John McCain Adopts Barack Obama's Afghanistan Policy And No One Notices
by Todd Beeton, Wed Jul 16, 2008 at 05:16:24 PM EDT
Key to selling the Bush/McCain stay the course Iraq policy has been their insistence that Iraq is the "central front in the War on Terror." So, when Ambassador Crocker admitted in April that he was more concerned with al qaeda on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border than he was in Iraq, it shook the underpinnings of the entire rationale for staying in Iraq. That fragile facade has taken another hit this week with John McCain's admission that we do need to add troops to Afghanistan, which, not surprisingly, is a shift in position for Mr. McCain. The risk in such a shift in this case is greater than usual, however, because McCain is essentially adopting what has been Barack Obama's position for at least a year, reinforcing Obama's claim that he is the one with judgment to lead on National Security. Luckily for McCain, though, it's really only risky if the media reports it and, well, let's just say McCain hasn't lost his base, although at least The New York Times is admitting McCain's position represents a shift.
Mr. McCain said that both Iraq and Afghanistan were important battlegrounds and that the United States had the ability to fight in both places as long as it retained the will to do so. But on Tuesday, after saying for months that no additional forces were needed in Afghanistan, Mr. McCain changed course and advocated the deployment of an additional three brigades, or about 15,000 troops.
I'm not entirely sure why the Obama campaign is not shouting from the highest mountain that John McCain has adopted Obama's position on the issue but their strategy appears to be, instead, to use this latest McCain flip as an opportunity to continue the "confused" meme that they have introduced into the ether, for not only did McCain flip but his multiple strained explanations and clarifications that followed it made him look like quite the fool.
First the Obama campaign released a campaign memo yesterday that documented McCain's deep confusion (via Ambinder):
TODAY (MORNING): McCain Called for Sending Three Additional Brigades to Afghanistan and Suggests They Would Come From Iraq. According to a press release issued by the McCain campaign on Tuesday morning, McCain would announce in a speech that he now supports sending at least three additional brigades to Afghanistan: "The status quo in Afghanistan is unacceptable, and from the moment the next President walks into the Oval Office, he will face critical decisions about Afghanistan. ... John McCain Supports Sending At Least Three Additional Brigades To Afghanistan. Our commanders on the ground say they need these troops, and thanks to the success of the surge, these forces are becoming available, and our commanders in Afghanistan must get them." [McCain press release, 7/15/08]
TODAY (AFTERNOON): McCain Clarifies His Proposal On Increasing the Number of Troops, Saying They Could Come From NATO. "Speaking to reporters on his bus after today's speech, McCain indicated that he'd be open to those additional troops coming from NATO." [MSNBC, 7/15/08]
TODAY (EVEN LATER IN THE AFTERNOON): McCain Campaign Further Clarifies Proposal, Saying The Troop Increase Would Be Comprised Of Both NATO And US Forces. "McCain spokeswoman Nicolle Wallace said later that U.S. troops will compose some of the additional brigades McCain would send to Afghanistan, but not all of them. `Will we contribute? Of course we will,' she said." [Washington Post, 5/15/08]
Then there was an Obama conference call this morning during which Barack Obama's Senior foreign policy adviser, Dr. Susan Rice, flat out referred to John McCain as "confused." From HuffPo:
"Up until a few days ago, his view was that we hadn't diverted any effort and attention from Afghanistan to deal with Iraq. That there was no need for additional American forces in Afghanistan. That all, in effect, was going well," Dr. Rice said Wednesday, adding: "Yesterday, he woke up and came to the sudden conclusion that indeed Afghanistan merited more strategic focus -- something the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been saying for months -- and that we would therefore be willing to put in additional combat brigades. But then he got confused again, as to whether those needed to be American or NATO [troops] or some combination thereof."
It appears that the Obama campaign is continuing the sort of soft attack style that worked so well for him against Hillary Clinton but I agree with Rachel Maddow who said on Countdown the other night that she's afraid he's not being tough enough on McCain, especially since the media insists on giving him a pass. Josh Marshall has a must-watch video of the entire Afghanistan confusion and wonders, rightfully, where any mention in the media of the fact that John McCain, supposedly the experienced one, has now pivoted toward Barack Obama's position is.
The chirping crickets truly are deafening.