There are poor communicators, and then there is RNC Chairman Michael Steele. During the recess, Steele has been on something of a public-relations spree, attempting to promote the GOP's health care message on TV and in town halls, and leaving a trail of wreckage in his wake.
Click through this video slideshow to see some of Steele's worst health care messaging.
During Steele's recent talk at Howard University, a woman stood to explain that she supports health care reform because her mother died of cancer. Steele reacted by gesturing toward the woman and joking that distruptions at town meetings “[make] for great TV. You’ll probably make it tonight, enjoy it.”
In addition to insensitive, Steele's message has been contradictory. Here, he gets testy when taken to task for defending Medicare while simultaneously denoucning government-run insurance. "Don't call [my position] nuanced!" he tells an NPR interviewer. When pressed on regulating insurance markets, Steele admits that he thinks the government does have some role to play.
Steele latched onto a 2007 manual for military veterans--which was later discontinued--as an example of why the government should stay out of health care decisions. The Veterans Affairs pamphlet included information on setting up living wills, and Steele argued that the manual is “encouraging them to commit suicide.”
In this ad advocating a “Seniors’ Bill of Rights,” Steele tells senior citizens that Washington says “you’re the problem.” He calls on Obama to stand up for senior citizens--who, he implies, are in danger of losign their Medicare benefits--and urges Congress to prevent “any government role in end of life care.”
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe," Steele refuses to invalidate the idea of health care "death panels." Host Joe Scarborough asks him if he believes the reform bill would set up death panels, an idea that Scarborough calls "ridiculous." "It may or may not be, I don't know. We don't know what the bill is," Steele responds, later explaining that President Obama should "stop getting hung up on what it's called"--even, presumably, if it's called something like "death panel."
At a National Press Club event, Steele stumbles over a question on whether the GOP supports an individual mandate, which would require all individuals to have health insurance. "I don't do policy," says Steele. "My point in coming here was to set a tone, and a theme, if you will."
Click here to read Jonathan Cohn on why bipartisanship isn't the road to health reform.
Click here to read E.J. Dionne, Jr. on how the media overplayed rowdy town hall meetings.