee was fired, he said, and other controls on their finances were implemented. On Monday the RNC’s chief of staff, Ken McKay, resigned – or was fired – along with Steele’s top consultants Curt Anderson, Wes Anderson and Brad Todd of OnMessage, a GOP campaign management firm. “I hear my donors, I hear our base out there, I hear the leadership and we’re taking steps to make sure we’re even more fiscally conservative in our spending,” Steele said.


Zenitha Prince

Special to the AFRO