WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham spoke from the war zone Sunday to condemn Republican Party chairman Michael Steele’s comment that Afghanistan was a “war of Obama’s choosing.”
Neither lawmaker, however, was outraged enough to demand Steele’s resignation, as some other Republicans have done. Both said from Kabul it was up to Steele to decide whether he could continue to lead the party.
Steele’s remarks, a political gift to Democrats in a congressional election year, were captured Thursday on camera during a Connecticut fundraiser that was closed to the news media, and posted online. The comments would make it difficult for Republican candidates to have Steele campaign for them and against Democrats in President Barack Obama’s party.
“I think those statements are wildly inaccurate and there’s no excuse for them,” McCain said, adding that Steele sent the Arizona senator an e-mail saying the remarks “were misconstrued.”
“I believe we have to win here. I believe in freedom. But the fact is that I think that Mr. 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 told ABC’s “This Week.”
Graham, from South Carolina, described himself as “dismayed, angry and upset. It was an uninformed, unnecessary, unwise, untimely comment.”
He told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “this is not President Obama’s war. This is American’s war. We need to stand behind the president.”
Asked whether Steele should quit, Graham said, “It’s up to him to see if he can lead the Republican Party. It couldn’t have come at a worst time.”
At the fundraiser, Steele said, “This was a war of Obama’s choosing. This is not something the United States has actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.
“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’s tried, over a thousand years of history, has failed,” Steele said. “And there are reasons for that. There are other ways to engage in Afghanistan.”
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.