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Michael Steele Talks Sense – He Must Resign!

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If you’ve ever wondered who the idiots are in the Republican Party — you know, the folks who lost us the presidency and both houses of Congress — you need look no further than the catalog of prominent pundits and politicians now calling for the resignation of Michael Steele.

They’re not calling on Steele to resign because of inefficient fundraising or staff members expense accounting strip club trips. They’re after Steele for making a clear and sensible statement on the war in Afghanistan which echoes what many Republicans of the more sensible variety have been saying for years.

Steele was at a fundraiser in Connecticut and in a rambling speech he made a statement which was so clear that he had obviously been thinking about it a great deal — as have many of us for some time — pointing out that the war in Afghanistan was never a good idea, a basic truth which applies to the everyone who pushed for that war, even if he couches it as a criticism of Obama.

“This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in…Well, 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, 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 that do not…”

Much of the rest is inaudible, but he does go on to talk about how the ongoing war gives Democrats the opportunity to continue to blame Bush and transfer some of that blame to Republican candidates despite the fact that the war is now very much Obama’s war. These are sensible and perceptive observations of the kind I’m glad to see coming from the party’s leader.

Not everyone shared my happy response…

If you thought the part of the Republican party which favored mindless war and endless nation building was dead and discredited, the cries for his resignation in response to Steele’s comments proves that they still have a lot to say even if fewer and fewer Republicans are listening to them.

In his response, arch-neocon (and I only use that term when it is accurate) William Kristol quotes from DNC Chairman Tim Kaine, agreeing that Steele is at odds with “about 100 percent of the Republican Party.” Well, Kristol is as wrong about this as he was about invading Afghanistan in the first place. Kristol goes on to call Steele unpatriotic and an embarrassment, but some of us have been embarrassed by Kristol and his irresponsible promotion of unnecessary wars which put us a trillion dollars in debt. Perhaps he should go back and rejoin the Democrats since they have so much in common.

In a similar vein, Erik Erikson who has whored himself to CNN as their token blogging psychopath, declares that Steele has “lost all moral authority to lead the GOP.” Because apparently morality comes from rounding out a full decade of incredibly expensive and utterly pointless warmaking.

Liz Cheney joined the chorus by defending her father’s disastrous legacy, callng Steele’s comments “deeply disappointing and wrong.” Because nothing could be more right than spending untold money and lives in an effort which is utterly misdirected under rules of engagement which make success impossible.

Surprisingly, other Republican pundits have taken issue with Steele’s assigning of blame for the continuation of the war to President Obama, but the truth is that Obama promised to get us out of the war and has instead dragged the war out and done it under restrictions which make a useful resolution impossible. In fact, Steele has hit on a valid campaign issue which smart Republicans could make use of as November approaches.

Perhaps most important — and the clearest indication that Steele has thought about this question — is his final hard to hear comment about other means of engagement in Afghanistan. This is something which has been clear to sensible observers of the war of all political persuasions since the beginning of the conflict. An invasion and occupation was the wrong way to approach Afghanistan and the wrong way to exact retribution for the attack on the World Trade Center. It has left us fighting people who were not involved in the attack on us, while accomplishing little against the actual villains and wasting lives and money. From the beginning we should have taken a different approach with a quick and overwhelming strike against bin Laden himself which was resolved quickly either by catching him, killing him or declaring it not to be worth the effort. Punishing evildoers (in Bush’s words) is important, but there have to be limits and somewhere we lost track of that fundamentally Republican pragmatism. Steele seems to have rediscovered it.

Unfortunately, Steele has issued a statement to some degree countering his clearly well considered comments which were caught on video. I’d certainly prefer that he stuck by his guns, but caving in to critics is one of his major character flaws. Nonetheless he deserves some credit for saying publicly what so many of us have known since the war turned from efficient manhunt to endless and unproductive occupation. Perhaps raising this issue will help out the many Republican candidates who have been questioning our role in Afghanistan and legitimize their concerns.

Whatever else comes of it, one positive outcome is that the issue has become a kind of litmus test for who the biggest idiots in the Republican Party are. Michael Steele’s comments are absolutely true and sensible and the people who are attacking him are being exposed as kind of dogmatic buffoons who got us into these senseless wars and who have and will continue to harm the Republican party by their actions.

It is not unpatriotic and it is not a disservice to the troops to question the decisions of the government or the wisdom of a war. The United States should not be a nation which engages in mindless militarism. Questioning how our military is used and making sure it is used wisely are the minimum standard of responsibility we should demand from our leaders. To waste lives profligately in a war which has deviated so far from its stated purpose is irresponsible and a betrayal of our best ideals and our best interests.

Republicans who are unclear on this issue need look back no farther than the days of Ronald Reagan. He deployed troops a number of times, but in all cases for short durations with specific objectives. Reagan did not engage in nation building or long term occupations. He saw things which needed to be done, used the military effectively to do them, and knew when the job was done. Reagan was a real patriot who had respect for the military and showed it by using them well and not wasting their efforts. Reagan would applaud Michael Steele for his good sense.

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About Dave Nalle

Dave Nalle is Executive Director of the Texas Liberty Foundation, Chairman of the Center for Foreign and Defense Policy, South Central Regional Director for the Republican Liberty Caucus and an advisory board member at the Coalition to Reduce Spending. He was Texas State Director for the Gary Johnson Presidential campaign, an adviser to the Ted Cruz senatorial campaign, Communications Director for the Travis County Republican Party and National Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. He has also consulted on many political campaigns, specializing in messaging. Before focusing on political activism, he owned or was a partner in several businesses in the publishing industry and taught college-level history for 20 years.
  • John Wilson

    Zedd is right: the reps got obsessed with finding ways to spin things to emotional appeals in order to win elections. They have no moral compass left.

  • savage24

    I didn’t hear a word out of these RINOs when Reid and Pelosi were saying “Bush’s War” in Iraq was lost. Not a peep.

  • Zedd

    What I find interesting is that the party of bunglers is hyper focused on Steele when so much more is wrong. They offer no solutions, which to me translates as laziness and simply being ineffectual. Moreover, this is the party of Bush II. All of a sudden gaffs are unacceptable? Sara Palin was the VP nominee and is currently the parties mouthpiece and Steele is a problem?

    The Reps problem is that they have over played the political game. They are stuck with the monster that they have created. They designed an effective propaganda campaign thirty years ago, the problem now is that they no longer know how to stop spinning. They don’t know how to govern. They are addicted to soundbites and talking points as a survival mechanism. Their politicians have grown lazy and fat from being told what to say and have lost the ability to do what is tough, smart and effective to benefit the nation.

    The entire party needs a revamping. The problem is the populous has also gotten addicted to the simplistic talking point of day. Without the regular dose of vacuous, snippy comments coming to feed their lump of a brain, they will feel abandoned. Because they are so riled up (over nothingness), they will revolt if they are not given dumb. So the platitudes keep coming. Palin sits on the thrown, Jindal continues with his ridiculous sing song, and Steele bends over for his wuppin, like clockwork, to pay for the mess.

  • John Wilson

    Steeles comment was stupid and invited misunderstanding. However, Obama has endorsed the Afghan war and must accept responsibility from here on out. The Iraq war is different.

    IMO Bush pulled a bait-and-switch on us by transfering American animosity from Al Queda to Taliban to cover his own embarrassment at bungling the capture of OBL by sub-contracting the job to Afghans. Truly stupid.

    We never had much quarrel with Taliban, they were just reluctant to turn OBL over, but we quickly swept that aside and obviated it. But now we have created a Taliban monster.

  • Yes it is presently is so his verb tense was wrong

  • EB, it became a war of Obama’s choosing when he chose not to pull out when he could have and signed up to send more troops and spend more money with no foreseeable benefit.


  • Doug Hunter


    Afghanistan 2001 was alot different than Afghanistan 2010. We could have left after Tora Bora with about a dozen KIA’s having been in better shape than we are now. The first few months of the war were relatively successful, removing the Taliban and dispersing and destroying many Al Quaeda. Had we left then and just provided support for the Northern Alliance and covert ops/intel towards finding OBL (the only methods that have a chance BTW, white shaved head english speaking kids in uniform ain’t going to help much) then it could have been viewed as a success. That might have happened had OBL been caught at Tora Bora. As fate would have it, he escaped and we got suckered into an occupation.

    Of course policymakers don’t have the benefit of hindsight, but I’m not so sure the original war in Afghanistan was as much a failure as the near decade of subsequent occupation has been.

  • John Wilson

    I don’t remember a single Republican congresscritter objecting to the Afghanistan invasion during the Bush administration. I don’t remember any members of the rightist peanut galary, such as Nalle, during Bush either. Every one of my rightist friends were solid behind the war.

    In fact, the only democrat party congresscritters I remember objecting to the war were Barbara Lee, who was treated like a leper for it, and the late Sen. Byrd who gave an impassioned speech against it at the time.

  • Zedd

    Steele’s comments were truthful and not so truthful as most marketing campaigns tend to be.

    Yes, Afghanistan is nearly impossible to win and history supports that. No this war was not chosen by Obama. A greater focus on Afghanistan instead of Iraq was made by Obama because that is where the people who assaulted the United States are. The war however, was started by Bush.

    You weren’t clear on what the Reps are protesting about Steele’s comments. Is it that they want the credit for the war? Is it that they think he is stupid for saying the war is not winnable? Is it that they think he is stupid for suggesting that Obama created the war in Afghanistan?

    I don’t quite understand why they are in an uproar. It cant be that he sounded stupid. Not the party of Palin and Bush

  • Having a debate about Afghanistan would be a good thing but Steele went about it in a very poor way. His first sentence is inaccurate: “This was a war of Obama’s choosing.”

    No, this was a war of Bush’s choosing, so he loses a point in his argument right from the start. Now, it is a war of Obama’s choosing and the present is what should be focused on. Also, blaming Bush didn’t win Republicans any seats so people are likely still sensitive.

    Also, one should do better than paraphrasing “The Princess Bride” if they want to be taken seriously regarding geo-political matters.

  • I don’t buy your negative attitude, Les. It may have been a blunder, but telling the truth is always a positive. Steele doing it lays the groundwork for opening up this debate within the GOP and that may very well have been his intention.


  • Les Slater

    Dave, I sympathize with your concerns. Michael Steele may have thought out much of what he said at the fundraiser but he shouldn’t have said it. Truth is not the job of any politician of either major party. It was a blunder, hence the calls for his resignation.

    We saw a similar situation with the bailout legislation in ’08. Many congressmen were too close to their constituency and helped defeat this legislation. Remember what happened to the stock market? So? Most, or at least a sufficient number were brought back into line and the legislation passed.

    The real powers that both parties operate at the behest of don’t include the majority of us. Don’t be too surprised at some of the seaming lack of logic or coherency. It is not our logic or sense of coherency that is important or being applied in either domestic or foreign policy. We have no power.

    The Trade Towers attack was just an excuse. See how they stretched it to Iraq and now a never ending war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

  • The only “big stick” Bush is stuck on is the brush he’s clearing at his ranch in Crawford. He’s not in the picture any longer and he certainly isn’t running against Obama in 2012 or putting forward any ideas for Republican positions on foreign policy.

    And keeping al Qaeda and the Taliban contained doesn’t require a large troop presence in Afghanistan. We have a long history of quarantining dangerous countries and doing it successfully without a lot of troops.


  • John Lake

    Most agree that it is necessary to stop The violent Taliban, and al Qaeda from staging in Afghanistan. Obama has consistently though quietly sought a de-emphasising of that war. Bush like McCain is still hung up on the Big Stick mentality.
    The war is a no win situation. Our only option is to install a government to our liking as we did in Iraq; but in Iraq, the moment the population had a vote, they merely went back to the old traditional system.

  • You have written a fine piece of rational thought, Dave. I wasn’t sure you had it in you! It might surprise you to discover that I agree with much of your premise. We differ primarily on whether the GOP deserves to regain power (not that I think the Democrats deserve to keep it).

    The terror war against terror, ineptly mishandled, has proven to be a serious detriment to the health and welfare of the nation. Only those who are willing to speak the unpopular truth can do anything about this. So even if kernels of said sad truth issue forth from the embouchure of a buffoon (be he Obama or Steele), they should be heeded by the wise.

  • This teacup tempest reminds me of the recent flap involving Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), who apologized on the record to BP CEO Tony Hayward because our beaches and marshlands are contaminating BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico, then retracted his apology following pressure from House Republican leaders, and later rescinded his retraction. All this vacillation undermined whatever merits might have been contained in Rep. Barton’s original accusation of a White House “shakedown.”

    Michael Steele’s latest equivocation will likewise so confuse everyone that whatever merits his fundraiser speech may have contained will be lost. “Unfortunately,” you write, “Steele has issued a statement to some degree countering his clearly well considered comments which were caught on video.” When I followed the hyperlink you provided, I thought I’d landed on the wrong page. “RNC’s Steele issues statement defending Afghan war remarks,” reads the headline on the article at washingtonexaminer.com. How, I asked myself, can Dave Nalle construe “defending” as “countering”?

    But you’re right. “As we have learned throughout history,” Mr. Steele declares, “winning a war in Afghanistan is a difficult task. We must also remember that after the tragedy of September 11, 2001, it is also a necessary one.” Once again a prominent Republican has seized stalemate from the jaws of decisiveness. The American people will rightly dismiss Steele’s remarks as the usual partisan doubletalk. And we’ll be back to square one in trying to ignite a national discourse on the war in Afghanistan.

  • Good luck trying to tokenize Reagan in the service of promoting antiwar views on the whackodoodle neoconservative Kristol right. You’ll need it.

    Must say, though, as one who has been against both wars from the very start, I’ve had quite a few knock over/feather moments in the past few months, esp as re: Afghanistan. Between Steele’s “gaffe”, the McChrystal Affair and Palin throwing public neoconservative fits questioning our strategy there (but don’t expect any sarahstruck neocon to label her unpatriotic or un-American for it), I see the general question of wtf do we need to be Afghanistan actually becoming a part of the national conversation.

    You could be right…this could be a good thing in hastening our exit from there.