Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele is about as popular as Joe Lieberman with GOP congressional leaders. "Their aides said they told Steele's handlers to 'get him to stop.'" I guess this is a gag order of sorts.
Steele told Fox News on Monday that he didn't think Republicans could win back their congressional majorities in 2010. "Not this year."
Believing that Steele's off-the-cuff remarks threaten to damage the party's brand -- at the very time when Republicans are trying to capitalize on a national political environment that may hurt Democrats -- senior aides to top Republican leaders confronted Steele's staff on a conference call Wednesday.
"You really just have to get him to stop. It's too much," a top congressional aide said on the call, according to others on the call, adding that Steele was hurting morale among Republican members of Congress and candidates.
The call turned into "a bickering match," aides said Thursday, as one top congressional staffer accused Steele of launching "a Republican apology tour at the exact wrong time." Another congressional aide said Steele was appearing on television "unprepared and unknowledgeable."
The call came as discontent with Steele seems to be spreading among some major GOP donors, who have publicly questioned whether the party chairman is focusing more on his own image -- delivering paid speeches and promoting his book, "Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda" -- than on rebuilding the party and helping its candidates. The Washington Times reported Thursday that some prominent party fundraisers are withholding donations from the RNC because of unhappiness with Steele.
In an interview Thursday, Steele lashed back at his Republican critics by telling them to "shut up."
"I tell them to get a life," Steele told ABC News Radio. "I'm looking them in the eye and say, 'I've had enough of it. If you don't want me in the job, fire me. But until then, shut up. Get with the program or get out of the way.' "
Democrats have seized on Steele's statements. The Democratic National Committee circulated an e-mail to reporters late Thursday titled, "Spiraling OUT-OF-CONTROL!!" And DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse called Steele "the gift that keeps on giving."