McCain calls Steele's remarks on Afghan war 'wildly inaccurate'

Perry Bacon discusses Michael Steele's Afghanistan gaffe on "Top Line."
By Felicia Sonmez
Washington Post staff writer
Monday, July 5, 2010

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday added his voice to those questioning Michael Steele's ability to lead the Republican Party after the Republican National Committee chairman's comments late last week on the war in Afghanistan.

Steele "is going to have to assess as to whether he can still lead the Republican Party as chairman of the Republican National Committee and make an appropriate decision," McCain said in an appearance on ABC's "This Week."

McCain, who appeared on the program from Kabul, called Steele's remarks "wildly inaccurate" and inexcusable. He also noted that Steele sent him an e-mail explaining that his comments were "misconstrued."

McCain is the most influential Republican to question Steele's leadership after the embattled chairman's remarks at a Connecticut fundraiser that the war is "of Obama's choosing" and that it might not be winnable.

Since video of the remarks surfaced Friday, many within the party have stepped up their criticism of Steele. Several, including Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, former deputy assistant secretary of state Liz Cheney, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson have called on him to resign.

Steele has tried to clarify his comments, saying in a statement that "for the sake of the security of the free world, our country must give our troops the support necessary to win this war."

Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), who are traveling with McCain in Afghanistan, also weighed in on the Steele controversy Sunday morning.

Lieberman said in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" that Steele's remarks were "unfortunate." On "Face the Nation," Graham lamented Steele's "uninformed, unnecessary, unwise, untimely comment."

"This is not President Obama's war; this is America's war," Graham said. Both senators stopped short of calling for Steele's resignation.

Conservative commentators, meanwhile, renewed their calls for Steele's ouster. Dan Senor, the former spokesperson for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, told ABC's Jake Tapper that "what's striking about Steele is how fundamentally unserious" his remarks are.

"I don't think the Republican Party can seriously engage in foreign policy with credibility if its chairman is engaging in this kind of rhetoric," Senor added.

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