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The foreign policy wisdom of Michael Steele. It isn't so much that he seems to be against the Afghanistan counterinsurgency plan (though it would be weird for an RNC chairman to take a position on an issue that divides his party with most of the party's leaders being mostly on the other side of the issue), it is his suggestion that the war was some kind of Democratic Party creation.  I think I get what he was driving at in his incompetent and bombastic way.  He wanted all the American losses in Afghanistan to be blamed on Obama.  But he can't even get that right, and ends up sounding as if he thinks that the war in Afghanistan started in late January 2009. William Kristol wants Steele to go.  Me too, but for slightly different reasons.  Though it is disgusting to see him try to turn the Afghanistan War into a political footbalI and try to extract political profit from American suffering and (potential) failure, I don't think Steele has done any real damage to the American war effort in Afghanistan.  I think that nobody (or almost nobody) takes him seriously enough for his opinion to matter.  The greater problem is that he won't stop saying foolish things.  He seems to have neither the self-knowledge nor the self-control needed to improve his performance.  He should quit quietly and let some more competent person take over the job of RNC chairman.  But the same flaws that make him such an embarrassment as RNC chairman might also prevent him from doing what is best for his party.

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Discussions - 9 Comments

He must go.

Where any particular Republican office-holder stands on the Afghanistan war is their and their constituents' own business, and they can express themselves accordingly. It should be something Republicans can disagree about. But this is outrageous. He cavalierly speaks in a way that he knows will seem that he means to speaks for us, the big Republican tent, on an issue where the overwhelming consensus of that tent opposes him. Where's the immediate clarification that he didn't mean to suggest that, that the venue was inappropriate? Where's the immediate apology? And beyond the fact that given his position he should not be stating such an opinion publicly, a fact he apparently intends to defy with blithe arrogance, where was the humility, the charity, when he did state such an opinion? No, the way he puts it, it's just gobsmackingly obvious to any student of history that we're doomed to fail in Afghanistan. It would follow that at least 80% of the people he claims to work for are history-ignoring morons.

The issue here is not Afghanistan, it's Steele.

Fire him. And if the Republican Party procedures for that stand to be lengthy, pass an immediate Party resolution of no confidence for the meantime.

Carl, you are right, but it is more than that. I don't think that Steele was actually trying to call Republican supporters of the Afghanistan counterinsurgency strategy fools. I think he was playing cheap and despicable politics with the war, but did it in such an incompetent way that he insulted the vast majority of his own party and made himself look ignorant of the most basic facts of recent history. It is a testament to his rhetorical awfulness that the deep cynicism of his comment is lost amid discussion of all the other things he got wrong.

By the way, I have been thinking of our earlier discussion on Afghanistan and wondering if Obama really will stay the course regarding a counterinsurgency strategy that is dependent on patience. I hate that I trust the general in charge much more than the President because, in the end, it is the President's call. So I am left praying for wisdom, courage and prudence on the part of the President (always actually, but especially on this issue.) I don't think there is a prudent alternative to supporting the President as long as he continues to implement the counterinsurgency strategy, but I often find myself fearing that you were right.

Steele is horrible.

Hmmm, if only there had been another awesomely qualified African-American running against Steele for RNC chair. Maybe somebody with Ashbrook ties...

I hate being a Republican sometimes...

Leroy: J.C. Watts?

That's the problem -- Steele is essentially an affirmative-action baby. Does ANYONE doubt that there is someone in the wings with more skill and intelligence to do this job? The stupids running the GOP thought of him as the anti-Obama, but that was a dumb idea.

Let's stop playing this progressive games and start rewarding ability. We should never play these identity games -- the democrats are old hands at it, and we will never ever win at their game.

I'm all for rewarding ability and it isn't like the GOP has so much talent and competence that it can afford to turn away ability and character wherever it finds them. I also don't think it makes much sense (unless all other things are well and truly equal) to look at the demographic background of the next RNC chairman as all that important.

The circumstances of Steele being chosen were strange even for a defeated unpopular party. His main opponent was caught up in some kind of whites-only club membership thing (and would have played especially badly considering the circumstances of the day), the rest of his opponents were (as I recall) the incumbent chairman of a beaten party, a recently defeated candidate for governor, and a bunch of political insiders that no one outside the most inside of political insiders and most fanatical of political junkies had ever heard of.

Steele was glib, and no doubt many on the RNC who voted for him (and his supporters in the conservative media) hoped he would give the GOP some inclusiveness cred. Even if Steele had not been an embarrassment, even if he had been merely average, those expectations would have been disappointed.

The reality is that the appointment of nonwhites to senior party positions will, in itself, do nothing to help the GOP make gains among nonwhites. The road to winning over nonwhites will be much more complicated, lengthy, and labor intensive and there are no shortcuts. That doesn't mean nonwhite candidates and operatives should not be recruited. The GOP needs all the talent it can get. It does mean that performance should be the basis for advancement and hopes of easy gains through simply appointing nonwhites to visible positions should be abandoned.

Pete, you're a fine man to be praying like that.

My point back in November was the Republicans should seriously considering voting against funding Afghanistan and generally call for a retreat from the war (maybe keeping Kabul and other forward bases) on the basis of Obama not having a workable strategy or committment to the fight, with the July 2011 withdrawal promise as exhibit A.

You talked me down from that, and I think events have sort of vindicated you--at present we have Obama and others sort of mush-talking the 2011 deadline into a non-commitment, albeit in a way too subtle for most AFGHANS to understand. And the appointment of Petreaus is a powerful fact and symbol. Reading VDH's latest on this reminded me also that retreating will look like an Islamist victory.

What we ought to be praying for at present is that Obama will actually step up and remind the American people that we are at war, that it's a worthy one, and that he's determined to win it. And, that the rules of engagement will be relaxed.

Carl, I would say I was being self-interested.

I still haven't come over to the POLICIES you advocated (far from it) but my concerns about Obama are edging closer to where yours were. I'm not confident that Obama will use his skills to communicate why winning that war is important and I fear that failure )absent major security gains in Afghanistan in the next year ) will produce enough opposition that continuing the war will be as damaging to his political prospects as withdrawal - and I don't trust his character enough to have confidence that he will continue under those circumstances. My conversations with friends and acquaintances who are only very faintly center-left (and in a very nonpartisan way) or apolitical leads me to wonder if there is potential for a medium term collapse of support for the war outside of the right. The main themes are exhaustion and even more a (I think sincere) incomprehension of the goals and stakes of the mission. These are people only the President can reach and no other politician will have as much access to the this group until the media attention that will come with the presidential election of 2012.

James Poulos has me thinking of the Second Inaugural and so I think mostly about "The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends."

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