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. Dale

    How come every Republican these days have to have their handlers immediately jump through hoops to explain "what they meant" to say instead of what they actually said?

    I mean, by golly, if you're going to be a public speaker, at least learn to talk so your apologists won't have to do it for you. after the fact (This goes for you too, Rand Paul. Have you made even one comment yet in your campaign that didn't need the "people behind the curtain" explaining what you REALLY meant to say? No wonder you've been told to avoid the press by your boss McConnell.)

    July 2, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  2. The Mud Shark from Oregon

    Don't let Steele leave! It's been immensely entertaining to watch him trying to walk the walk and talk the talk, all while having one foot firmly stuck in his mouth!

    This guy is the perfect tool to lead the republicans off the cliff. I say give him enough rope to hang himself along with the rest of his hate filled, fear mongering colleagues.

    July 2, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. Ken in Pisgah Forest

    Yeah, and the war is not America's longest; it only started after Obama became President. The Republican motto: If history is against you, reinvent it.

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. Ruth

    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."

    I'm confused – how exactly is the war Obama's choice. Wasn't Shrub in office during 9/11?

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Chessnutz of Liverpool NY

    Correction CNN, a leading Neo conservative wants Mr. Steele out. True conservatives want to end all foreign wars that are nothing more than police actions and have nothing to do with the security of the US mainland.

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  6. sandra

    The man is an idiot. Do we not recall this was a bipartisan war?and that it was started w the Republican administration and remained unwon?

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  7. victoria

    I'm sorry, but has he been complaining about this war being unwinnable for the past 10 years? because I don't think i've heard him saying anything about it til now. Sounds like he is just playing politics to me.

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  8. Josh in Sacramento

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

    Is he stupid or insane? He has to be one or the other to make that statement. I cannot believe the Republicans may pick up seats this next election. Their leadership appears to consist entirely of morons.

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  9. Seattle Sue

    Please don't leave Mr. Steele, you are too valuable to the Democrats with all your dumb azz remarks.

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. andrey

    Speechless... Never thought I'd say this but this guy is too dumb even for a republican.

    July 2, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Malcolm in St Louis

    The party continues to split and cannot make up its mind, one minute right wing rhetoric, the next a quite pragmatic observation that party leaders cannot accept.

    Of course Bill Crystal is a pompous ass so I am not sure what kind of influence he has on Steele staying. He does add to the noise though and draw attention to the dysfunctional Republican party,

    July 2, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  12. Ed

    Now this clown is trying to rewrite history, Obama started the war???????

    July 2, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  13. Colorado Liberal

    How I would wish that ALL (or most all) Republicans would leave this country and perhaps move to Siberia.

    Since Republicans seem to detest American values while embracing corporate "values" (just ask Joe Barton), perhaps they should find another habitation where they can cause the least harm to humanity.

    July 2, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  14. Victim of GOP Taliban

    What a joke. The Republicans anoint a token black man to give the facade of being a diverse party. Then they stab him in the back for speaking the truth. We all know the history. No need to sugarcoat it. Empires have come to Afganistan and died in Afganistan. Obama already said a million times we will start to pull-out by next summer. Relax already.

    July 2, 2010 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  15. Jamie from Riverside

    Oh boy, I think Michael Steele needs to not stop taking his meds.
    I also think he needs to stay where he is because every time he opens his mouth....

    July 2, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  16. sandy

    Yea, just like when Bush lied to the american people and went to war in Iraq. How soon the Republicans forget.

    July 2, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  17. kierthos

    Gosh, if only, when this war in Afghanistan was started, there had been a President in office who decisively ran the war in Afghanistan, instead of then starting another war, in another country, that had nothing to do with 9/11.

    What's that? Bush? Oh, no. We can't blame Bush for any of this mess. It's clearly the fault of the current President.

    July 2, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  18. karma6338

    He said something totally stupid, admit it. The GOP is getting better at doing the moonwalk. Michael would be proud.

    July 2, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  19. Liz the First

    Oh, no! Stay, Michael! you so help to demonstrate what complete idiots the repugs are!

    July 2, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  20. USA401

    It seems like the GOP is threatening to fire someone every week.

    July 2, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. Rick McDaniel

    Steele has too many demerits in his tally.

    July 2, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. Brian

    He has been a thorn in the side of the GOP, get rid of him. The only reason they appointed him was because they thought it may be easier for a black man to critique Obama. That has proven untrue.

    July 2, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. WorkingMan

    I think the RNC is regretting the decision to put this guy in charge. Is there any question left that they put him in charge for the color of his skin?

    Although it does get very confusing when you're trying to keep up with Talk Radio talking points. 'Am I supposed to oppose everything Obama does or support a war?'.

    It does get confusing Mr Steele. Maybe you should leave the blind rhetoric to those that have no college education.

    July 2, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  24. Chuck

    Michael Steele says this was a war 'of Obama's choosing' What nonsense. Every time this man opens his mouth (much like Sarah Palin) the nation cringes. The Republican party must somehow find a leader who is credible. The Republicans have no plan for anything. Everything they say is just to criticize Pres. Obama (who the vast majority of Americans voted for.)

    July 2, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  25. Scott

    Is this even real? Is Mr. Steele that blind to historical fact, that the war in Afghanistan started under the former president as a response to the attack on 9/11? I find it hard to believe the the RNC Chairman would imply that prior to the election of President Obama, the USA was not at war in Afghanistan, and that it was in fact President Obama choosing that this nation go to war in Afghanistan. If this is true, I feel sorry for the people that believe in and support Mr. Steele.

    July 2, 2010 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
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