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Conservatives push for Steele's resignation

Liz Cheney, editor William Kristol of the Weekly Standard, and Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma say the RNC chairman's remarks about the war in Afghanistan 'embarrassed the party he purports to lead.'

July 04, 2010|By Richard A. Serrano, Tribune Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — Several prominent conservatives on Saturday intensified pressure on Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele to resign following his comments that the war in Afghanistan was of President Obama's choosing and had probably turned into "a lost cause" for the United States.

"It is time for Chairman Steele to step down," said Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the conservative group Keep America Safe, and daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.


FOR THE RECORD:
Michael Steele: An article published in the July 4 Section A concerning criticism of Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele reported that a club where Republican Party funds were spent is in Hollywood. The club, Voyeur, is in West Hollywood. —

"You are, I know, a patriot," William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard and a top aide in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, wrote to Steele in an open letter. "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."

Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Steele "should apologize and resign." He called the remarks made Thursday by Steele at a Connecticut fundraiser "totally unacceptable."

In a statement to Politico.com, Cole added: "He undercut American forces fighting in the field, politicized further a war that two presidents of different parties have deemed in the national interest and embarrassed the party he purports to lead. It is time for him to go — quickly."

Steele, whose term ends in January, has not directly responded to the criticism, but he sent a statement to the voting members of the RNC that also was posted on the committee's website.

"The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan," he said in the statement.

Steele, whose leadership of the GOP committee repeatedly has been marred by gaffes, was caught on video footage that surfaced Friday on YouTube. His comments were taped the day before while he spoke to a Republican Party fundraising event in Connecticut.

He called the nine-year conflict in Afghanistan "a war of Obama's choosing" and described as "comical" the events surrounding the dismissal of Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal as top commander.

Referring to Obama, Steele said, "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? Everyone who has tried, over 1,000 years, has failed."

Kristol, among others, noted that the war began under Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, and that although some critics may want the U.S. to withdraw, "one of them shouldn't be the chairman of the Republican Party."

Karl Rove, a former top political aide to Bush and a Fox News consultant, said the Steele statement didn't go far enough. "He's going to have to take the public stage and take his licking there and say he misspoke," Rove said.

He added that Steele's comments were "knuckleheaded" and said, "I guess his mouth got ahead of his brain for awhile."

California Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), who served in the Marines in Afghanistan and Iraq, said Steele's "comments were not only tactless, but showed an unfortunate level of ignorance on such a significant national security issue."

In the past, Steele has made other controversial comments. He called abortion an "individual choice" after he had said saying he was antiabortion. And he dismissed conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh as an "entertainer."

He also was questioned over excessive spending, and his chief of staff stepped down after $2,000 in party funds were spent at a sex-themed Hollywood club.

richard.serrano@latimes.com

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