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. James D.

    The Republicans put a token black man in this position to counter Obama's electoral success, to show America Republicans aren't racist. Then when he speaks his mind they decide his time is up, no need for a token anymore. Typical Republican hypocrisy!

    July 2, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  2. Cuchara

    Nice....really nice. Apparently RNC chairman Steele is not a very good student of history. Obama inherited the war, and did not start it.

    And that brings me to the big issue with the Republicans in general: they are horrible at blaming the President for EVERYTHING that is wrong with this country. I am in Texas working in retail, and I hear disparaging comments on a daily basis. The President does not control the whole government, people.

    In fact, I think the Republicans should love Obama, because he is doing a lot of the same things Bush did–as far as policies go. I voted for the guy, but I voted for a symbol. The President is a symbol with a little pull, not a dictator of the Nazi party controlling everything in America.

    Wake up America, it is the corporations and their lobbyists that control you. Every president in recent collective memory has been a reflection of the good old boy system. We are all cattle. Wake up and smell the sh*t.

    July 2, 2010 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  3. Stephen in Bedford, TX

    Michael Steele needs to stay just where he is at, and he needs to keep talking. He's becoming a valuable asset to the Democratic Party. Unless, of course, the GOP wants to replace him with Sarah Palin.

    July 2, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  4. Steele the man

    "This was a war of Obama's choosing."

    This guy is such a douche-bag... Does he not know who started the war?
    His boss was handling the war for 7+ years and did not do anything meaningful and now he is criticizing Obama.

    That's coming from head of Republican party... GOP has lost all the credibility and thoughtful thinking...

    July 2, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  5. lolo

    See what I mean these republicans are nuts. Does he not realize that the war was already on before Obama was sworn into office. They always talk about the liberals blaming Bush, give me a break. These conservatives are nothing but hypocrites. i am surprised that they are calling for Steele to step down before November. I guess he did not pull in enough black people on their side.

    July 2, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. Donnatella

    What an idiot, I guess he forgot about all the years this war has been going on. Michael the token Steele the gift that keeps on giving. Hey Mike this war has been going on for 8 years, how long has Obama been president. What an A-hole.

    July 2, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  7. JohninTampa

    Mr. Steele says of Afghanistan:

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

    Mr. Steele needs to have his head examined. His long-term memory has drained away.

    July 2, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  8. T. Regan

    I thought the article was about letting go of the leader of the RNC, Rush Limbaugh, not his puppet, Michael Steele.

    July 2, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  9. David

    did Bush provide a exit or winning strategy? NO, but he did provide lies as to why we should invade. he committed that we had successful victory in Iraq (MISSION ACCOMPLISHED), but yet we still remain there after all these years. The GOP got America into this mess, as they always do when it comes to war. war makes a great distraction from the real problems that Americans face here at home. GOP = FEAR, that is there only campaign message.

    July 2, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  10. 228rory

    Mr. Steel you are obviously not a patriot and hate the United States of America. If you dont like it, you can get out.......... Oh wait......... that is what i said to all the nay sayers during the Iraq war......... A war that was started based on mislead intellegence propogated by the WORST president in United States history........a Republican president....... A war that will end during a Democratic Administration, thanks to their intellegent disposition. Oh, i remembered one other thing.....Republicans started this war in Afghanistan and couldnt finish it. I guess that makes me a hypocrat...... I am a Republican, I guess i shouldn't be suprised.

    July 2, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  11. JeffL

    Let me see if I got this right:
    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."
    And then this little nugget:
    This is not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in," he added
    So, if I'm correct, then George Bush never wanted to even start this thing, let alone do it with speed, efficiency, and the need to ensure that our troops were deployed with everything they needed to succeed?
    This imbecile blames the war on Obama? And continues his lunacy by saying, in effect, "Hey, this is Obamas war. We didn't want nothing to do with it" In that case, then George Bush, and everyone who persecured this war needs to be held criminally liable.
    You've got to be kidding me!! I am literally beside myself over this one.
    I though Karl Rove and John Boenher were idiots, but this guy makes them look like Rhodes Scholars.

    July 2, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  12. Jamaaliver

    This guy can't keep his foot out of his mouth.

    July 2, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  13. Pkm

    bush stared this war obama has given a time line to get out of af mike is a gop puppet of russ limbums if the gop fires a black man it would look bad for thd party keep up the good work mike we love you gop bigots

    July 2, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. skm

    He has a short memory. Wasn't it his boy GWB who put us there in the first place?

    July 2, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  15. Bob in Kansas City

    Another galring example of how out of touch token Steele is. To suggest that the Afghanistan war started with the November election of 2008 and Obama becoming President. Token Steele is off by a few years!

    July 2, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  16. ddf

    what?? Heye needs to read what steele. He said (A), (B) and (C). What an idiot!

    July 2, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  17. Linda

    The Republican party has become a group of dysfunctional people who lie and misstate the facts. They make one statement and then turn around and deny what they say......only we have them on tape. I can no longer believe the statements, values and people running or speaking for the Republican party.

    July 2, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  18. ccanney

    What? Am I missing something here? Who was in charge of the country when we invaded Afghanistan? Whether you agree or disagree with how Obama is handling the war now criticizing him for taking charge of one of Bush's decisions is ridiculous. "This was a war of Obama's choosing." Huh? How can he even say this straight faced? It is simply factually wrong. "This is not something the United States actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in," Now I get it. Steele just lives on another planet.

    July 2, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  19. Scott

    Say what? Who started this war????

    July 2, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  20. Jim, San Antonio

    How dare you go against the lunatic base of the Republican party?

    July 2, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  21. aw

    What a joke?? This is Obama's war?? Was Obama even a Senator when we declared war on Afghanistan?? People who head the GOP – Steele, Limbaugh, Palin are really pulling back the party and hurting their chances at gaining seats in November. That's not an opinion, that's an unbiased fact.

    July 2, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  22. isaiah's grandma

    Michael Steele is such an a** wipe. We originally became involved with Afghanistan during Bush's presidency.
    This is simply typical Republican re-writing of history.
    Making something up to create sound bites for the media.
    Making something up for the radical right wing to glom onto for 4th of July.
    Steele ought to step down. He's an embarrassment not only to Republicans; he's an indication of the education level of so-called conservatives, and a major embarrassment to the rest of our nation.
    Bush never seemed to have a "strategy" ....no one ever asked him for a strategy.

    July 2, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  23. RJ

    Heye are as dumb as Michael Steele. What do you think "unwinnable" means? Are all of those who speaks for the Republicans are silly?

    July 2, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    I watched the video of Steele's comments. The only thing more disturbing than the statement itself is the woman closest to the camera nodding in agreement.

    Tin Foil Hats for everyone at the GOP.
    By all means, keep your chairman, keep him talking and add Sarah Palin. Fun for all!

    July 2, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  25. Colleen

    Hey look, Republicans think if they say it, it makes it true. But even this one no Republican can beleive that this was Obamas was, WTH??

    July 2, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
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