Terrorism


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…)

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Given Rudy Giuliani’s 9/11 connection and his departures (past and/or present) from G.O.P. dogma on issues like abortion and gun control, terrorism has been the central issue of his campaign so far.  Giuliani has so far largely neutralized questions about his actions in the hours and days following the World Trade Center attacks by repeatedly calling for aggressive offensive action against terrorist groups in order to head off more national tragedies.

 Until recently, Giuliani appeared determined to keep the issue of terrorism above the vicious political fray, rejecting attacks on President Clinton’s record of fighting terrorism as distracting and unhelpful.

[Last September] Giuliani defended Clinton’s record amid political bickering over which president — Clinton or George W. Bush — missed more opportunities to prevent the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The idea of trying to cast blame on President Clinton is just wrong for many, many reasons, not the least of which is I don’t think he deserves it,” Giuliani said during a stop in Florida. “I don’t think President Bush deserves it. The people who deserve blame for Sept. 11, I think we should remind ourselves, are the terrorists — the Islamic fanatics — who came here and killed us and want to come here again and do it.”

Giuliani’s rhetoric was markedly different Tuesday in comments delivered at Pat Robertson’s conservative christian Regent University, however, suggesting that former President Clinton failed to respond adequately to the 1993 WTC attack.

“Islamic terrorists killed more than 500 Americans before Sept. 11. Many people think the first attack on America was on Sept. 11, 2001. It was not. It was in 1993,” said the former New York mayor.

Giuliani argued that Clinton treated the World Trade Center bombing as a criminal act instead of a terrorist attack, calling it “a big mistake” that emboldened other strikes on the Khobar Towers housing complex in Saudi Arabia, in Kenya and Tanzania and later on the USS Cole while docked in Yemen in 2000.

“The United States government, then President Clinton, did not respond,” Giuliani said. “(Osama) bin Laden declared war on us. We didn’t hear it.”

In hindsight, Giuliani said, maybe it’s all clearer now, “but now is now, and there is no reason to go back into denial, and that is essentially what the Democratic candidates for president want to do: they want to go back, to put the country in reverse to the 1990s.”

Certainly Giuliani has every right to change his mind about Clinton’s record, but he conveniently failed to note that as Mayor of New York he may have underestimated the warning of the 1993 attack by locating his emergency command center  on the 23rd floor of a building in the WTC complex just across the street from the towers — a building that subsequently collapsed following the 9/11 attacks.

If a candidate wants to flip-flop and assign blame to somebody else, it pays to make sure one’s own record doesn’t invite charges of hypocrisy.