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Whither the Chairman

July 8, 2010

So, Michael Steele.  If you’ve ever been here before, you know I don’t like him.  His latest howler is no surprise — it’s not so much a gaffe as it is an incredibly revealing statement — but the reaction Bill Kristol’s reaction has been quite surprising.  Apparently, we can’t have a discussion about Afghanistan anymore in this country because two Presidents of opposing parties have pursued wars there.  Apparently, the anti-Steele Right is being unfair because Michael Steele didn’t take this kind of licking the past few times he spurned “Republican orthodoxy”.  Apparently, it’s in vogue to criticize the Right for favoring “permanent war”.

Sorry, folks, but there is nobody besides Bush, Cheney, the current President and his staff who has less business saying what Michael Steele said than Michael Steele.  It’s not that Afghanistan shouldn’t be debated.  There’s nothing wrong with a Republican being anti-war if he has a good reason, which Steele appears to have.  There’s nothing wrong with a lot of Republicans being anti-war.  There’s not even anything wrong with the official position of the RNC being that we shouldn’t be waging a war in Afghanistan!  There is a lot wrong, though, with Steele’s justification of his position.

George W. Bush engaged in this war eight years ago.  He hasn’t been out of office for a year and half.  If Steele is willing to say that “the one thing you don’t do is engage in a land war in Afghanistan” now, why wasn’t he willing to say that last year when the decision was still on the table?  If it’s because he didn’t feel it was the dominant position of the Republican Party at the time, and it’s his job to represent the Republican constituency as the chairman of its National Committee, then is it the dominant position of the Party now?  If it’s because things weren’t going as badly then in Afghanistan as they are now, then why didn’t he say that, instead of criticizing the whole premise of the war?  And, if he is going to criticize the whole premise of the war, then why won’t he criticize the guy who started the war, i.e. the last Republican president?

If the GOP is ready to change its mind about whether or not it wants to be in Afghanistan, then fine.  But to do that, until enough Americans are dying and the operation is failing to the extent that it’s not worth the human cost to stay there (a date that might rapidly be approaching), it’s going to have to throw Bush under the bus.  And if it’s not ready to do that, then it’s not ready to criticize the President’s handling of the war.  So Michael Steele does in fact need to go — not only on the strength of this one misstatement, but on the strength of his shortcomings as a Party chair.

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