Tuesday, April 03, 2007

# Posted 11:27 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

McCAIN VS. DUKAKIS : Occasionally, my day job gets in the way of blogging. For example, this morning I had to miss a blogger conference call with Mark Salter, Randy Scheuneman and Dan McKivergan from McCain '08. Dan, of course, was the founding father of the Worldwide Standard blog at TWS.

According to Liz Mair, McCain's staff wanted to drive home two points about the surge. First, it has dispersed the insurgents to areas outside of Baghdad, where they will be easier to handle. Second, 16 of 24 Sunnis tribes in Anbar are now on our side. I hope those are the right points to emphasize.

According to one McCain supporter who commented on Liz's post,
I wonder if [McCain had] made the above points initially[,] rather than the bald, "there are places in Bagdad where it is safe to go for a stroll" statement, he might have been treated more gently. The sad thing is, I think he could have even stepped back and said that he spoke to hastily but there are still some real signs of improvement and received some sort of pass. I am not real[l]y sure why he didn't. I think the media is too eager to jump on the defeat train, yet there is not a lot of credibity left among the war's supporters, and McCain's initial statement and reluctance to step back from it doesn't help.
On the other side of the spectrum, Josh Marshall is trying his best to turn McCain's hasty remarks into a pretext for full-scale character assassination. Josh hopes that photos of McCain in a bulletproof vest in Baghdad will become the next "Dukakis-in-a-tank moment":
It's an iconic moment, like but much more than the Dukakis image, since its ridiculousness can be come at again and again. And from so many angles.
And to top it all off, Josh throws in a photo of Saddam's spokesman, "Baghdad Bob", to suggest McCain has sunk to that level.

In other words, another typical day for Josh Marshall. Begin with defensible criticism of a Republican, then start in with the ridiculous hyperbole. I guess Josh deserves to indulge in his fantasy of war-hero John McCain turned into a Dukakis-like laughing stock. Josh can hope, but I don't think Americans are going to judge the Senator harshly for visiting a warzone they would never want to visit, even with the extraordinary security measures taken to protect his life.

Labels: , ,

(15) opinions -- Add your opinion

David, do you know of anyone, not on this site, who confines themselves to reasonable criticism of Republicans without any tiresome demonization? NR offers views that are often critical of Bush on a number of issues, but there's got to be someone on the left who manages criticism without venom.
Key difference. McCain was lying, or most charitably exaggerating ridiculously. Dukakis was not - he just looked silly. Who should be marginalized?

Moreover, McCain's supposed main strength is his "straight talk" truth-telling style. Here he is appearing to flip over to laughably transparent falsehoods about the war. That 21 Shia workers from the very marketplace he visited have apparently been shot since should provide ample proof of this.

McCain should have stuck to reporting the facts, not spinning for effect. He would have been even better off reporting what he actually heard from marketplace workers.
Hey David, I sympathize with your comments on the tone of the attacks against McCain, and undoubtedly there are other motives for this onslaught. However, I don't think it was the presence of extraordinary security that bothered people, but rather the pretense of normalcy and the drawing of conclusions based on the market trip. Mike Pence's comment at the Baghdad press conference that the Shorja market was “like a normal outdoor market in Indiana.” was simply absurd. So too was the presumption that their ability to walk through the market was in any way related to the surge, given the level of protection and preparation, as well as the violence that preceded and followed it. The surge may very well be working in certain areas, although I have doubts as to its nation wide sustainability, but to claim that the market trip was emblematic of this I think is a stretch that came across as disingenuous.
By the fall of 2003 John McCain must have known that we did not have enough troops to contain the insurgency and that the decisions to disband the Iraqi army and to fire all the Baath officials were disastrous. He should have done everything possible to push Bush towards a more sensible occupation policy. Instead, he kept quiet, in large part because of his hot pants urge to be president. I honor his devotion to the country, but I am saddened by his moral failures. He has betrayed his country because of his personal ambition, and he does not deserve to be president.
Its not at all clear to me that the ability of McCain to move as freely as he did was NOT related to the surge. So he went to the market with security. Would he have gone there at ALL several months ago? He rode the airport road, presumably with a protected motorcade. Not that long ago officials were coptering in from the airport to the Green Zone, to avoid the airport road, IIUC.

So Im not convinced he was lying or being misleading at all.
McCain claimed there are improvements in Baghdad due to the surge. This is partially correct. Shia death squad murders are apparently down to 15-25 tortured bodies found every day as opposed to 45-90.

He also claimed it had made Baghdad so safe that there were neighborhoods where GEN Petraeus could go to in an unarmored Hummvee, and where he could walk around freely. After returning from Shorja market, he claimed to have just returned from such a place. This is only true if he was accompanied by a company of infantry, dozens of up-armored and heavily armed hummvees, and 2 helicopter gunships providing overwatch. So yes, he was lying at worst, misleading at best.
With such an interesting conversation progressing, I thought you'd be interested in some of Public Agenda's findings. According to our "Foreign Policy Index," when it comes to foreign affairs, public anxiety is rising. While the war is definitely a driving force, the public's uneasiness spills over into the entire range of challenges facing the United States. Overwhelmingly, the public embraces diplomatic measures, with 44% of those surveyed favoring diplomacy with Iran and an addition 28% backing economic sanctions. Favor for military action is in the single digits. Our anxiety indicator is currently at 137 on a 200-point scale, edging toward the 150 point mark that we would consider a crisis of confidence in government policy. Go to http://www.publicagenda.org/foreignpolicy/index.cfm to check out the fourth edition of our “Foreign Policy Index.”
liberalhawk, I have to agree with Taylor on this one. Pence's and McCain's comments as presented are simply not true. The things they said about the condition of the market while they were there were obviously wrong to anyone who was with them. Worse, when they described the ongoing safety of the market, they gave the insurgents the chance for an easy pr win by killing people.
How about if we hear from those in the market:

A day after members of an American Congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain pointed to their brief visit to Baghdad’s central market as evidence that the new security plan for the city was working, the merchants there were incredulous about the Americans’ conclusions.

“What are they talking about?” Ali Jassim Faiyad, the owner of an electrical appliances shop in the market, said Monday. “The security procedures were abnormal!”

The delegation arrived at the market, which is called Shorja, on Sunday with more than 100 soldiers in armored Humvees — the equivalent of an entire company — and attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior American military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area and restricted access to the Americans, witnesses said, and sharpshooters were posted on the roofs. The congressmen wore bulletproof vests throughout their hourlong visit.

“They paralyzed the market when they came,” Mr. Faiyad said during an interview in his shop on Monday. “This was only for the media.”

He added, “This will not change anything.”

Also, I urge you to listen to this story on the market visit on NPR
It was terribly silly of McCain and his colleagues to visit that market with F-16s and helicopters buzzing around, with more than a dozen heavily armored Humvees and some 100 combat-equipped infantrymen and say the situation was safe. This only makes since only if one assumes the majority of the American people are fools and believe everything they are told.
McCain was obviously speaking too hastily about an issue he didn't know much about: the war on terror. This just confirms that we have no business being in Iraq when we can't even alleviate the problems, we only create them. The good news is that Iraqi leaders have met with such groups as the IMF to build a plan that works.

The US needs to join together with the rest of the world leaders in figuring out a multilateral way of ending terrorism and Mid-East tensions. One of the biggest ways is to end global poverty. Our leaders need to not abandon Iraq, but support its growth and the growth of other undeveloped countries by funding the UN Millennium Development Goals.

According to the Borgen Project, just 0.16 of out federal budget is spent on poverty reduction (the least percentage among all wealthy nations) while $340 billion has been spent on the war. We need to redirect our funds to programs that will work to combat the conditions that enable extremism to exist.
MAx Boot

'"Hah!,” the news corps screamed. Reporters wrote that McCain was able to visit the market only because of “heavy” extra protection and that merchants there complained that overall security conditions weren’t great. All of this true, but taken in isolation it provides a very distorted impression.
Here’s the perspective the press isn’t providing: We are in the middle of a tough, bloody war in Iraq. Throughout 2006, the war was going very badly, especially in Baghdad. Large chunks of the city were subject to a bloody campaign of ethnic cleansing, murder, and terrorism. Sunni families fled. Markets closed. Normal life ground to a halt. Those perilous trends have been stopped in the past few months and are beginning to be reversed. This is due to an increased deployment of Iraqi and American troops, and especially to the fact that Americans are no longer staying on their giant forward operating bases. They are patrollng more intensively from joint security stations and small combat outposts located in the middle of the city.
Though only three of the five extra brigades scheduled to be deployed have yet arrived in Baghdad, the offensive has already paid big dividends. A semblance of normality is returning in some neighborhoods, markets are reopening, sectarian murders and ethnic cleansings have been dramatically reduced. The situation still isn’t great, but at least the downward trend has been stopped. There have been a few big suicide bombings lately that obscure this improvement, but most of these have been outside Baghdad, where the current security operation is focused. Needless to say, coalition forces can’t magically pacify the entire country overnight—and that can’t be the measure of success or failure.
The fact that McCain was able and willing to walk around the Shorja market indicates that things are getting better, even if Iraq remains a war zone. Of course McCain had heavy security; he’s an especially attractive target for insurgents. But the market was functioning normally while he was there, and he wasn’t surrounded by bodyguards. He walked around freely without a helmet (though he was wearing body armor), and mingled with Iraqis. So did the other members of his delegation, as well as General David Petraeus, the senior U.S. commander in Iraq.'

"From Snark to Syria
"Things are better," Sen. John McCain said in Baghdad this week, "and there are encouraging signs. I have been here many times over the years. Never have I been able to drive from the airport. Never have I been able to go out into the city as I was today."

So after McCain stopped talking, then what happened? Well, then the AFP reporter in Baghdad juxtaposed McCain's words with a tally of recent car-bomb victims, so as to undercut his remarks about the effects of the continuing security crackdown. Then CNN correspondent Michael Ware called McCain's comments "beyond ludicrous." Then The New York Times found some shopkeepers in Baghdad who didn't think things had gotten any better for them. Of course, McCain's running for president, and has been an unwavering supporter of the effort in Iraq. It makes sense for him to focus on those aspects of the surge that appear to be working. What's Michael Ware running for?

Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been blundering around Damascus at the same time that McCain has been visiting Baghdad. Pelosi's visit is a dream come true for the desperate Assad regime; she might as well be reading from a script provided by Assad's public relations people.

"We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace," Pelosi said after meeting with Assad. According to Pelosi, Assad had assured her that "he's ready to engage in negotiations for peace with Israel."

Oh, brother. Assad's been trying to play his empty "peace process" card for months, because he's facing an international murder rap for killing Rafiq Hariri, and because he wants to put Lebanon back in his hip pocket. If he can get the Speaker of the House to play the dupe on his behalf, that works for him. In fact, just the footage of their meeting helps him, because it suggests that his isolation is ending. The EU has been frustrated with him, and the Arab League may have failed to close a deal with him on the paralysis of Beirut, and his Arab neighbors may have stopped trusting him long ago, but hey, he's still got some people willing to try to help him out of a jam: Tehran, Hezbollah, and Nancy Pelosi. I mean, why should the US be content with merely pulling out of Iraq in defeat when it can kiss Syria's butt as well?

So after Pelosi stopped talking, then what happened? All the stories that I've seen about Pelosi's embarrassing amateurism are perfectly straightforward accounts of what she did and what she said, with a little underplayed regional context. Where's the smartass coverage of Pelosi's visit? Where are the telling juxtapositions? Where's all the snark when we need it? I can't find any of it.

Well, back to Baghdad, where poor McCain is still wiping the snark off his suit. As it happens, Terry McCarthy of ABC filed a report backing up McCain's measured claims of improvement. Baghdad remains a dangerous place, McCarthy says, but some parts of the city have seen "large and positive" benefits as a result of the seven-week-old surge. Zawraa, Zayouna, and Haifa Street were among the areas that are sufficiently calm for Iraqis to feel comfortable walking about with their families. Children fill the playgrounds and amusement park. A shopkeeper tells McCarthy that he definitely sees a difference, that the security plan is bringing people out with money to spend.

My favorite moment is when some Iraqi men at a tea shop actually ask the ABC camera crew to film them, because they are anxious to show that things are better in their neighborhood. Guys, get serious. Claiming that things are getting better may be good for a one-shot, but stir some anti-administration snark in your tea, and you might get your own cable show."

I don't mean to sound Catty, but 100 troops plus assorted gear and pre-screened sweeps of the marketplace meant, as one of the soldiers later said, "Paris Hilton could have rode down the street in a bikini on a bicycle and been perfectly safe."

I commend the senator on his trip to the region, but I would rather have seen those troops working on something more vital to the long term than bodyguarding a presidential wannabe. (For the record at the moment, I consider all candidates wannabe's until one takes the oath of office)
> there's got to be someone on the
> left who manages criticism without
> venom

without venom? just like Dick "If Kerry Wins America Will Be Hit" Cheney? that kind of criticism without venom? or are we talking about Rush Limbaugh (worshiped by millions of Republicans) mocking Michael J Fox's Parkinsons?

tragically, the fantasy of a polite, reasonable, _bipartisan_ Right that would never equate dissent with treason and would never ever accuse opponents of treason out of political gain is about as unfounded in reality as the "We're making progress in Iraq" contingent. as unreal as those WMD arsenals in Iraq, even.

I hadn't read this blog in a couple of years, I had forgotten all about it actually, and I'm impressed that it is still defending the Iraqi adventure -- even the once-gleeful National Review has had moments of doubt, at this point.

once a neocon, always a neocon I guess.

and good luck for '08 -- unless America gets hit again and the GOP can finally go back to the only thing it proved to be able to do (ie spread fear, and hate for the Democrats and the foreigners, esp. the dark-skinned foreigners) it really looks like another thumpin' is about to happen. hypocrites in flak-jackets notwithstanding.
Post a Comment