Latest Steele Gaffe Prompts Fresh Calls for His Resignation

Posted July 2, 2010 at 12:27pm

Updated: 2:54 p.m.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s recent comments that the war in Afghanistan is “a war of Obama’s choosing” released on YouTube have led prominent Republican columnist William Kristol and other conservatives to ask him to step down.

And some Republicans on Capitol Hill wouldn’t mind if he took that advice.

“Exhibit 2,345 as to why Steele should not be chairman,” one GOP aide said. “The question is, who does he fire this time? Mr. Chairman, please listen to Mr. Kristol.”

Steele’s comments, captured in a poor-quality video at a fundraiser, had Democrats in attack mode and Republicans cringing, even as Gen. David Petraeus arrived in Afghanistan to oversee the war effort. Steele put out a statement Friday afternoon reiterating his support for the war as the calls for his resignation started to pile up.

“This was a war of Obama’s choosing,” Steele said in the video. “This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”

The former Maryland lieutenant governor later added: “It was the president who was trying to be cute by half by flipping a script demonizing Iraq, while saying the battle really should be in Afghanistan. Well, if he’s such a student of history, has he not understood that you know that’s the one thing you don’t do, is engage in a land war in Afghanistan? All right, 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.”

The gaffe-prone chairman also called the situation involving the dismissal of Gen. Stanley McChrystal “comical” during his talk, which appeared to be an attempt at giving messaging advice to Republican candidates for Congress.

Although he didn’t directly address his earlier comments, Steele tried to make the case in his Friday statement that he supports U.S. efforts in Afghanistan..

“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,” he said. “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.”

RNC spokesman Doug Heye also provided a long history of quotes from Steele backing the war.

In addition to Kristol, RedState.com blogger Erick Erickson called on Steele to resign, saying he had “lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.”

Democrats piled on.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse ripped Steele for calling the war in Afghanistan unwinnable.

“The American people will be interested to hear that the leader of the Republican Party thinks recent events related to the war are ‘comical’ and that he is betting against our troops and rooting for failure in Afghanistan,” Woodhouse said.

“It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement. Michael Steele would do well to remember that we are not in Afghanistan by our own choosing, that we were attacked and that his words have consequences.”