Foot in Mouth Disease

By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 13, 2009; 10:12 AM

I'm going to skip over the day's big winner, Carrie Prejean -- hey, all three cable nets carried the presser in which she got to keep her beauty pageant crown -- to focus on one of the week's losers.

I can't quite figure out Michael Steele. He's obviously a sharp guy, and one of his strengths, when he ran for Republican chairman -- aside from bringing a largely white party into the Obama era -- was his ease in media forums. He was a hip guy, not some stiff party apparatchik.

Instead, he has displayed an unerring ability to talk his way into trouble.

Of course, I might have gotten a clue in 2006 when Steele, at a background lunch with reporters, said that being a Republican was like wearing a scarlet R, that the Iraq war "didn't work" and that Katrina was "a monumental failure of government." Steele was just being honest, but it didn't help his Senate campaign in Maryland when he was outed after a Dana Milbank column quoting his anonymous remarks.

You would think the guy who ripped Rush Limbaugh on CNN, then groveled to apologize, would have learned to watch his tongue around microphones. But that doesn't seem to be the case.

Steele's latest gem, which I mentioned yesterday, came when he was filling in on Bill Bennett's radio show. He had this to say about Mitt Romney's candidacy: "It was the base that rejected Mitt because of his switch on pro-life, from pro-choice to pro-life. It was the base that rejected Mitt because it had issues with Mormonism."

Even if that's true, should the party chairman be touting religious prejudice by GOP primary voters?

There is something about Bennett's "Morning in America" that seems to lure Steele into blunders, as if he's trying too hard to please the conservative callers. Here are some others compiled by Democratic sources:

On Obama's preference for a Supreme Court nominee who shows empathy: "I don't need some judge sitting up there feeling bad for my opponent because of their life circumstances or their condition. And short changing me and my opportunity to get fair treatment under the law. Crazy nonsense empathetic. I'll give you empathy. Empathize right on your behind. Craziness." (May)

On a caller's comment about the president: "It's just like the L.A. Times said last year or two years ago: He is the magic Negro.": "Yeah he -- [laughing]. You read that too, huh?" (May)

On whether the country is in a recession: "The malls are just as packed on Saturday." (April)

On climate change: "We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I use my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process." (March)

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