The best news the Democrats have gotten all year long has little to do with early primary results, or regenerating their spine with health-care reform. The best news the Democrats have gotten all year is the chair of the Republican National Committee is going to keep his job.
He's been a disaster on the order of Michael Cimino directing "Howard the Duck Meets Pluto Nash on Planet Ishtar." Democrats have a secret weapon this November, and his name is Michael Steele.
Steele is not just the center post in the GOP big-tent movement, he's the post, the flaps, the stakes, the ties and the canvas; and party leaders would rather stick a fist full of paper cuts in a vat of Tabasco Sauce than write off their first African-American chairman during an election year. These days, the GOP Black Caucus could hold its convention in a phone booth, and they don't make phone booths anymore, and the analogy still holds.
Most of the places he visits, he's not simply the only black guy in the room, he's the only black guy admitted to the grounds without a police escort. His hiring was a blatant attempt to play catch up in the "Coolest African-American in Politics Sweepstakes." The difference being the Executive Branch landed an intelligent, hard-working political animal, and the Republicans picked a prospect who too perfectly exemplifies their "Me First" philosophy.
Straight out of Annapolis, the RNC chairman ruffled so many feathers the fluttering excess was sufficient to fill every hotel pillow case in Vegas. On CNN last February, he dismissed Rush Limbaugh as "an entertainer" and "incendiary." The outrage from Rush's fans, the vocal, visible, thick-and-dense end of the Republican base, forced Steele to backtrack faster than freshly waxed skis on newly fallen powder.
First, he was directed to beg the poster boy for OxyContin Today's forgiveness. To say Rush was less than gracious is like implying frozen goose fat makes for substandard bicycle spokes. Steele genuflected on Rush's show and kissed his ring while Rush didn't bother taking it out of his back pocket.
Since then Steele manages to rankle party regulars on a daily basis. He told The Washington Times the GOP needed to "uptick our image with everyone, including one-armed midgets" ticking off pretty much ... everybody. Especially the highly influential one-armed Lollipop Guild. When GOP cognoscenti learned about Mr. Steele's desire to buy a private jet with party money, he was dismissed as an interloper encroaching on donor turf.
And there's more. Earlier this year, big wigs demanded to know why an employee was reimbursed $2,000 for an evening at a Hollywood fetish club, and they weren't taking "excellent appetizers" as an answer. But sex scandals bounce off Republicans like hail off an Aspen roof. The most damaging detail came via an internal investigation finding the party losing money on its major donors program, spending a dollar ten for every dollar raised. Two grand for leather studded lap dances is one thing, failing to bring in the cash: thems fighting words.
Some party luminaries are so dismayed with Steele's performance, they've engineered an end-around, creating a slew of new 527s as a means to funnel GOP donations. The high priest of the Church of Right Wing Big Bucks himself, Karl Rove, being a chief architect.
And in the Republican Party, when you start to butt heads with Karl Rove, you better get used to grocery shopping with Salman Rushdie. On your own private jet, or under the wheels of a bus back to Maryland.
Will Durst is a San Francisco-based political comic who writes. This being an incendiary example. He has performed around the world, and is a familiar pundit on television and radio. E-mail Will at email@example.com.