Observations on the world today.

Friday, May 02, 2008

McCain and the 100 Year Comment 

John McCain is upset over an ad MoveOn.org is running which is critical of McCain for a comment he made in a town hall meeting. In the meeting, a questioner asked him how he felt about the idea that Bush was saying we might have to remain in Iraq for 50 years. McCain replied, "Maybe a hundred." He then goes on to say that we've been in Japan for 60 years and we've been in Korea for over 50. He then says it's okay with him so long as our soldiers are not being hurt or killed.

The ad makes light of McCain's remark removing the full context and concentrating on only the "Maybe 100" part. The question is - is this fair?

I'm of two opinions.

First, I remember the 2004 Kerry campaign and the swiftboaters who declared that Kerry was "before funding the war before he was against it" to play up their flip-flopper meme. Of course, a nuanced examination of what Kerry had said in context showed clearly that he had one position the whole time. He favored funding the war, but not adding the cost to the deficit and his votes had been consistent with this position.

McCain's remarks have a similar nuance when read in context. He favors maintaining a presence in Iraq similar to the support roles we play in Japan and Korea. He even suggests that this opinion is subject to the caveat that our men are not being hurt or killed. If what happened to Kerry was wrong, how is this different?

Short answer - it's not. It's the same thing. It was wrong then and it's wrong now.

In 2004, I don't know that McCain ever stood up against the ads noting Kerry's out of context for/before/against comment. I do know that McCain asked Bush to repudiate another out of context ad where the Swiftboaters called Kerry a traitor. Ironically, I haven't heard him renounce ads calling Obama an elitist and I have seen McCain defend his own Hagee endorsement right after hypocritically challenging Obama to repudiate his Wright relationship. (Obama has - by the way. McCain still is happy to have Hagee's endorsement.)

So do I feel bad that McCain's remarks are being taken slightly out of context? Not really. Here's why.

His actual position is stupid. Japan and Korea are not possible models for a sustained presence in Iraq. In both of those situations we are there as a result of a peace accord and a truce respectively. Japan is at peace with the US and in fact requires our presence for their own defense. It's a symbiosis. Korea is partitioned and we have lost fewer than 100 men in isolated border flare ups in our 50+ years there. There will be no partitioning in Iraq, no sense of national reconciliation, no support role for the US ever. There can be no truce because the enemy is not a political entity. The idea is stupid on its face. Explaining this in a 30 second tv spot, however, is not doable.

McCain made the comment, and failed to make it attack proof. When the questioner said that Bush was talking about our remaining in Iraq for 50 years, McCain could have said, "In a support role, not as an occupying force. If and when we get to that stage, I also support the idea. It's worked in Japan and it's worked in Korea and to some degree in Germany. That's what we have to work for, and when we get there, I'll support our remaining in a support role for as long as it takes." He could have said that. He didn't. Now he's paying the price. Boo hoo.

Here's a video I made on the subject.

ADDING: McCain actually has made this and similar statements before, and sometimes the nuance is not there. Sometimes, he just says he's okay being there for a long long time.

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