Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele may boast that he wants the party to have more hip-hop appeal, but he's failing hip-hop's #1 test of character: his toughness lacks realness.
As noted by Greg Sargent, he went on Neil Cavuto's Fox News program last night and threatened that the RNC might punish collaborators with the enemy, Barack Obama -- or, rather, he carefully hedged his bets, trying to seem as if he was threatening traitors (in order to look tough and inflexible, because looking tough and inflexible brings in GOP donors' dollars) while passing the buck to state parties.
Here's the clip. Transcript below, with my emphasis of Steele's wussiness:
CAVUTO: So then what would you do, Michael -- I'm sorry...
STEELE: Go ahead. Sure.
CAVUTO: For those Republican senators, Collins, Snowe and Specter, who voted for the stimulus plan in the Senate, what retribution will you exact?
STEELE: I won't -- look, my retribution is the retribution of the voters in their -- in their -- in their states. They're going to have to go through a primary in which they're going to have to explain to those Republican voters in that primary their vote.
CAVUTO: I know that, but will you, as RNC head, recommend no RNC funds being provided to help them?
STEELE: That is something I will talk to the state parties about, and we'll follow their lead. You know, this is...
CAVUTO: So you're -- in other words, are you are open to that, Michael?
STEELE: Oh, yes, I'm always open to everything, baby, absolutely.
CAVUTO: So by being open to that, baby, does that mean you would consider punishing them for that vote?
STEELE: My responsibility is to follow the lead of the state parties, to get their advice, what their -- what their intent is. Those senators are going to have to account to those voters there. And we'll work with the state party and we'll follow their lead.
It's just like anything. When the state party says, "We're going to endorse a candidate and support that candidate," the RNC Is behind them. When the state party says, "We have a problem with that candidate," so does the RNC.
So he's using Cavuto to help him get the rubes riled up (and reaching for their wallets) -- but he wants credit for the crazy and an escape route from it as well.
Meanwhile, Steve Benen notes that two of the three senators currently under threat, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, aren't even up for reelection until, respectively, 2012 and 2014; Arlen Specter is up in 2010, but as Jay Cost of Real Clear Politics notes, he won his last race with absolutely no direct aid and only a tiny amount of indirect aid from the RNC (Specter does just fine raising money on his own, thank you).
But even if Steele's threat is aimed less at the three current heretics than at anyone else who's thinking of straying, he won't even commit to following through on it. Sorry, Michael, that makes you a wanksta.