Context We Can Believe In

Let's go back to exactly what McCain said this morning on the Today Show:

    Q: A lot of people now say the surge is working.

    McCAIN: Anyone who knows the facts on the ground say that.

    Q: If it's working, senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

    McCAIN: No, but that's not too important. What's important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That's all fine.

Right now, there are two bogus attempts to spin McCain's comments.

The first comes from McCain adviser Randy Scheunemann, who posits that McCain actually meant that having an estimate of when the troops come home is what McCain thinks isn't too important, not the larger issue of when the troops come home. Lieberman agreed, saying "the question was about an estimate." Either way, I'm not sure there's all that much daylight between this interpretation and the original take. When you're the President of the United States leading the military, isn't not having any estimate essentially just as bad? And anyway, we know from McCain's flippant "maybe a hundred" comment in the past that this spin is a dud - McCain has consistently tried to pretend our number of casualties is somehow largely divorced from how long we stay.

The second type of spin is almost worse. Marc Ambinder buys it wholesale. He complains:

Democrats and allies are jumping on John McCain for telling NBC's Matt Lauer that "it's not important" when troops return from Iraq. Period. There's no because. There's almost never a because when one side seizes on the comments of another. The context makes it clear that McCain is reiterating his position that the presence of troops isn't the issue; instead, it's the casualties they receive. The differences between McCain and Obama are clear enough; Obama wants a bare-bones U.S. presence in Iraq, and McCain is willing to tolerate a much larger one; Obama believes that the presence of U.S. troops exacerbates the tension and gives Iraqis a crutch to delay political reconcilliation. McCain does not. One would think that those differences are a sufficient basis upon which to launch a political attack. Instead, though, in a conference call with reporters, in remarks by Democrats like Joe Biden, in a blistering statement by Rep. Rahm Emanuel, McCain is being portrayed as, inter alia, not caring one whit about casualties and deaths and chaos and certainly not about the families of troops who dealt with deployment after deployment.

This brings me back to the days when conservatives tried to argue that Social Security was in crisis. The press created a false equality, assuming that both Democratic and Republican positions on Social Security were subjective opinions with no real objective truths.

Now granted, Iraq isn't knowable like the Social Security trust fund estimates.

But Ambinder says "Obama believes that the presence of U.S. troops exacerbates the tension and gives Iraqis a crutch to delay political reconcilliation. McCain does not. One would think that those differences are a sufficient basis upon which to launch a political attack."

Oddly, that's exactly what this is about, but some seem unwilling to accept that there is a large body of evidence supporting only one side of that argument - that how long we stay will, almost without question, be in at least some way tied to how many casualties we suffer. And therefore, it matters quite a great deal.

Hertzberg deconstructed this perfectly back in January:

McCain wants to stay in Iraq until no more Americans are getting killed, no matter how long it takes and how many Americans get killed achieving that goal--that is, the goal of not getting any more Americans killed. And once that goal is achieved, we'll stay.

Just because McCain says something is possible doesn't mean it is (see: Iraqi market, peaceful stroll through). If there's a known path from our current state in Iraq to peace without US casualties, I haven't heard it. And once you accept that a Japan or Korea-like presence is actually impossible in Iraq, the total disconnect McCain tries to create between how long we stay and how many casualties we suffer becomes illogical. And the criticism of it becomes perfectly in context.

Although then we'd lose our false equality, and one person would be right and the other wrong. And I suppose we can't have that.

Tags: Election 08, Iraq, John McCain (all tags)



Re: Context We Can Believe In

Anyone know if there anything to these reports that Howard Dean is trying to remove Hillary's name from the ballot at the convention?

by Bill Dupray 2008-06-11 01:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In
Nice of you to promote your blog in an off topic post on a front page diary.
That's what open threads are for, in case you didn't know.
by skohayes 2008-06-11 02:06PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

I see Lieberfairy is still drifting down out of the sky to tell us what John really meant.

by JustJennifer 2008-06-11 01:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

The 'straight gaffe express' seems to roll through town pretty regularly about once a week.  This ought to keep some portion of his staff preoccupied through November.  Looks like Mark Halperin has taken notice of Obama's rapid response strategy, too.  Good for us.

by Shaun Appleby 2008-06-11 02:09PM | 0 recs
This is going to be great. So many

opportunities, so little time. We have more than a few scores to settle - a little payback does the body good. Remember "flip-flopper, "I invented the internet," those obnoxious purple band-aids. Yep, break out the pop-corn, grab a front row seat, this is going to be good. If McCain wants to throw us red meat, we ought to make hamburgers, to go with our popcorn.

by Rumarhazzit 2008-06-11 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

Who is doing the spinning here? It is clear that McCain meant if they aren't being killed they can continue to stay ie his examples are South Korea , Japan and Germany. You guys are really grasping at straws here. There are plenty of differences between the democrats and McCain you don't have to lie. Gee what does this remind me of? Oh yeah repugs.

by Bornagaindem 2008-06-11 02:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

But do you think an occupation like Japan is possible? And have you seen a McCain plan to get there?

by Josh Orton 2008-06-11 03:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

Yeah, we weren't exactly staving off a civil war in Japan and Korea.

I think you're read on this is pretty accurate, Josh.

by ArkansasLib 2008-06-11 03:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

First of all, the difference between Japan and South Korea is enormous.  In one (Japan), we started off by occupying a defeated power, stayed to ensure the kind of transition that we wanted, and then stayed to bolster our international power.  In the other (South Korea), we stayed to protect against a threat from the other side of a civil war (and also to bolster our international power).

Iraq is very different than either country.  But, yes, I think a long-term peaceful military presence in Iraq is possible.  For example, let's say that the Kurds invite us to establish a long-term military base in their territory, and the national Iraqi government accedes to that request.  I could see us having one or more military bases on Kurdish territory that do not involve any U.S. casualties and have a desirable impact (helping train Kurdish forces, deterring outside forces from attacking the Kurds, etc.).

by markjay 2008-06-11 04:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

Kurdistan? Sure. US military presence there is pretty uncontroversial. But non-Kurdish Iraq is another matter. Note the anger with which even pro-US Iraqi politicians treat permanent bases. It's a terrible idea. At least half the country will want to kill Americans if we stay there permanently.

by elrod 2008-06-11 04:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

That was not the purpose of your post ie to ask what is McCain's plan. And no he hasn't presented one.

However, I would have said several months ago that it was not possible to continue the occupation unfortunately things have gotten better there much to our chagrin (though a great thing for our troops). It was clear that Rumsfeld's biggest mistake was not to have enough troops to keep the peace and things got way out of hand (scratch that-second biggest mistake since the first was to invade in the first place). Today we seem to have just enough to keep the lid on. The problem is that we can't maintain this level of troops without a draft.

And then there is Muqtada al Sadr, who seems to be playing his cards right and just biding his time,  not taking a chance that the americans will wipe him out before they leave.  If we move out- then he will move in with his army and we will have another shia theocracy this time in Iraq.

by Bornagaindem 2008-06-11 08:14PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

Look, you're the one doing the bamboozling here.  When someone says "you've said the troops should be withdrawn" they are creating the impression that he wants to pull everybody out tomorrow, and the piece you quoted from Obama's website makes it clear that things are more complex than that.  When Obama rejects that frame, he's rejecting a generalization.  I would be interested in seeing what he said AFTER the "quoted" exchange you have presented, and I'd just bet it was a clarifying statement.

Of course, then you wouldn't have anything to complain about, so I can see why you'd have to ignore it.

by ArkansasLib 2008-06-11 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

"NOT TOO IMPORTANT".  This is an incredible statement, and McCain's disregard for Americans serving in Iraq couldn't be more plain.

However the leading story in MSM sites I just checked:

"Obama vetter steps down" (or some similar horse poo).

No mention of McCain's NOT TOO IMPORTANT comment on MSNBC (despite it having been made on NBC's Today),, or AP's website. Tiny little item on ABC's website. Reuters gives it a decent amount of space.

Not sure how much emails dent the MSM's flacid reporting and false equivocating, but I fired off a few missives to the sites mentioned above telling them to get on the ball.

by Thuja 2008-06-11 03:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In
I think McCain's comments should be blasted as being divorced from reality, as you're doing Josh, but I think your main criticism isn't what should be the main criticism.  The real problem with McCain's comments, and with his Iraq policy more generally, is that he focuses on a reduction in violence without establishing any other substantive goal.  Sure there's some vague talk of "political reconciliation" but that goal is neither truly articulated nor taken into account when vacuous inanities such as "the surge is working" are uttered.
    McCain compares his ideal situation to Korea, Germany, and Japan without acknowledging that these situations are totally different, both in the number of troops we currently have in those countries in comparison to Iraq and in the fact that our heavy presence in Iraq is undermining our interests in fighting terrorism and achieving our objectives with regard to Iran.  No casualties is both an impossibility as Josh suggests, but even if it were possible, McCain refuses to recognize or admit that our presence in Iraq is undermining important US foreign policy objectives.
by wjr24 2008-06-11 04:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Coldhearted Truth

More American Forces (God bless them and their families)will die in Iraq because of Americans (mostly rural whites) that continue to vote for Republicans.  Most of these same people will not vote for Obama simply because of racial hatred.  So until they have suffered enough whether it be financially or God forbid they loose a family member over there, then they will say enough is enough and support the democratic party that wants to help their families. Until family members of soldiers start voting for Democrats at a higher level there will continue to be American deaths in Iraq.  If you were to poll Americans and ask them should 95% of American Forces be pulled out of Iraq over the next 16 months? I would bet everything I HAVE that 75% of them would say YES.  Especially if Americans new that we were spending 3 billion a week there.  McCain doesn't care if troops die in Iraq, and that's pretty sick.

by nzubechukwu 2008-06-11 04:16PM | 0 recs
Context We Can Believe In

Hertzberg put it so well.  The logic behind this argument is perplexing as is the fact that McCain made it this far with some many gaffes.  The guy is just lofty and lofty equals dangerous.

by venavena 2008-06-11 04:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

He's BEYOND dangerous. And what's so slick about him is he will laugh it up with Elen Degineris then turn around and say "we will have more wars."

by nzubechukwu 2008-06-11 04:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

does McCain have an estimate as to when troops will stop getting killed?  

by KLRinLA 2008-06-11 04:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Context We Can Believe In

Let's be honest here:  he's saying HIS ESTIMATE is not that important.  An estimate is only a guess.

Let's not make a mountain out of a mole hill -- it makes Democrats look desperate.

by nobarryo 2008-06-11 06:49PM | 0 recs
Keep Needling

You know, at this point in time, screw context.  As long as we stay away from hysteria (and desperation), I say we pile on McCain for every real and out of context gaffe we can find.

I say we keep needling him on every little thing we can and get his temper and gumption up.  Lets keep showing the electorate that this guy is a crazy old coot who shouldnt have his finger anywhere near 'the button'.

So Im willing to put up with a little out of context slamming of McCain (again, as long as its not hsyerical hissy fit kind of stuff) that keeps him on his back foot and gets him riled up.

I just wish we could start getting his goat on the economy like we do on Iraq.  In the end, the dumber he looks on the economy and the angrier he gets about being labelled 'Boosh 2 Electirc Boogaloo' the better off we are.

by pattonbt 2008-06-11 09:14PM | 0 recs


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