Iraq


Many observers of the 2008 run for the White House view John McCain’s support of the Iraq War as the Senator’s biggest liability and why he could likely lose the Republican presidential nomination. However, in response to criticism that he was one of the war’s biggest supporters, McCain recently told Kiran Chetry, host of CNN’s American Morning, that, 

“…I was the greatest critic of the initial four years, three and a half years. I came back from my first trip to Iraq and said, ‘This is going to fail. We’ve got to change the strategy to the one we’re using now.'”

In the early stages of the war, however, McCain painted a fairly different picture on numerous occasions.

He told then Today Show host Katie Couric on March 20, 2003, “But I believe, Katie, that the Iraqi people will greet us as liberators.” Earlier that month on March 7th, he told ABC’s This Week, “I’m confident we’re on the right course. … I am confident that an imperfect democracy is what we’ll get out of Iraq will be vastly superior to what the people of Iraq had prior to this.” Eight months later on October 31, McCain told CBS News, “I think the initial phases of it [the war] were so spectacularly successful that it took us all by surprise.”  On the September 21, 2004, McCain further asserted on MSNBC’s Hardball, “Have mistakes been made? Yes. But the necessity of winning, I believe, is overwhelming. And I think that President Bush is presenting a clear picture of the benefits of success and the consequences of failure.” And on December 8, 2005, McCain told The Hill, “I do think that progress is being made in a lot of Iraq. Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course. If I thought we weren’t making progress, I’d be despondent.”

Senator McCain has claimed for some time that he was initially critical of President Bush. A February 22, 2007 Los Angeles Times article discussed that, “McCain said his criticism started three years ago ‘when I saw that this train wreck was taking place, and that we needed more troops, and we needed a different strategy.'” Click to read the full text of the article. (more…)

At last year’s Take Back America meeting of liberal activists, the New York Times described the reception of Hillary Clinton,

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, faced boos and shouts of ‘bring them home’ from an audience of liberal Democrats here on Tuesday as she argued against setting a deadline, wading into what she called a ‘difficult conversation.’

At last year’s conference she said,

“I don’t think it’s in the best interests of our troops or our country [to withdraw troops from Iraq],”

At this year’s meeting she said,

“I have been saying for some time that we need to bring our combat troops home from Iraq starting right now.”

In a piece by NBC’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Andrea Mitchell, on this morning’s today show, NBC News political analyst Charlie Cook said,

“You can see that Clinton’s position has shifted increasingly against the war and at about the same timetable as public opinion has moved over.”

Mitchell’s piece goes on to discuss the entire Democratic Party’s increasing move to the left over opposition to the war.

To check out Mitchell’s entire story, look for Today Show video “Democrats Swinging Too Far Left?”

Concerning the recent vote on funding for the war in Iraq, Giuliani has lobbed the dreaded f-word over in Obama’s direction. Giuliani contends that Obama made, in his words, “quite a significant flip flop” when it came to Obama’s stance on the Iraq funding bill. With Giuliani’s flip-flop accusation, the other Republican candidates have taken the opportunity join in the Obama criticism:

McCain calls Obama’s stance “the policy of surrender”

Romney has called Obama’s actions “abandon[ing] principle in favor of political positioning”

And Giuliani continued about Obama and his fellow Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, “They’ve gone from an anti-war position to an anti-military, anti-troops position”

So it’s worth examining: is this vote by Obama a flip flop? Was a vote against the funding bill incompatible with a position in favor of supporting the troops and his previous votes for war appropriations bills? That’s the allegation that the Republican candidates have laid down. Let’s see if it’s a valid and legitimate point or a baseless and partisan attack.

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If there’s one issue upon which Rudy Giuliani hasn’t really been accused of flip-flopping or distorting his record, it’s terrorism and national security — though some critics have suggested that Giuliani’s shifts on immigration represent waffling on a national security issue.  Considering that Rudy’s reputation as the tough and decisive ‘America’s Mayor’ following the events of 9/11 is the foundation of his presidential campaign, the Giuliani camp has been more than willing to aggressively play the terrorism card.

In the first Republican debate, for instance, Giuliani tore into fellow candidate Ron Paul (R-Tx) for suggesting the U.S. claim a portion of the ultimate responsibility for 9/11.

Ron Paul: ‘”Have you ever read the reasons they attacked us?  They attack us because we’ve been over there; we’ve been bombing Iraq for 10 years and we’ve been in the Middle East.  I think Reagan was right: we don’t understand the irrationality of middle eastern politics… We need to look at what we do from the perspective from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.”

Moderator: “Are you suggesting we brought on the 9/11 attacks, sir?”

Ron Paul: “I’m suggesting that we listen to the people that attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we’re over there because Osama Bin Laden has said ‘I am glad you’re over on our sand because we can target you so much easier.’  They’ve already now since that time have killed 3400 of our men and I don’t think it was necessary.”

Giuliani: “Would you allow me to comment on that?  That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived though the attack of September 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard that before and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for September 11th.”

[APPLAUSE]

Giuliani: “And I would ask the Congressman to withdraw that comment and tell us that he didn’t really mean that.”

Moderator: “Congressman?”

Ron Paul: “I believe very sincerely that the CIA is correct when they teach and talk about ‘blowback.’  When we went into Iran in 1953 and installed the Shah, yes there was blowback.  The reaction to that was the taking of our hostages.  And that persists.  And if we ignore that, we ignore that at our own risk.  If we think that we can do what we want around the world and not incite hatred, then we have a problem.  They don’t come here to attack us because we’re rich and we’re free, they attack us because we’re over there.  I mean, what would we think if other countries were doing that to us?”

According to most media pundits, Giuliani won the debate, though Ron Paul’s popularity on the internet and conservative talk radio skyrocketed.  The Giuliani campaign has reiterated its position again recently in response to John Edwards’ characterization of the ‘War on Terror’ as a “bumper sticker” term with no real content.  Like Hillary Clinton, Rudy out of conviction or determination to appear tough has decided to maintain that the ‘War on Terror’ has been at least philosophically successful so far, with problems emerging purely from logistics.  Clinton and Giuliani’s gamble assumes that not very many voters in either party have decided otherwise.

So Giuliani is endorsing a stance of steely offensive resolve and swift and decisive forceful action against terrorists over seeking to understand the enemy and their grievances.  If candidate consistency were only based on their rhetoric, then Rudy would be in the clear.  But is his rhetoric consistent with fact?

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The New York Times ran an article yesterday about the importance of authenticity in this year’s presidential race. The Times writes,

“Democrats cast themselves as courageous truth-tellers in their presidential debate Sunday night. Republicans debating Tuesday night might make the same claim. But if recent history is a guide, both fields will be bereft of authentic authenticity…

‘I think we’re living in a post-Bush world where authenticity is going to rule the day,’ said Republican strategist Scott Reed, who ran Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. ”Everybody has had it with the whistling, don’t-worry-be-happy song and is looking for some real straight talk and some authenticity. Actions have consequences.”

John McCain learned that lesson. Some of his own advisers say the Arizona senator damaged his straight-talking image by bending over backward to appease conservative interests groups that dominate the GOP nomination fight.”

Senator Hillary Clinton voted against the almost $100 billion bill for funding in Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday. Both Senator Obama and she were undecided until it got down to the wire over fears that a “yes” vote alienate anti-war Democrats, who are vital primary voters. A “no” vote would bring charges of abandoning the troops and as NBC’s Chip Reid discussed on this morning’s Today Show, it would also bring charges of a flip-flop for Clinton–Clinton voted for the war and then against funding it, similarly to John Kerry voting for the $87 billion funding measure before he voted against it.

The AP ran a story today about John McCain’s recent criticism of Mitt Romney’s immigration policy.

“Republican John McCain accused presidential rival Mitt Romney of flip-flopping on immigration Monday and said with sarcasm: ‘Maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn.'”

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