It has been an extraordinarily bad week for John McCain, what with his interest in Sarah Palin’s boobs apparently keeping him from being sufficiently aware of the “fundamental soundness” of the economy…but luckily for McCain, the news cycle turns; and a hotel bombing in Pakistan might be the opening his campaign thinks it needs.
With that in mind, expect the next week leading up to Friday’s Presidential debate to be full of references to McCain’s favorite subject…“the transcendent challenge of our time—Islamofascism”…or something eerily similar.
His campaign is convinced this is the strongest place for him to make his argument for election—but what if it is not?
As we anticipate what is coming next from McCain, let’s remind ourselves just how much of a foreign policy expert McCain really is—and let’s do it using McCain’s own words.
McCain likes to talk about how he was the most vocal critic of the war…until January 2007, when Mr. Bush finally listened to McCain and adopted The Surge.
It’s a great story…and if it were true it would be even better.
“…I’ll teach you to kick me!”
“I don’t need you to teach me.
I already know how.”
–Edgar Kennedy and Chico Marx in “Duck Soup”
Now I’m not as expert-y as John McCain, but here’s what I told my friends before the war started:
Try to imagine if the UK decided that our government had gone completely crazy, and that for our own good we needed their troops to remove our government and temporarily occupy the US until we could get ourselves back on the right track.
No matter how crazy our government had actually become, the instant that news was broadcast in this country it would become the biggest hunting season you ever saw on the beaches of New England, with millions of heavily armed Americans converging on the invading forces.
What makes you think Iraqis would act any differently?
McCain, the expert, was certain that Iraqis wouldn’t even fight…and he obviously never expected an insurgency:
“Look, we’re going to send young men and women in harm’s way and that’s always a great danger, but I cannot believe that there is an Iraqi soldier who is going to be willing to die for Saddam Hussein, particularly since he will know that our objective is to remove Saddam Hussein from power.”
–John McCain on “Face the Nation”, September 15, 2002
And although he denies it now, during the runup to the war he wasn’t complaining about the number of troops to be deployed:
“But the fact is, I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past. But any military man worth his salt is going to have to prepare for any contingency, but I don’t believe it’s going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991.”
–John McCain on “Face the Nation”, September 15, 2002
When Robert Byrd questioned the logic of the war on the floor of the Senate, McCain rose to respond: “…when the people of Iraq are liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America.”
McCain was also very comfortable with how things were going…at first:
“I have no qualms about our strategic plans. I thought we were very successful in Afghanistan…”
–John McCain, in an editorial he wrote for the Hartford Courant, March 5, 2003
“It’s clear that the end is very much in sight. … It won’t be long…it’ll be a fairly short period of time.”
–John McCain on ABC, April 9, 2003
NEIL CAVUTO: Senator — after a conflict means after the conflict, and many argue the conflict isn’t over.
McCAIN: Well, then why was there a banner that said mission accomplished on the aircraft carrier?
Later in 2003, despite being a self-described critic of the war, he remained certain we were on the right track:
“Let there be no doubt: victory can be our only exit strategy. We are winning in Iraq.”
–John McCain, speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations, November 5, 2003
Al-Qaeda supporters are Sunni; Iranians are predominantly Shi’a.
That makes it highly unlikely that Iranians are training Al-Qaeda insurgents.
I know that, you probably know that, Joe Lieberman knows that…but for some reason John McCain…the foreign policy expert…can’t seem to remember which is which…and now he doesn’t have Lieberman standing at his shoulder to set him straight.
Of course, we are told, that was just a “senior moment”.
“…The last man nearly ruined this place,
He didn’t know what to do with it;
If you think this country’s bad off now,
Just wait’ll I get through with it “
–Groucho Marx as Rufus T. Firefly in “Duck Soup”
One way to be right about an issue is to take both sides of the same argument; and this is a technique McCain employs on a regular basis.
An example? McCain was confident in the Bush Administration’s team in September of 2004…
“I think he [President Bush] strengthened our national defenses. I think he has a good team around him.”
—John McCain, September 3, 2004
…but three months later, describing his feelings about then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on MSNBC, McCain gave this assessment:
“I said no. My answer is still no. No confidence.”
–John McCain, December 15, 2004
You may recall McCain said we could stay in Iraq for a hundred years…but you may not recall that in February of 2003, roughly a month before we went in, he said we can’t—and he said it as a way to justify the invasion:
“We cannot keep our forces indefinitely staged in the region. Were we to attempt again to contain Saddam, we would eventually have to withdraw them. The world is full of dangers and, more likely than not, we will need some of those brave men and women to face them down.”
You used to be able to see the original quote on John McCain’s Senate website…but for some reason the record is today “inaccessible”. (Big thanks to the PERRspectives Blog for grabbing the quote.)
And for those who think McCain might finally have his diplomatic act together…ummmm…despite his saying he knows the leaders of Latin America (and that Obama doesn’t), Spain is not Venezuela, it is not in Latin America—and they’re our friends.
Let’s sum all this up:
It is more likely than not that McCain will attempt to use the Pakistan bombing this week to position himself as the candidate who has the judgment required to keep America safe from “noun, verb, transcendent challenge”.
This is an opportunity for us, however, to remind voters that the real McCain record has not been one that inspires confidence in his leadership…that he really doesn’t know what he’s talking about much of the time…and that we can’t afford another 50 years of this, or a hundred—or a million.
McCain will take jabs at the truth this week…and it is our job to meet those jabs with parries of our own—and then to follow up with counterstrikes of reality, using his own record to knock back his attacks.
Now get out there, Gentle Reader…and let’s win this thing.