The River

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain’s confusion on Iraq goes from embarrassing to scandalous

The Carpetbagger Report
Posted July 23rd, 2008 at 8:10 am

It doesn’t much matter what the root cause of John McCain’s confusion is. Maybe he’s confused because he’s old. Perhaps he’s pretending to be confused to impress the Republican base. It’s possible he’s confused because he just isn’t the sharpest crayon in the box. I don’t know, and frankly, don’t much care.

Whatever the source, the bottom line remains the same: when it comes to Iraq, John McCain is hopelessly incoherent about the basics. To be sure, geo-political crises can be complicated, but McCain isn’t flubbing policy minutiae at an advanced seminar on foreign policy. As of yesterday, he doesn’t seem to even know what the surge is.

Kate Couric: Senator McCain, Senator Obama says, while the increased number of US troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

McCain: I don’t know how you respond to something that is as– such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history.

Remember, according to McCain, he’s an expert on foreign policy. The basis of his entire presidential campaign is his ability to handle matters like the war in Iraq, and the notion that his unparalleled expertise makes him uniquely qualified.

Except the man is shockingly confused, and embarrasses himself more and more with each passing day.

These comments to Couric may be the single most striking mistake any presidential candidate has made in years. In 1976, Gerald Ford said, during a nationally televised debate, “There is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe.” It was a bizarre error that contributed greatly to his defeat.

And McCain not understanding what the basics of the surge is at least as dramatic.

The surge has, after all, become the raison d’etre of McCain’s entire presidential campaign. Why would he announce his belief that the surge prompted the Anbar Awakening? McCain wasn’t on the campaign trail in late 2006 and early 2007. He was in the Senate, presumably paying attention to current events, and helping push the Bush administration’s policy.

As has become far too common lately, McCain has the entire story backwards.

In 2006, Gen. Sean MacFarland, the commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, explained in September 2006 — months before Bush even decided to launch the surge — that the Awakening was already underway.

Spencer Ackerman, noting MacFarland’s remarks, added, “For McCain to say that the Anbar Awakening is the product of the surge is either a lie or professional malpractice for a presidential candidate who is staking his election on his allegedly superior Iraq judgment.”


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