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. jerseylou

    Ask Former Pres.G.Bush, he would probably say we won our Independence from Irah !

    July 2, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. normajean

    If this man walked away tomorrow, telling no one he was leaving, it would probably be months before someone said " Where"s Steele? At this point everyone else would say,", "I think he was around yesterday, no, maybe the day before,I don't know"I don't know"!

    July 2, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  3. larry

    steele is nuts

    July 2, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. me

    Wow – they really DO have a complete lack of self awareness.

    July 2, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  5. rainier08

    Wow....since when did Micheal Steele become a terroist sympathizer who seeks to undermine our president in the global war on terror. Seems to me opinions like this prior to 2009 were branded as treason. Incredible.

    July 2, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  6. Desmond

    While Steele must be deranged for suggesting that the Afghan war is of Obama's making, it will be unwinnable UNLESS the USA commits ovwerwhelming and comprehensive force in Af-Pak, instead of pussyfooting around with known state terrorists like the ISI and others in the Pakistan government.

    Thanks to its fickle citizens, the USA has a history of backing the wrong horse, and of cutting and running and the Afghans have a 1000 year history of mutating into new forms of resistence.

    July 2, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  7. Bubba

    Wow, this all sounds delusional: Obama started the war? Rush isn't RNC chairman? "Stainless" Steele is the best Republican ever!

    July 2, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  8. afp

    Anything to blame President Obama. Even if you have to revise history and lie to make your statements – eh, Mr. Steele? I agree with Mr. Kristol (not something I often do) in that Steele must go. I am not a fan of the republican party an longer, but I strongly believe in a strong two party system. I do not want to see the GOP suffer for lack of a reputable leader.

    July 2, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  9. GL

    It is long over due for this clown Steele to resign.

    July 2, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  10. Joseph Klabotnik

    Where was Steele on September 11, 2001? Has he ignored all history since that date? Can he not REMEMBER why we are in Afghanistan in the first place? Can he not REMEMBER why we didn't wrap that war up in early 2003 instead of hanging in there another seven years and counting? Does he really think we've forgotten that Afghanistan is ongoing solely because George W Bush just had to launch HIS "war of choice" in Iraq?

    Of how much of George Bush/the Republican Party's history does Steele have to be willfully ignorant / obtuse to even dare make the assertion, "Obama's war of choice"?

    July 2, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  11. Luke's Corner

    Im no Obama supporter but the statement made by the chairman is absolute dumbest thing i heard this week. Sure 9 years later Afghanistan looks completely unwinnable,, but what did he suggest the solution was after 9/11 for a retalitory strike?

    And blaming Barry makes no sense seeing that we had long been involved in the war before he took office.

    July 2, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  12. RickN

    This war was of Obama's choosing? Is this guy a comedian? Had Obama said a year ago that we're getting out, Steele would've been at the front of the line criticizing that position. Had Obama said last week that we're getting out Steele would have criticized that position. Why would anyone listen to anything that this guy says????

    July 2, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  13. Anonymous

    Obviously he has forgot about 9/11. What a joke.

    July 2, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  14. Shawn

    I personally disagree with Obama's decsion to "surge" forward in a wasteful and unwinnable war in Afghanistan, but it's absolutely disgusting (and typical) for Steele to pretend Obama created the whole mess. Republicans' shameful habit of historical revisionism is one of their many, MANY terrible qualities.

    July 2, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. wycliffe

    I am a republican and wont tolerate such comments from a republican chairman.

    July 2, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  16. PORAY

    This person either is on drugs or has a sudden onset of Terminal Stupidity.
    We, those of us who live in the “Real America”, know when this war was started and when it was under resourced and when it was abandoned and when the POTUS made the decision to get off the dime.
    Stop and think before you open your mouth, if it is not true, slanderous, mean spiritd, or just plain old trash talking don’t say it.

    July 2, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  17. Scott

    "This was a war of Obama's choosing."....ummm....No. No it was not. This was the first of two wars begun by Bush/Cheney, which Obama is trying to bring to an end.

    July 2, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. JJ

    Let him stay – he's a perfect representation of the hapless republican party.

    July 2, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. Gil

    Afghanistan should have been the only war we are in. This is where it started and where our original goal was. It wasn't until we veered off course to eradicate Hussein from Iraq that this war became irrelevant. If I remember correctly, the reason we are in Afghanistan is to wipe out Al Queda, the group that attacked us. President Obama didn't take on this war, the American people did.

    July 2, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  20. NYT:"during this election cycle big oil has paid 12.8 million in contributions, 71% to Republicans"!


    Steele the fumes from your meth lab in the basement is permeating your living space.

    I have heard of delusional neo-cons wanting to re-write history to make the horrible mistakes they made appear less horrible, but to ignore that the "chrisitians" in the Party of NO Memory started the religious crusades to fight Islam in Afghanistan is beyond even the outer limits of reality.

    To believe President Obama STARTED this war, can only lead me to believe you have been snorting coke in the bondage clubs.

    Or perhaps, it is the new med you are obviously taking to fight the early onset of Alzheimer's disease.

    July 2, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  21. I Love Obama

    The GOP spews so much hate/fear even at their own/.

    July 2, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  22. Suzanne

    What a nincompoop...

    July 2, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  23. WHAT?????

    What on earth has this eeediot been smoking. WE were attacked, WE demanded action and Bush orderdered the attack.

    Please stay, I always enjoy this schmuck's rants based on fiction/ignorace/stupidity.

    July 2, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  24. Marty, FL

    Steele is obviously not a "student of history" in his hypocritically revisionist nonsense. What a joke.

    President Bush originally CHOSE both wars and diverted our valuable resources to an avoidable & unnecessary debacle. President Obama is trying to clean up the mess sucessfully.

    July 2, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  25. Tiffany A. J., Cincinnati

    What a moron (Steele). Good riddance.

    July 2, 2010 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
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