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. mark from dover

    and this war started when, Mr. Steele???

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

    I guess Steele forgot that Bush got us into Afghanistan but then the Republican's forget many things. They like to forget leaving the country in financial ruin as they left office, they like to forget the TWO wars they got us into without a way to pay for them, they would like to forget the deregulation of banks, wall street and big corporations that helped to cause the financial melt down, then there is tax breaks for the wealthy and how about all the times they said no to the American people on important things like health care reform, education and how about unemployment help for millions. Yes, they say its all because it will lead the country down the wrong path but once again they are forgetting and not helping. Why would they do this? Well, how about greed and trying to convince people that they should be reelected. That certainly doesn't impress me as a record of working for the American people. It seems more like they are working for big business, banks, wall street, health insurance companies and of course themselves. They still cling to their old fashioned ideas of how to run the country which if your watching doesn't work. They call it "trickle down economics" which really means support the rich and piss on anyone that isn't rich!

    July 2, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  3. Ted

    Steele is an ignorant incompetent idiot and the GOP deserves this moron. I guess he forgot that Bush started that war to find Bin Laden and failing that, we just hung around to fight an endless, pointless stupid war.

    July 2, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  4. Confused

    Uhh. When did the war in Afghanistan start? A war of Obama's choosing?

    July 2, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  5. Mary

    Carelessness with the truth seems to be the RNC brand: Steele doesn't know the facts, embarrassing enough, but worse tries to make his lies hurt the President. Politics should be about a democratic exchange of ideas and debates–not what it has become in this country, a contest by Republicans to see how they can tweak the truth to win. This "lie until you're caught" politics is shameful and certainly doesn't help people working full-time (at a fraction of what McCain said the middle class earned). Heye's comments sound like coverup language.

    July 2, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. iroshi

    It's more than difficult to believe that someone from the Republican Party could actually say that the war in Afghanistan is Obama's choice. How long have we had troops there?

    July 2, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  7. Lee, Mays Landing, NJ

    Wow, even Bill Kristol can't handle the sheer mendacity of all the Republican lying?

    This was George Bush's war, and it's a royal mess because they let bin Laden and others get away in 2002 in order to go off on an unrelated adventure in Iraq.

    However, if you watch Fox "News" or listen to hate radio, even our current economic mess, the worst since the Great Depression 80 years ago, was caused by Obama, somehow even well before he was elected.

    They count on voters drinking the Kool-Aid and conveniently forgetting who drove us into the ditch in the first place.

    July 2, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  8. Hendrik

    And our President has to give an explanation to Uncle Tom Mike Steele? Mikey, you need to go back and serve your white master! Clown

    July 2, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. AnProf

    Clearly, Michael Steele has been a disappointment, in many ways. Perhaps he need to use a teleprompter, and have his comments carefully screened. LOL.
    Still, the sentiment that President Obama is in way over his head as a Commander in Chief, as well as in other areas, is on target.

    July 2, 2010 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Disgusted in PA

    It's amazing to me that Michael Steele just doesn't know that he is not a candidate for anything other than the Dumbest man in America! Please Michael shut up, stay in the background....way in the background and stop being a disgrace to the race on so many levels. In short Shut-up and go home. Idiot....Idiot....Idiot. Every time he opens his mouth it gets worse.

    July 2, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  11. Frank A NYC

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

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

    Talk about re-writing history. Perhaps Steele "forgot" that Obama was elected in 2008, and we have been in Afghanistan for 8 years.

    July 2, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  12. Dick

    What an idiot. Talk about making up your own facts. This is not just another gaffe by the chairman of the RNC, it is the rantings of a man that has lost all touch with reality.

    July 2, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Jerri in NM

    This guy is, for real, on something......

    July 2, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. Hansen

    Ok...is Steele really that ignorant, or was he the wrong choice for the Chairmanship only cause he couldn't get elected as Governor and needed a job, was this a pity favor for him? The war was started by Bush, not Obama. He opposed the war as a Senator and walked into office with this mess. Reality check here!

    July 2, 2010 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  15. vegas01

    Steele is not effective as a leader of the conservative roots of the Republican party, as he does not hold in his heart those values. He would make a better moderate Dem than a conservative Republican. If he or another like him in ideology remains in the lead of the party, the party will split.
    A wise one would stand down if for no other reason than he was not wanted. Pride will not permit surrender of one's power; whereas courage will not surrender what is needed regardless of the cost.

    July 2, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. RR

    Steele is a moron. How quickly he's forgotten that it was under Republican George Bush's presidency that we first went to fight in Afghanistan. I don't think we've made progress there under either party but calling it Obama's war is just stupid.

    July 2, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  17. james

    how could any rational human being be a republican? it is insanity to me.

    July 2, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  18. pinkette

    What Heyes said ia balogne. Steele clearly said that Obama choose to go to war in Afganistan(which is a lie for the benifit of the uneducated gullable right-wing base...everyone with half a brain knows that Bush decided to go to war in Afganistan). Hayes is insulting the intellegence of everyone with the ability to read Steele's statement.

    July 2, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. Josh

    While the war is Afghanistan was just, it is time for us to pull out of there (and Iraq). That would probably pay for a big part of the health care reform costs.

    July 2, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. Steve from FL

    Michael Steele should be ashamed of hisself. He is a disgrace to other black folks!

    July 2, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. AJ

    Every single time Steele opens his mouth, stupid falls out!

    July 2, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. me

    Enough, enough, enough, enough and too much of this guy already!!!

    July 2, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. Grundoon

    Typical GOP double speak. Though it wasn't that great to begin with, they have now completely lsot their grip of reality.

    July 2, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. KMAN821

    So where was that POS STEELE when HIS POS president invaded Afghanistan? Must have been too busy studying history to notice that it was Bush that ordered the invasion. This guy must make the average AA cringe!

    July 2, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  25. pc

    steele has always been a token and a laughing joke to the republican party. he makes a fool of himself everytime he opens his mouth.

    July 2, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
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