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Several conservatives call for resignation of RNC Chairman Michael Steele

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Perry Bacon discusses Michael Steele's Afghanistan gaffe on "Top Line."

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By Richard A. Serrano
Saturday, July 3, 2010; 10:31 PM

Pressure intensified Saturday on Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele as several prominent conservatives demanded that he resign following his comments that the war in Afghanistan was of President Obama's choosing and is probably unwinnable.

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"The chairman of the Republican Party must be unwavering in his support for American victory in the war on terror -- a victory that cannot be accomplished if we do not prevail in Afghanistan," said Liz Cheney, chairwoman of the conservative group Keep America Safe, and daughter of former Vice President Richard B. Cheney. "It is time for Chairman Steele to step down."

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Steele "should apologize and resign." He called Steele's remarks Thursday at a Connecticut fundraiser "totally unacceptable.

"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," Cole said, according to a report in Politico. "It is time for him to go -- quickly."

The firestorm of criticism began Friday, after a video surfaced of Steele speaking at the private fundraiser. William Kristol, editor of the magazine the Weekly Standard, was the first influential conservative to call for his resignation.

On the video, Steele is seen saying of Obama: "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."

A spokesman for Steele quickly issued a statement clarifying that the chairman supports the troops. Steele, whose terms ends in January, soon followed up by saying that "for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war."

Karl Rove, a former top political aide to President George W. Bush, said the Steele statement did not 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 a while."

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), 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."

Steele's tenure at the helm of the RNC has been marked by controversies, including over his criticism of -- and subsequent apology to -- Rush Limbaugh and the committee's spending money at a bondage-themed nightclub in California to entertain donors.

-- McClatchy Tribune


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