To hear GOP Chairman Michael Steele tell it, his recent donnybrook with radio host Rush Limbaugh — and his subsequent apology — were all part of a grand "strategic" plan.
"I'm a cause-and-effect kind of guy," Steele told CNN’s Don Lemon on Wednesday. "So if I do something, there's a reason for it . . . Even it may look like a mistake, a gaffe. There is a rationale, there is a logic behind it."
Asked by Lemon to explain the strategy behind his statement that Limbaugh remarks were "incendiary" and "ugly," Steele said: "I want to see what the landscape looks like. I want to see who yells the loudest. I want to know who says they're with me but really isn't."
Doing so, he told Lemon, "helps me understand my position on the chess board. It helps me understand, you know, where the enemy camp is and where those who are inside the tent are."
Steele added, "It's all strategic."
Steele’s criticisms of Limbaugh ignited the ire of the Republican base, and drew counter fire from Limbaugh.
"Why do you claim to lead the Republican Party when you seem obsessed with seeing to it President Obama succeeds?" Limbaugh asked on his program.
Steele later backed down, telling Politico: "My intent was not to go after Rush — I have enormous respect for Rush Limbaugh. I was maybe a little bit inarticulate . . . There was no attempt on my part to diminish his voice or his leadership."
Steele added: "I went back at that tape and I realized words that I said weren't what I was thinking. It was one of those things where I thinking [sic] I was saying one thing, and it came out differently. What I was trying to say was a lot of people . . . want to make Rush the scapegoat, the bogeyman, and he's not."
Asked by if he were trying to apologize to Limbaugh, Steele replied, "I wasn't trying to offend anybody. So, yeah, if he's offended, I'd say: Look, I'm not in the business of hurting people's feelings here . . . My job is to try to bring us all together."
In the CNN interview with Lemon, Steele also said he “would think about” running for president if the opportunity arose. But he said he would have to think long and hard before he did.
"I would have to have a very long conversation with the wife and kids," said Steele, "because this is not a fun thing. Our politics today does not incite or inspire someone to make that sacrifice, because the way our politics is played out today, in all honesty, is very ugly."
Steele said he’d never been asked to make a presidential run by GOP leaders.
“I think they kind of look at me, scratch their heads, and go ‘OK, what is this?’” Steele said.
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