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Blog Buzz: Steele yourself for controversy

RNC chairman Michael Steele's open-mouth-insert-foot comments on the war in Afghanistan was fodder for the liberal blogs today, and it even has some notable critics on the right calling for his resignation. And today's dismal jobs numbers are ample fodder for conservatives before the holiday weekend begins.

The DNC released a clip of Steele at a fundraiser in which he calls the Afghanistan war "of Obama's choosing. This was not something the United States had 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? Because everyone who's tried, over a thousand years of history has failed," Steele continued.

After a barrage of criticism from the left and right, the RNC released a statement in which Steele seemed to try to explain his comment: “As we have learned throughout history, 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. That is why I supported the decision to increase our troop force and, like the entire United States Senate, I support General Petraeus’ confirmation. The stakes are too high for us to accept anything but success in Afghanistan.”

AMERICAblog's John Aravosis played on Steele's words. "Student of history lesson 1: Bush got us into Afghanistan. Student of history lesson 2: We didn't go in by our choosing. Al Qaeda planned the 9/11 attack from there, and then the Taliban protected them. This is just bizarre," he wrote.

Later, Aravosis simply posted a clip of the musical Avenue Q's song, "It Sucks to Be Me."

With a heavy dose of sarcasm, Balloon Juice's mistermix wrote, "Everyone knows that there was no land war in Afghanistan until 2009. Since Saddam paid for Al Qaeda’s attack on 9/11, it’s always puzzled me what Obama was doing attacking that other place."

Washington Monthly's Steve Benen excerpted RNC spokesperson Doug Heye's own explanation of Steele's words: "The responsibility for building and maintaining that strategy falls squarely on the shoulders of the President. Like so many Americans, Chairman Steele wants to hear an explanation from President Obama on what his strategy is for winning the war in Afghanistan. The Petraeus hearings were an opportunity -- a missed opportunity -- to do that. Instead, all we hear from the President is criticism of his predecessor for doing exactly the same thing.

"At the same time, Congress must stop playing politics with the war and provide the funding our troops need to win and come home."

But, Benen found, "Listening to Steele, and then reading Heye, it's hard not to notice that one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. (And given Republicans voting against funding the troops, Heye's conclusion seems rather ironic.)"

He asks some questions of Heye:

* "Steele said the war in Afghanistan is 'of Obama's choosing.' In light of reality, and the fact that the war began nearly nine years ago, what does that mean?

* Steele said the war in Afghanistan 'was not something that the United States had actively prosecuted or wanted to engage in.' Given the events since 2001, what does that mean?

* Steele said he considers it a mistake to 'engage in a land war in Afghanistan.' Does that mean he supports withdrawal? When did he reach this conclusion? Why has Steele previously suggested the exact opposite? Does he believe all of the members of his party who believe the opposite are misguided?

* Steele said there are 'ways to engage in Afghanistan without committing U.S. troops.' Can the RNC name some of the alternatives Republicans would support?

On the right, leading conservative columnist Bill Kristol called for Steele to resign as "an act of service for the country you love."

More: "At a time when Gen. Petraeus has just taken over command, when Republicans in Congress are pushing for a clean war funding resolution, when Republicans around the country are doing their best to rally their fellow citizens behind the mission, your comment is more than an embarrassment. It’s an affront, both to the honor of the Republican party and to the commitment of the soldiers fighting to accomplish the mission they’ve been asked to take on by our elected leaders."

And more: "There are, of course, those who think we should pull out of Afghanistan, and they’re certainly entitled to make their case. But one of them shouldn't be the chairman of the Republican party."

Red State's Erick Erickson joins the chorus of conservatives calling for Steele's resignation: "I have heard Michael Steele’s comments regarding Afghanistan and the President. I have read the RNC’s statement on the matter. The RNC statement is indecipherable in the context of what Michael Steele actually said. The war in Afghanistan is not a war of Barack Obama’s choosing. It is a war of Al Qaeda and the Taliban’s choosing. We responded," he wrote.

"Michael Steele must resign. He has lost all moral authority to lead the GOP," he concluded.

On the jobs report, Hot Air's Ed Morrissey ridiculed what he characterized as Obama's attempt to squeeze good news out of today's announcement of a 125,000-job drop in employment, which reminded him of Chip Diller, the iconic "all is well! all is well!" character in Animal House.

Morrissey wrote, "Don’t worry, Obama told the cameras; we’re heading in the right direction! In that sense, Obama may remind viewers of another famous declaration that people should remain calm."

More, on Obama's specific policy announcement today: "How unserious was this announcement? Obama used it to launch his broadband initiative, which will cost almost $800 million and which will create … five thousand jobs. That’s $160,000 per job, but that’s not the most ridiculous calculation in this announcement. In the past month, we had over 650,000 people leave the work force, which is around 130 times the number of jobs Obama offered as a tonic for this month’s report.

And notice that President Chip Diller never mentions that factory orders fell off for the first time in nine months, back to a low not seen since shortly after Obama’s stimulus plan passed. How’s that for 'the right direction?'"

NRO's Jim Geraghty also lambasted the "right direction" concept, citing a "jarring" statistic: the amount of unemployed people no longer searching for a job. "In June 2009, the unemployment rate was 9.5 percent, just as it was in June 2010. However, a year ago, the civilian labor force was 154,759,000, and now it is 153,741,000," he pointed out.

"In other words, 1.018 million people have dropped out of the labor force. The good news is that the country will be back to a relatively normal jobless rate of 6 percent once another 5.39 million of the unemployed stop looking for work. Naturally, President Obama cites the report as another sign “we’re headed in the right direction," he concluded.

Red State's Moe Lane noted that while 225,000 census jobs came to an end this month, which contributed to the overall decline in payroll employment, May's 431,000-job gain was also census driven.

"We’re just at the end of that particular necessary, but strictly limited, exercise in government spending. So, how is that Keynesian economics thing working out for people, anyway? - Because where I’m sitting it seems to be roughly equivalent right now to revving the engine when the car’s set to neutral," he commented.