Steele Still on the Hot Seat over Afghanistan War Comments

Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Saturday, April 10, 2010. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) AP Photo/Gerald Herbert

Michael Steele
AP

Will Michael Steele survive the latest uproar to surround him?

A number of high profile Republicans over the weekend slammed Steele for comments he made last week regarding the war in Afghanistan -- but stopped short of calling for him to step down. Meanwhile, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), the libertarian known for bucking his party, emerged as a GOP defender for the embattled Republican National Committee chairman.

Steele, who has made a number of other controversial statements in the past, came under fire last week for calling the Afghanistan war "a war of Obama's choosing" and suggesting the troops there will fail. Steele made those remarks, which were caught on video, at a party rally in Connecticut. After the video surfaced, Steele quickly released a statement clarifying his position on the war, saying, "There is no question that America must win the war on terror."

Nevertheless, Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), John McCain (Ariz.) and Jim DeMint (S.C.) took the chairman to task over the weekend.

Graham said on CBS' "Face The Nation" that Steele's comments were "uninformed, unnecessary, unwise." (Watch his statements in the video below.)

DeMint said on "Fox News Sunday" that Steele's comments were "unacceptable" and called on him to apologize to the military. McCain, meanwhile, on ABC's "This Week" called Steele's remarks "wildly inaccurate" and inexcusable and said Steele needs to assess whether he can still function as chairman.

Paul, on the other hand, praised Steele's remarks.

"I would like to congratulate Michael Steele for his leadership on one of the most important issues of today," Paul said in a statement. "He is absolutely right: Afghanistan is now Obama's war."

He added that he thought Steele should not resign.

"He is giving the country, especially young people, hope as he speaks truth about this war," Paul said. "I have to ask myself, what is the agenda of the harsh critics demanding this resignation? Why do they support Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama's war?"

Last week, influential conservatives like William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and Liz Cheney called for Steele's resignation.

Kevin Williamson of the National Review added over the weekend that former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin would be a good replacement for Steele.

"She'd raise tons of money and help recruit good candidates, i.e., she'd excel at doing the things Steele should have been doing instead of appointing himself Republican pundit-at-large," he writes. "A Chairman Palin would help set the right tone for the Republican party without having to get herself entangled in the minutiae of policy-development, which has not been her forte."

Some insiders, however, reportedly say Steele will survive this gaffe, as he has in the past.

"If you believe in death by 1,000 cuts, he is around 896," one unnamed Republican operative told the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza.

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