Well, here we go again… Conservatives are calling for Michael Steele’s head … again … after the RNC’s gift that keeps on giving was caught on tape, holding forth about the war in Afghanistan. And boy did he hold forth … From the NYDN:
At a Connecticut fundraiser Thursday, Steele rewrote the history of the Afghan war launched by former President George W. Bush after 9/11.
Steele said it was a war “of Obama’s choosing…not something the U.S. had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.”
Steele also called the recent resignation of Afghan war commander General Stanley McChrystal “comical” and made fun of Obama for deciding to increase the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
“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?” Steele asked the crowd in a video promptly distributed by Democrats and posted on YouTube.
“Because everyone who has tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed,” he said.
Watch Michael work:
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. Indeed, as the DNC Communications Director (of all people) has said, your statement “puts [you] at odds with about 100 percent of the Republican Party.”
And not on a trivial matter. At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders.
The war in Afghanistan is not a war of Barack Obama’s choosing. It is a war of Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s choosing. We responded.
Michael Steele must resign. He has lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.
“It’s simply unconscionable that Michael Steele would undermine the morale of our troops when what they need is our support and encouragement,” said Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse.
Here in Florida: Rubio is distancing … distancing …
Steele did try to clean things up, by saying he supports the war but that it’s Obama’s strategy (strike two, Mr. Chairman. It’s the generals’ strategy, including the Republican secular saint, David Petraeus.) And his latest gaffe did drop on the Friday before a holiday, so TPMDC reports he’s probably safe for now. And as we’ve learned by now, Steele is not a guy who resigns, even under enormous pressure for him to do so.
But for now only lasts until the end of the year. After that, Steele’s career in the Republican Party is clearly over. All that’s left is his book about how racist the GOP really is, and how none of it was his fault.
What complicates all of this, of course, is that lots of people are turning on the Afghan war. And not just Democrats. Byron York isn’t anything close to being a Democrat, and he wrote this. And the Paulites, who are ascending within the party, don’t like the war, either. Is Bill Kristol going to write him an open letter, too? We may finally be coming to the point where the regular conservatives start pushing back, and I mean really pushing back, on the war-hungry neocons. Let’s hope that happens soon, Steele or no Steele.
UPDATE: Via Andrew Sullivan, pair of conservative intellectuals diagnose Steeles’s real problem: his reflexive, clumsy attempts to play politics with everything, war included.
UPDATE 2: The Atlantic’s Chris Good weighs in on the depth of Steele’s misreading of his party, but also concludes he will survive.
The party of “the white culture” can hardly afford to fire its first black chairman, after all. Steele knows it. He mouths off accordingly.
UPDATE 3: Over at FiveThirtyEight: what makes a good party chair? The start:
1. Message. Terry McAuliffe didn’t know much about public policy when he took the chair at the DNC, but that’s hardly a liability and may even be an asset in a chair. It’s not the chair’s job to set policy, offer policy proposals or solutions, or even publicly ruminate about policy: His or her job is to echo the positions of the party’s president and/or congressional leaders—period. McAuliffe almost always stayed squarely and repeatedly on message. Having witnessed the Clinton scandal wars first hand, he knew more than most the value of the wash-rinse-repeat talking point approach, and peddled with pep the pet phrases produced for him by the communication shop. Steele didn’t know much about national politics when he claimed the RNC helm, but appears to fancy himself a quick and insightful wonk-wit who can speak off the cuff. And that’s exactly the problem: Like a bad jazz musician, Steele thinks he can deliver beautiful improvisations, when in fact he often produces wince-worthy screeches as if he were disassembling a clarinet as he played it. Most of what a chair says in speeches, television appearances and press releases can quickly (and correctly) be dismissed by opponents and the media as predictable pablum. A chair who is easily frustrated by such dismissals and instead yearns to be the center of attention is going to be just that–but for the wrong reasons. …
It’s a pretty good analysis, although I think the post leaves out another quality: allies, of which Steele had few coming in (one of the small number of allies he did have was former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer, and we all now know what happened to him…) Still, as often is the case, some of the comments are even better than the post. Case in point:
UPDATE 4: Daughter of darkness Liz Cheney joins in the calls for Steele to step down.