Obama seems to have a problem with recognizing reality, whether about Iraq or Afghanistan. And McCain weighs in. MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about the future -- let me talk the future about Iraq, . . . . You both have pledged the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. You both have said you'd keep a residual force there to protect our embassy, to seek out al Qaeda, to neutralize Iran. . . . There are several points raised in this exchange, but first, the McCain response and Obama's reply: McCain . . . suggested his anti-war colleague’s response was either naive or uninformed. This really encapsulates Obama's argument against prosecution of the war in Iraq. Whether al Qaeda was present in Iraq prior to the downfall of Hussein is at least arguable. What is not arguable is that Iraq made it the central front in their war on the West by 2005. I find it fascinating that Obama, whose campaign asks America to not dwell on the past but look to the future, is stuck in 2003 when it comes to Iraq. I've talked before about the sheer sophistry of his line of argument and the catastrophic costs of leaving Iraq before it is a stable state. See here. McCain needs to move the debate onto this latter issue.
This was Obama answering questions from Tim Russert last night during the Ohio debate:
SEN. OBAMA: . . . Now, I think that we can be in a partnership with Iraq to ensure the stability and the safety of the region, to ensure the safety of Iraqis and to meet our national security interests.
But in order to do that, we have to send a clear signal to the Iraqi government that we are not going to be there permanently, which is why I have said that as soon as I take office, I will call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we will initiate a phased withdrawal, we will be as careful getting out as we were careless getting in. We will give ample time for them to stand up, to negotiate the kinds of agreements that will arrive at the political accommodations that are needed. We will provide them continued support. But it is important for us not to be held hostage by the Iraqi government in a policy that has not made us more safe, that's distracting us from Afghanistan, and is costing us dearly, not only and most importantly in the lost lives of our troops, but also the amount of money that we are spending that is unsustainable and will prevent us from engaging in the kinds of investments in America that will make us more competitive and more safe. . . .
MR. RUSSERT: I want to ask both of you this question, then. If we -- if this scenario plays out and the Americans get out in total and al Qaeda resurges and Iraq goes to hell, do you hold the right, in your mind as American president, to re-invade, to go back into Iraq to stabilize it?
SEN. CLINTON: You know, Tim, you ask a lot of hypotheticals. And I believe that what's --
MR. RUSSERT: But this is reality.
SEN. CLINTON: . . . . But I also have heard Senator Obama refer continually to Afghanistan, and he references being on the Foreign Relations Committee. He chairs the Subcommittee on Europe. It has jurisdiction over NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan. He's held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan.
You have to look at the entire situation to try to figure out how we can stabilize Afghanistan and begin to put more in there to try to get some kind of success out of it, and you have to work with the Iraqi government so that they take responsibility for their own future. . . .
SEN. OBAMA: Well, first of all, I became chairman of this committee at the beginning of this campaign, at the beginning of 2007. So it is true that we haven't had oversight hearings on Afghanistan.
I have been very clear in talking to the American people about what I would do with respect to Afghanistan.
I think we have to have more troops there to bolster the NATO effort. I think we have to show that we are not maintaining permanent bases in Iraq because Secretary Gates, our current Defense secretary, indicated that we are getting resistance from our allies to put more troops into Afghanistan because they continue to believe that we made a blunder in Iraq and I think even this administration acknowledges now that they are hampered now in doing what we need to do in Afghanistan in part because of what's happened in Iraq.
Now, I always reserve the right for the president -- as commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad. So that is true, I think, not just in Iraq, but that's true in other places. That's part of my argument with respect to Pakistan. . . .
“When you examine that statement, it’s pretty remarkable,” McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas.
“I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. It’s called ‘Al Qaeda in Iraq,”‘ McCain said, drawing laughter at Obama’s expense.
The dig triggered a back-and-forth that continued long-distance through much of the day.
Obama quickly answered back, telling a crowd at Ohio State University in Columbus, “I do know that Al Qaeda is in Iraq.”
“McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying ‘Well let me give you some news Barack, Al Qaeda is in Iraq,’ like I wasn’t reading the papers,” he said. “But I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as Al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq.” . . .
And Obama's testimony raises two other points. As the chairman of Foreign Policy Subcommittee on Europe, Obama has much to answer for as regards NATO. And Clinton was absolutely on target to hammer him on this, though she should have said much more.
Afghanistan is in large measure a mess because NATO is an absolute travesty. The European nations other than Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands have refused to provide combat soldiers. They have been content to let our soldiers and the soldiers of a few other nations do all of the fighting. Obama's assertion that this failure on the part of the European nations is because they think we made a mistake going into Iraq is insane. It doesn't take much reading of Der Spiegel's articles on Germany's debate on Afghanistan, to come away with the knowlege that Obama's Iraq argument is pure bull. Further, for Obama, as the European Subcommittee Chairman, to try and claim that his argument mimics that of Sec. of Defense Gates - whom you can read here - is ridiculous.
One, what the hell has Obama been doing while NATO is falling apart? This is not a new issue - its been clearly known since before Obama took over the chairmanship of his subcommittee in 2007. The problem with NATO is not Iraq, and its pretty clear that Obama has been no part of an attempt at a solution. This is a critical issue that the next commander in chief must address - yet Obama has apparently avoided it like the plague.
And are we seeing a very troubling pattern in Obama's veracity. There is certainly a huge gap between Obama's soaring rhetoric and the reality of his record. But of late, when he starts to get into specifics about Iraq and Afghanistan, his points equally lack any veracity. One can perhaps excuse Obama's bombast that the Anbar Awakening only came about because of the Democrat's victory in 2006. But the most recent examples above and Obama's recent ludicrous claims regarding a an anonymous captain in Afghanistan are very troubling indeed. Either someone was lying to Obama about the Captain and Obama bought it, or Obama has no problems with making things up as he goes along his divine path. The former suggests naïveté, the latter malignancy. In consideration of all of the above, I am on the knife's edge of no longer giving him the benefit of the doubt as to which it might be.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me talk about the future -- let me talk the future about Iraq, . . . . You both have pledged the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. You both have said you'd keep a residual force there to protect our embassy, to seek out al Qaeda, to neutralize Iran. . . .
There are several points raised in this exchange, but first, the McCain response and Obama's reply:
McCain . . . suggested his anti-war colleague’s response was either naive or uninformed.
This really encapsulates Obama's argument against prosecution of the war in Iraq. Whether al Qaeda was present in Iraq prior to the downfall of Hussein is at least arguable. What is not arguable is that Iraq made it the central front in their war on the West by 2005. I find it fascinating that Obama, whose campaign asks America to not dwell on the past but look to the future, is stuck in 2003 when it comes to Iraq. I've talked before about the sheer sophistry of his line of argument and the catastrophic costs of leaving Iraq before it is a stable state. See here. McCain needs to move the debate onto this latter issue.