July 2nd, 2010
12:47 PM ET
13 years ago

Kristol says Steele needs to go; RNC defends

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/07/02/art.getty.rnc.steele.jpg caption="RNC Chairman Michael Steele is under fire for comments he made on the war in Afghanistan."](CNN) – As a leading conservative voice is calling on Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to resign his post, the RNC is defending the chairman's recent statements that appeared to criticize of the United States' war effort in Afghanistan and suggest the conflict there may be unwinnable.

"The Chairman clearly supports our troops but believes that success of the war effort in Afghanistan requires the ongoing support of the American people," RNC Communications Director Dough Heye said.

In a speech at a Republican fundraiser in Connecticut Thursday, a YouTube video shows the RNC chairman declaring of the war in Afghanistan, "This was a war of Obama's choosing."

"This is not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in," he added.

Updated 2:30 p.m. ET with a statement from Michael Steele. Read the statement after the jump.

That statement is at odds with the fact the United States led a NATO coalition with overwhelming public support to invade Afghanistan in the wake of the September 11 attacks, and has prompted William Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, to publicly call on Steele to step down.

"There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they're certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn't be the chairman of the Republican party," Kristol wrote.

Speaking at the Connecticut fundraiser, Steele also appeared to suggest any conflict in Afghanistan may be unwinnable.

"Well if [Obama's] such a student of history, has he not understood that that's the one thing you don't do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan. Alright? Because everyone who has tried over a thousand years of history, has failed. And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan without committing more troops," Steele he said in expressing a position that is not only at odds with the White House but most of the Republican Party as well.

Heye said Steele was making the point that "[t]he responsibility for building and maintaining that strategy falls squarely on the shoulders of the President."

"Like so many Americans, Chairman Steele wants to hear an explanation from President Obama on what his strategy is for winning the war in Afghanistan," Heye added.

Heye also pointed out that "nowhere did Steele say or suggest that (a) we shouldn't be there, (b) we can't win or (c) he didn't support the surge."

Update: Steele issued a statement Friday afternoon. Read it below.

“As we enter the Fourth of July weekend, I proudly remember standing with Maryland National Guardsmen on their way to the Middle East and later stood with the mothers of soldiers lost at war. There is no question that America must win the war on terror.

“During the 2008 Presidential campaign, Barack Obama made clear his belief that we should not fight in Iraq, but instead concentrate on Afghanistan. Now, as President, he has indeed shifted his focus to this region. That means this is his strategy. And, for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war.

“As we have learned throughout history, winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus’ confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.”

Filed under: GOP • Michael Steele • Popular Posts • RNC
soundoff (268 Responses)
  1. rob, austin tx

    i don't follow what this man is saying. not a war that the united states didn't actively engage in? how could we not have wanted it? it was supported by the people and the world. who is his speech writer? that man needs to be retired and if steele is speaking impromptu, then ya, shouldn't lead the party. his update statement seems like a dog with its tail between their legs.

    July 2, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  2. Ms. White

    such a fool is steele ...uncle tom

    July 2, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  3. Iowa

    This guy is a joke...right??
    Didn't 9/11 come from people in Afghanistan? Shouldn't this have been the only war we should have been fighting all along?
    All these political people are a joke. Anyone listining to these fools is a complete idiot.

    July 2, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  4. Suval

    Steele's statements are a PERFECT example of how Republican leadership makes a POLICY of lying and twisting the truth. The war in Afghanistan was NEVER President Obama's War. Bush began that War and Congress and the American people stupidly went along with it. It was/is an expensive, outdated, macho way to go after a killer like Bin Laden. It was a Republican who thought it was the right thing to do.

    It is true that the War is unwinable and that we are wasting American lives and billions of American dollars weekly. This President should be smart enough to draw this War to a close which he is trying to do. If he does not do it well and quickly then maybe he will open himself to legitimate criticism. Meanwhile, the Republicans need to get a Party Chairman who does not sound like an idiot on a daily basis. It might improve their image which is greatly tanrnished these days-all though their own doing .

    July 2, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  5. Anonymous


    July 2, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  6. John

    "This was a war of Obama's choosing."
    "This is not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in," he added."

    Mr. Steele, the GOP exists on planet Earth. You need to resign as you obviously live on a different planet.

    July 2, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  7. Jan

    This man is a complete fool. Obama did not start this war and if Bush and company had went after Osama in the first place we probably wouldn't even still be at war. He gave Osama all the time in the world to burrow into his hidie hole and now we will probably never find him

    I hope the Repubs continue with Steele, Pakin, Romney etc. as their spokepersons as these fools will keep them on their downward spiral.

    July 2, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  8. brian

    whay to be, MS! it's clearly "Obama's war" given that it was launched 7 years before he became president. it's clearly Obama's fault that the war wasn't won in those 7 years. and it's more clearly Obama's fault that he hasn't won the war in the year and a half he's actually been president.

    i think it's unfair for steeley to catch flak for this. i mean, i'm sure he was equally outspoken about the futility of engaging in a land war in afghanistan when his party's standard bearer was the guy prosecuting it. I mean, he MUST have been equally as skeptical then, right? because if he wasn't, well then that would make him an ENORMOUS hypocrite - and repulblicans are NEVER hypocrites! NEVER!

    Now, if someone would just be so kind as to help me find the links to Steele's criticism of Bush on Afghanistan, I'd really appreciate it. I can't seem to find them myself, but they must be out there. they MUST be, because like every good Republican, I KNOW I'M RIGHT!

    July 2, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  9. Jason

    Wow. "A war of Obama's choosing"? unbelievable. Somehow a 9 year old war is the choosing of a 1.5 year old President.

    July 2, 2010 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  10. InlandEmperor

    Who better represents the current neo-con attempts to deflect from themselves the responsibility for the mess this country finds itself in the middle of ? Hopefully Republicans that reflect the policies similar to those of an earlier age ( Eisenhower....George HW Bush....etc...) will soon emerge to lead this once proud party. Of course that would require them to think for themselves instead of relying on the apparent drug induced preachings of Limbaugh and his group.

    July 2, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  11. Don Wuerl

    OMG! I could swear that President Bush is the person who invaded Afganistan shortly after the horrible destruction of 11 September 2001! I really think that we could have finished the job if we didn't attack a country that had nothing to do with those attacks! We should have gone in there with all our might to equal the hatred we all felt for all the lost souls of that dreadful date! I am sure that Osama bin Laden would either be in custody or dead! I don't normally agree with Mr. Kristol; this is the exception...GET LOT MR. STEELE!

    July 2, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  12. Basalt

    OMG, Steele is right. Totally right. I'm glad to see he apologized for being right. We need to get out now. It is becoming Obama's war.

    July 2, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  13. Marie MD

    Obama's choosing? I know rethugs rewrite history to suit their mindless babble, but Obama's choosing? Did he bother to ask bush what his strategy was since he started it?
    I believe President Obama has already spoken about this but the repugs don't listen they just attack without knowing what they are attacking or without solutions of their own.
    Did I sleep through the shrub sending troops to Afghanistan ? Is this the same as guliani(sp?) saying that we were never attacked under the bush administration? Is this the same as the quitter sayiing that she has fond memories of her father bowling days (she was speaking at a bowler's convention in TX!) when she was only three months old?
    Are these people stupid or nuts or both?????????

    July 2, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  14. Kenneth

    Michael Steele and the GOP need to get Rush Limbaugh's hand out of their butts and act on behalf of the betterment of the American people. You cannot make a statement one minute and change your mind once you realize that the statement is detrimental to your "career". if you believe something then stick to your beliefs regardless. That way the American public can decide whether or not your ideals are the ones that are beneficial to OUR progression. I support OUR country and thereby stand behind OUR President. Mr. Steele even admits that President Obama is doing what he said he would during his campaign. That is what the American people voted for and that is what we are getting. President Obama, just like any other person, is not right all the time but I believe he makes calculated decisions based on the information available and what he perceives as the right thing for the American people.

    Message to ALL political parties: Either get behind OUR President or identify a country that coincides with your beliefs and relocate.

    July 2, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  15. Henry

    Leave Steele in his current job! That just makes it easier for Democrats to hold onto power this year and in 2012.

    July 2, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  16. Nephew

    Wow, this guy is an idiot.

    July 2, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  17. Max Lowe

    A perfect example of the kind of total disregard for truth or integrity that is so often exhibited by the Republican party, and that they expect people to believe. Many do, but most see these examples so often that they have come to question and disount these constant tactics. This war wasn't the Current Presidents choice but it is his to clean up like so many other messes left by the previous administration. Max

    July 2, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. TTBALA

    Oh you idiot they gor to you and gave you a written statement to read so you don not open your stupid mouth again on your own and spill out garbage.

    July 2, 2010 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
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