From Christina Bellantoni comes a classic Michael Steele moment following the 2004 Republican convention, about a month after then-Senator Obama made his national debut at the Democratic convention:

Mr. Steele last night said Mr. Obama stole his fire, saying in prepared remarks, "I had planned to give a moving defense of the conservative principles of the Republican Party tonight. But there was only one problem: Barack Obama gave it last month at the Democratic convention."

Maryland Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane summed up his reaction to the speech: "The bottom line is, Barack who?"

This single moment explains the entire Michael Steele-Republican Party relationship -- the party's half-hearted tokenism, Steele's genuine belief that he's locked in some kind of rivalry with Obama, the Republican anxieties about diversity that lead to him getting his current job and that also prevent him from being summarily dismissed. The intensity of the conservative reaction to his apostasy on Afghanistan has as much to do with him questioning the party's "War Now, War Forever" platform as it does with his enemies in the party waiting for a strong enough excuse to have him booted. For today's GOP, heresy is a far greater sin than incompetence. 

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