Conservative strategist William Kristol, former South Carolina party chairman Katon Dawson and other Republicans are calling for the resignation of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele over Steele's suggestion that the U.S. effort in Afghanistan is doomed.
At a fundraiser in Noank, Conn., Steele blamed the U.S. troubles in Afghanistan on the Obama administration and expressed doubts about coalition forces' ability to succeed in the violence-torn country.
"Keep in mind again, for our federal candidates, this was a war of Obama's choosing," Steele said. "This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in."
"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," Steele said, referring to Obama's insistence during the presidential campaign that the U.S. should be focused on Afghanistan instead of Iraq.
"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."
Former president George W. Bush ordered U.S. troops to Afghanistan in October 2001 in response to the Sept. 11 attacks by terrorists based there. Obama has said publicly for at least eight years that while he opposed the invasion of Iraq, he supported the war in Afghanistan.
Steele's comments, including using the word "comical" to describe the events leading to the forced resignation of Afghanistan commander Stanley McChrystal, sparked an outcry from commentators as a video of his remarks made its way around the Internet.
"You are, I know, a patriot," Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, wrote in an open letter to Steele. "So I ask you to consider, over this July 4 weekend, doing an act of service for the country you love: Resign as chairman of the Republican party."
Kristol added: "Needless to say, the war in Afghanistan was not 'a war of Obama's choosing.' It has been prosecuted by the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama. Republicans have consistently supported the effort...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."
Activist Erick Erickson wrote on his influential RedState blog: "Michael Steele must resign. He has lost all moral authority to lead the GOP."
Dawson, who competed with Steele for the chairman's job last year, told CNN: "The RNC should do the responsible thing and show Steele the door. Enough is enough." Several other conservatives said in blog and Twitter posts that they agreed.
Steele backed away from his remarks at mid-day in a statement of support for the troops. "There is no question that America must win the war on terror," he said. "The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan."
The Friday fundraiser was not the first time Steele's tendency to wander off-script has surprised and embarrassed his party.
Early this year, he released a book called "Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda" and took off on a publicity tour that was a surprise to elected officials, who thought they were supposed to be setting the party's course while Steele raised money and took care of infrastructure. Steele also suggested the Republican Party needed a "hip-hop" makeover, and started a blog called "What Up?" Under his leadership, the committee also endured "Bondage-gate," in which staffers were reimbursed for entertaining contributors at a Los Angeles strip club.
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