WASHINGTON — Three top GOP senators on Sunday sharply criticized the chairman of the Republican National Committee, increasing the pressure on him to step down for implying that the war in Afghanistan is a lost cause.
The senators, led by John McCain of Arizona, the party's presidential nominee in 2008, stopped short of calling for chairman Michael Steele's resignation. But collectively their comments on the Sunday-morning TV talk shows signal agreement that many in the GOP leadership no longer support him.
Steele, speaking at a Connecticut fundraiser on Thursday, also called the nine-year war in Afghanistan begun under President George W. Bush one of President Obama's choosing. He has since sought to clarify his remarks but has not apologized. Instead he has maintained his comments were justified because Obama is focusing more on Afghanistan than the war in Iraq.
"I think those statements are wildly inaccurate, and there's no excuse for them," McCain said on ABC's "This Week." "Chairman Steele sent me an e-mail saying that... his remarks were misconstrued."
But, McCain said, "I believe we have to win. 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."
On CBS' "Face the Nation," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a former Air Force lawyer who now serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the war in Afghanistan was "America's war" and that Steele's comments were "uninformed, unnecessary, unwise."
Sen. Jim DeMint, also from South Carolina, went further on " Fox News Sunday," demanding an apology and calling on Steele to concentrate more on promoting Republican candidates in the elections this fall.