I'm Wrong, You're Right, I Win

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Before Barack Obama went to Iraq, a pundit consensus was congealing. He'd have to suck it up and admit he was wrong about the troop surge.

With Republicans panting at the prospect of an Obama U-turn on a key plank of foreign policy, the Petraeus meeting promises a moment of genuine political theatre that is likely to be absent from the "grip'n'grin" photo opportunities lined up with Gordon Brown, President Nicolas Sarkozy, Pope Benedict and other leaders in Europe.

"I guess the question is, if indeed he's going to Iraq and nothing that he sees will change or impact his decision-making on this, then why is he going?" asked Brian Rogers, a McCain campaign spokesman.

Answer: He's going to get the photo ops, say that the surge worked, and deny that he was wrong about it.

"These kinds of hypotheticals are very difficult," he said. "Hindsight is 20/20. But I think that what I am absolutely convinced of is, at that time, we had to change the political debate because the view of the Bush administration at that time was one that I just disagreed with, and one that I continue to disagree with—is to look narrowly at Iraq and not focus on these broader issues."

The McCain campaign has pounced, but what else was it going to do? Jonah Goldberg, I think, gets the politics exactly right.

Politically, the surge is a bit like the Supreme Court's recent decision affirming the constitutional right to own a gun. Obama's position on gun rights, a miasma of murky equivocation, would hurt him if gun control were a big issue this year. It isn't, thanks to the high court's ruling. That's a huge boon.

The surge has done likewise with the war. If it were going worse, McCain's Churchillian rhetoric would match reality more. But with sectarian violence nearly gone, Al Qaeda in Iraq almost totally routed and even Shiite Sadrist militias seemingly neutralized, the stakes of withdrawal seem low enough for Americans to feel comfortable voting for Obama. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's support for an American troop drawdown undoubtedly pushes the perceived stakes even lower.

Matt Yglesias seems mystified that McCain can wring anything out of this; his commenters seem gloomy that "the media" will make the debate about the 2007 surge vote, not whether the war was right. The important thing about the media, though, is that fewer people are paying attention to them. A debate over how right McCain was/how wrong Obama was over this aspect of the war is not going to subsume a debate over when to leave Iraq. I don't see any of this redounding to the benefit of John McCain. McCain's goading Obama to make this trip stands tall and proud as one of the dumbest blunders of the campaign. He couldn't have helped the Democrat more if he'd challenged him to a slam dunk contest. And lo and behold, Maliki is shorting McCain stock as fast as he can move it.

NEXT: In the Pointless Forest, You'll See What You Want to See, and Hear What You Want to Hear

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  1. Goldberg: But with sectarian violence nearly gone, Al Qaeda in Iraq almost totally routed and even Shiite Sadrist militias seemingly neutralized, the stakes of withdrawal seem low enough for Americans to feel comfortable voting for Obama.

    That must explain why the Democrats took over Congress in 2006, and why large majorities supported withdrawing from Iraq even faster than Obama throughout 2007, and why Congress’s approval rating dropped 60 points when they refused to end the war in 2007; because the American people are only now going to be willing to countenance a withdrawal from Iraq.

  2. I see no reason to trust that the surge worked as of yet. Its very possible that we’re suffering the summer lull, when its just too damn hot there to bother planning any sort of attack.

  3. large majorities supported withdrawing from Iraq even faster than Obama throughout 2007

    Of course, even the unconditional two brigades per month withdrawal is logistically almost impossible, something Obama and the Dems would know if they bothered to actually ask anyone who knew anything useful before formulating military policy.

    That said, I think Weigel is right – the McCain camp is too inept to get any benefit out of this, although there is some benefit to be had. It would be easy to tie this to the main public unease about Obama – his inexperience. “The one big call Obama has made, he got wrong. Given this track record, why do you think he’ll get the next one right?”

  4. Its very possible that we’re suffering the summer lull, when its just too damn hot there to bother planning any sort of attack.

    It’s funny, in most countries, the heat *causes* people to riot.

  5. LMNP,

    120F is not conducive to running around, setting cars on fire. Mainly, it just makes you hate life.

  6. 120F is not conducive to running around, setting cars on fire. Mainly, it just makes you hate life.

    But, paradoxically, hating life makes one more prone to running around, setting cars on fire. I imagine there most be some eventual equilibrium in that seemingly unstable feedback system.

  7. interesting how the possibility that maybe — just maybe — we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq (again) in the first place, much less occupied the country for 5+ years, apparently isn’t worth discussing anymore, even among supposedly “anti-war” Dem candidates…

    now they just deliver the same “the surge has worked, we win!” line that the GOP has been crowing for months and months.

    Change we can believe in!!!!

  8. Obama had a slight lead before his Iraq trip, but Maliki’s endorsement of the withdrawl plan pretty much sealed the deal for Obama unless we get notarized photographs of him participating in an honor killing.

  9. This has to be the dullest fucking campaign in a long time. One guy’s running on “transformative” (does that make him Obamus Prime?), and the other guy on clean politics. Which means all the dirt and mudslinging is left to the morons in the nosebleed seats and correspondingly is dumber than a bag of hammers.

    Hillary may be a loser but she knew how to work the knife for everyone’s entertainment value.

  10. interesting how the possibility that maybe — just maybe — we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq (again) in the first place, much less occupied the country for 5+ years, apparently isn’t worth discussing anymore, even among supposedly “anti-war” Dem candidates…

    Huh? Barack Obama talks about that every day. It’s the central plank of his foreign policy stump speech. Even when the interviewer studiously avoided that question, Obama brought it back to “when it comes to Iraq, my batting average is pretty good,” referring to his opposition to the war from the beginning.

  11. If entertainment value were the sole consideration, I’m sad we never got a Hillary vs. Romney race, that would have been some real entertaining mud-slinging right there.

    Romney was by FAR the most happy to go negative of any Republican and Hillary, well, you know.

  12. According to Rasmussen, Obama has lost his six point lead over the last week and is now tied with McCain.

    http://rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/election_20082/2008_presidential_election/daily_presidential_tracking_poll.

    Who knows if the polls are valid or represent anything beyond normal variations? I am open to that possibility. But if there was a shift over the last week, I think it is because of the trip. The trip did two things. First, it gave the media the opportunity to fall all over itself in support of Obama. The fawning coverage has gotten so ridiculous that it is starting to turn people off. Second, it has made Obama look arrogant and presumptuous. The Brandenburg Gate fiasco really made him look bad. Also, he is so dorky looking and such a lightweight, his handlers have had to script everything in fear of him saying something stupid or there being a Dukakis in the tank type of photograph. This has made the whole thing looked scripted and controlled and hurt his attempt to look Presidential and serious. He looks like a rich college kid being shown around the world by his diplomat dad. I don’t think this trip has turned out nearly as well for Obama as Welch does.

  13. Y’know, before saying the surge worked, wouldn’t it be a good idea to see what happens after the extra troops have gone back home?

  14. Gallup daily tracking shot up to +6, Rasmussen is tied. Make of that what you will.

  15. Dukakis couldn’t make a three pointer, John. You guys should start dusting off the anti-Clinon strategies, not the anti-Dukakis/Kerry ones.

  16. The poll aggregators haven’t moved much at all, John. Obama by 4-5 points.

  17. Dorky, lightweight Obama, looking like Dukakis in the tank, vs. tough, formidable McCain, looking like Ike in Korea.

    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2008/7/21/155043/664

  18. “Dukakis couldn’t make a three pointer, John. You guys should start dusting off the anti-Clinon strategies, not the anti-Dukakis/Kerry ones.”

    I don’t care if he can play ball, he is a dork. Furhter, I bet Kerry is in really good shape and can sail a boat a hell of a lot better than 99% of the population.

    I think his arrogance is really going to hurt him. The whole mile stadium idea is terrible to. 70,000 people? An ordinary basketball arena was good enough for such ordinary figures like Reagan, Kennedy and Clinton but Obama needs a football stadium. My God, why don’t they just give everyone field grey uniforms and let them march in formation behind banners in front of him when they enter the stadium?

  19. Windsurfing in Nantucket is an elitist New England thing to do.

    Playing basketball, on the other hand, is not elitist.

  20. Obama’s record of being right on Iraq is the one thing that might get me to forgive his FISA vote.

    Time will tell.

  21. My God, why don’t they just give everyone field grey uniforms and let them march in formation behind banners in front of him when they enter the stadium?

    Does this reach Godwin?

  22. I missed the cries of imminent authoritarianism from the right when Bush flew onto the aircraft carrier like he was in some Leni Riefensthal flick.

  23. I don’t think “dork” and “charismatic godhead” descriptions can exist side by side.

    He’s one of those awkward dorks who fills football stadiums.

    He’s one of those gaffe machines who can spellbind the populace with his rhetoric.

    He’s one of those devoted leftists who has no discernable political philosophy.

    He’s flip-flopped on Iraq, while stubbornly refusing to change his position.

    He has a relentlessly negative message of hope.

    Are all of the smart Republican message gurus sitting this election out?

  24. Even framing the question in a way that makes it about the “surge” traps the discussion in the sunk cost fallacy.

    At the moment the surge began, we had suffered thousands of military dead and thousands more injured, put ourselves on the hook for about a trillion dollars in spending, alienated many allies, debilitated the junior officer and non-commissioned officer base of the Army and Marines, and disgraced the honor of the United States – and for all these costs we had achieved the benefit of a questionably stable Iraqi state that will probably either fall to pieces as soon as we leave, or, if it stands, end up a closer ally of Iran than of the US due to its Shia majority.

    Now, having conducted the surge, we have worsened all of those costs, and our benefit is that we have a questionably stable Iraqi state that will probably either fall to pieces as soon as we leave, or, if it stands, end up a closer ally of Iran than of the US due to its Shia majority – BUT John McCain can try to say that we’ve “won”.

    Obama was right to oppose the surge, even if it “works”, because the end we will have achieved in Iraq at the end of the war will not be worth the costs we have put into it, even if the best current hopes of the Bush/McCain camp are realized. The benefits of the Iraq war were not worth the costs when the surge began, and they’re not worth it now. That means that at any particular moment in time, if the question is, “Should we sink more resources into Iraq?” the answer is No. Even if those resources improved the situation in Iraq, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make the cost/benefit ratio of the war as a whole suddenly make sense.

  25. Joe, Republicans typially have two lines of attack on Dem candidates I’ve noticed.

    1) Hes an out of touch, dorky far-left elitist who hates America (Mondale Dukakis, Kerry)

    2) Hes a slimy, slippery, lying politician who will say anything to get elected and is building a personality cult (Kennedy, Clinton, Johnson)

    Mixing them doesn’t work. They need to pick one and stick with it.

  26. He’s one of those devoted leftists who has no discernable (sic) political philosophy.

    Perfect line of attack for the GOP, but as NNG says, they are reverting to their usual lines. Admittedly, they usually work because most Democrats fit those two descriptions, but it’s not going to work on Obama.

    Will they get smart? Who knows. They’ve shown how utterly tone-deaf they are capable of being.

  27. Theres a third one they’ve never used on a Presidential candidate before–scary black militant. It doesn’t really work with him though, just on his wife. Hes somewhere between Tiger Woods and Bryant Gumbell on the Scary Negro Meter.

  28. “Are all of the smart Republican message gurus sitting this election out?”

    Joe, I think the Republican message gurus are looking at what THEY are working with and throwing in the towel.

  29. “Windsurfing in Nantucket is an elitist New England thing to do.
    Playing basketball, on the other hand, is not elitist.”

    But playing basketball in Nantucket is like totally gay.

  30. Mixing them doesn’t work. They need to pick one and stick with it.

    I think they keep going back and forth because neither one is working.

    BTW, you cannot be both a devoted leftist AND not have a discernable political philosophy.

  31. The slippery-slimy politician line is MUCH better made for Obama, FWIW.

    Hillary tried the elitist thing, even got basically the full-throated support of the media March-May in promoting that narrative, and it still didn’t work.

  32. I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as Mr. Weigel is saying. Let’s wait and see what the reaction is to this trip; it may look nice, but we’re already getting stories about how controlled it is, and how journalists aren’t being allowed normal access.

    All through this campaign, we’ve been hearing about how incredibly careful the Obama campaign is about access to its candidate. Meanwhile, McCain, whatever you think of him, likes to hold Town Hall meetings, even asking people if he properly answered their question afterwards.

    I have no illusions about all this. I don’t hate Obama and I don’t think McCain is the second coming. But on the issue of openness and accessibility, the difference is pretty staggering. Let’s see how people react to this trip if and when they hear about how staged some of it has been.

    As for the apparent contradiction between Obama being a leftist and eminently malleable; it’s only a contradiction if it comes from the same people. Conservatives are not a hive-mind, believe it or not. That said, there’s still no contradiction if he’s not accused of being a leftist, but of taking leftist positions. Anyone with considerable political ambitions would probably do so these days, eh?

    I think the ambition angle is the correct one, not just in terms of strategy, but because it’s true. The guy’s 46 and has written TWO books about his own life. Think about that.

  33. Punditsh-

    Anyone who runs for President has too much ambition and a enormous ego. Anyone who says they doesn’t is a damned liar, with the exception of George Washington. And theres a reason he is considered one of the great ones.

  34. Er, anyone who says they don’t.

    Preview is my friend, preview is my friend, preview is my friend…

  35. Conservatives are not a hive-mind, believe it or not.

    I don’t believe it.

  36. NNG —

    George Washington was plenty ambitious. Story goes, he desired above anything to get a commission in the British Army, and during the French & Indian war they wouldn’t offer him a full commission (which is no wonder, he had some spectacularly embarrassing defeats under hi belt).

    That is, purportedly, one of the primary, if not *the*, reason he was so gung-ho as a separatist revolutionary. They’d make him a general, you see.

  37. Yeah Elemenope, but he could have been a dictator and he didn’t choose it. He could’ve been elected President time after time for life, and he didn’t chose it. Compare that to most revolutionary leaders.

  38. Joe-12:18pm

    Obama “can spellbind the populace with his rhetoric.” What populace? The guy is not a spellbinding orator. He’s no Reagan or Bill Clinton. He couldn’t carry Ron Dellums’ jock; he’s an amateur compared to Jesse Jackson in his prime. Do you remember Jackson’s speech at the 1984 Democrat Convention in San Fran? Sure, he might be a better orator than Jimmy Carter or the dirty, sleazy one, Michael Dukakis. Cela va sans dire, he ain’t no Dr. King.

    Maybe folks today are more easily spellbound?

  39. No Name Guy: I agree Washington was not overly ambitious, particularly when compared to his contemporaries, but his ego was, as the verse from Yankee Doodle alludes, “big as all outdoors”. Washington didn’t lift a fork without thinking about how posterity would view the act.

  40. Meanwhile, McCain, whatever you think of him, likes to hold Town Hall meetings, even asking people if he properly answered their question afterwards.

    I don’t think the words “Town Hall Meeting” mean what you think they mean.

    At a “Town Hall Meeting”, anyone who shows up can go in, first come, first served, including people the Mayor doesn’t like.

    McCain’s little meetings are ticketed, by invitation only, for Republican operatives. If I want to go to one, I can’t. If I try to go to one, I’ll be arrested. If I bluster my way into one or pull strings to get a ticket, and then ask any of the questions I would want to ask, I would be removed and arrested.

    That’s not a “Town Hall Meeting” in my book.

  41. Theres some really bad news for Obama just now. Hes ten points down in Ohio in a new Rasmussen poll.

  42. If I bluster my way into one or pull strings to get a ticket, and then ask any of the questions I would want to ask, I would be removed and arrested.

    I get and understand and agree with all the other claims, but has the one italicized above actually ever happened?

    I would be surprised, but not shocked.

  43. libertymike,

    The comment you referenced was a catalogue of the characterizations Obama’s opponents make of him, not my own perceptions of him. My point was to draw attention to the contradictory nature of those attacks.

    They accuse him of being a spellbounding orator, while simultaneously calling him a gaffe machine. He can’t very well be both, now can he?

  44. All I know is the country is going to get tired of those pauses pretty fast. If the media weren’t so damn gaga over the guy they’d point out what a bogus delivery he’s using.

  45. NNG-

    Elemenope is fond of reminding us that the framers were human.

  46. Cherrypicking is fun!

    RCP Average 06/09 – 07/21 — 46.5 45.0 Obama +1.5
    Rasmussen 07/21 – 07/21 500 LV 42 52 McCain +10.0
    PPP (D) 07/17 – 07/20 1058 LV 48 40 Obama +8.0
    SurveyUSA 06/20 – 06/22 580 LV 48 46 Obama +2.0
    Quinnipiac 06/09 – 06/16 1396 LV 48 42 Obama +6.0

  47. Joe-

    Yes, you are right. I do agree that they can’t have it both ways.

  48. Yeah Elemenope, but he could have been a dictator and he didn’t choose it. He could’ve been elected President time after time for life, and he didn’t chose it. Compare that to most revolutionary leaders.

    True enough, but I think that also exposes a hole in your thesis; there were a few two-termers who could have run for a third term and won, but none did until FDR. I think for a long time there was an overweening pride in the fact that the president was not a perpetual king, and people (including the office-holders) actually took it seriously.


    Obama “can spellbind the populace with his rhetoric.” What populace? The guy is not a spellbinding orator. He’s no Reagan or Bill Clinton.

    Are you kidding? Reagan?! He could deliver lines with some gravitas (as he was a fucking b-movie and commerical actor), but spell-binding he most certainly was not. Clinton I actually got to see in person, and he talked competently but certainly no big speech kudos.

    Obama’s wows are a style-dependent thing. He sounds more level-headed than anyone in recent memory and can still get some complicated ideas out before people nod off. In this way, probably the best oratorical comparison would be Lincoln (though I will readily admit that Lincoln was better).

  49. Well if you want to talk about Washington’s vices, he did have a thing for the wife of Lord Fairfax.

    Joe-

    PPP is a joke (they’ve never, ever been always inflate obama’s advantage even in the primary) and the other polls are from June.

  50. Elemenope is fond of reminding us that the framers were human.

    Yeah, I do. The crap most people have been filled about their inerrant greatness over the years needs a sharp antidote, lest we slip into the trap of assuming that things were once better (an idiotic conservative conceit) because the people back then were somehow flawless.

  51. Thing is, joe, hes doing worse than KERRY did at at this time i the same state.

    Now, hes stronger in other states. But hes just not going to win Ohio. They don’t like him there. He needs to go for Virginia, Colorado, and Iowa instead and hold on to PA and MI.

  52. NNG,

    Go to RealClearPolitics and click on the Ohio link. Rasmussen is a remarkable outlier, not PPP.

  53. You remember that war that none of you like, and that you think was a bad decision and I agree, well I found a way to calm the violence by listening to advisers that want more of these wars that you don’t like, and we were able to ease the violence. So that makes me superior to the guy who didn’t want to go in the first place. Also I never believed in timelines but time horizons are fine since the Pope, or Petraeus as we call him blessed it.

    Yeah that is a winning argument to make to the American people.

  54. Elemenope-

    I hate people who deify the founders, too. Washington had a horrible temper and stalked the wife of Lord Fairfax.

  55. McCain 2008, because historical indicators don’t matter when your opponent isn’t white and old people are a significant voting bloc.

  56. “””If the media weren’t so damn gaga over the guy they’d point out what a bogus delivery he’s using.”””

    As if bogus delivery or command of the English language really matters. The republicans had no problem voting for Bush a second time. Why would it be an issue now?

  57. John –

    I agree that Obama has lost ground over the last couple weeks but in actuality, the trip may be helping him recover some of that. Daily tracking poll shows him regaining his lead over the past two days:
    http://www.gallup.com/poll/108961/Gallup-Daily-Obama-leads-McCain-Six-Points.aspx

    It’s too early to know for sure but let’s see what develops.

    No doubt team Obama has had a bad few weeks, giving McCain passes on his gaffs on the economy (ie, Gramm) and not replying strongly enough to McCain’s offshore drilling and energy plans, which I think play well to the blue-collar voters Obama has consistently struggled with and who want quick fixes. But Obama’s strong reception oversees and Maliki endorsing his timetable for Iraq seems to be helping him close doubts about his foreign policy, so if Obama can come back to the US and hit a home run on the economy before the Olympics start (by hammering McCain and coming up with a clear recovery plan), he’ll be in the catbird seat going into the conventions.

  58. While not necessarily disagreeing with the spirit of the argument, the idea that someone who gives a moving-albeit-scripted-and-teleprompted speech is incapable of “gaffes” on the campaign trail is nonsense.

  59. “”If the media weren’t so damn gaga over the guy they’d point out what a bogus delivery he’s using.””

    If the media weren’t so damn complicit neither side would get away with their BS. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

  60. Sorry, Joe, PPP is way more far out than Rasmussen. If you look at the polling history. They overestimated cbama in the Ohio primaries, too.

  61. NNG,

    Then why is PPP so much more in line with every other polling outfit listed on that page?

    Maybe Rasmussen in right and everybody else is wrong, and wrong in almost exactly the same way to almost exactly the same degree, but that’s probably not the best explanation.

  62. http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2008/president/oh/ohio_mccain_vs_obama-400.html

    Rasmussen is the only polling outfit to give McCain a lead in the past two months.

  63. Joe-

    We will know whats really going on when we get a new Qpac poll. Obama is back down to +3 in Gallup, so no Iraq bounce yet.

  64. Elemenope-

    1. Reagan-I am not talking about answering reporter’s questions out at the ranch with Nancy whispering in his ear. What about the following speeches of Reagan:

    (1) First Inaugural, January 20, 1981
    (2) The 40th anniv. of D-Day-june 1984
    (3) The Challenger-january, 1986
    (4) The Berlin Wall-June 1987
    (5) The In Defense Of Liberty speech-1964

    That 1964 speech is often credited with galvanizing the modern conservative movement. I’ve listened to it-it is spellbinding. If Goldwater had Reagan’s oratorical skills…who knows?

    2. Clinton- 2004 Democrat convention. IMHO, way better than Obama’s speech there. Clinton’s words were quite moving at the funeral of Coretta Scott King.

  65. “Elemenope is fond of reminding us that the framers were human.

    Yeah, I do. The crap most people have been filled about their inerrant greatness over the years needs a sharp antidote, lest we slip into the trap of assuming that things were once better (an idiotic conservative conceit) because the people back then were somehow flawless.”

    People shouldn’t deify anyone, lest we slip into the trap of deifying people to create false premises, to create false idols, and contribute to the regression of society.

    “If I could fight anyone, I’d fight Gandhi.”

  66. NNG,

    I don’t find any one poll particularly useful. Specific pollsters can be skewed in particular ways, and indvidual releases can be all over the place.

    You can always find a poll that tells you what you want. I trust aggregators a lot more.

    The Q-poll is a good one, though.

  67. I get and understand and agree with all the other claims, but has the one italicized above actually ever happened?

    Well, the event in Denver [where someone outside the event was removed by police] would seem to indicate that if rather than being anti-McCain outside an event, I concealed my true affiliation until I was inside the event, I would be similarly removed by police.

    And remember, my question would probably be something like,

    “Senator McCain, wouldn’t you agree that when you brokered the passage of the Military Commissions Act and immunized any American personnel who had committed torture, it made a mockery of any future claim you might make to be motivated by concern for the nation’s honor?”

    I would also attempt a follow-up question after McCain dissembled or evaded my question. Something like, “Why should we believe that someone who loves torture and torturers has any personal honor at all?”

    Both of these questions would be perfectly appropriate at a legitimate “Town Hall” and I might have gotten away with them in NH while the primary season was still on. But if I asked those questions at a McCain event now, the story would end with me being tased.

  68. Answer: He’s going to get the photo ops, say that the surge worked, and deny that he was wrong about it.

    David, this is intellectually dishonest. He hasn’t said or implied that the surge worked. What is clear is that Iraq is somewhat more secure than it has been (though nowhere near as secure as the most crime-ridden western city). This is due to bribes and political maneuvering, not the sudden swelling of the troops.

  69. Elememope and NNG-

    I think and have often argued that the framers had themselves in mind in warning us about those that would seek public office. Adams in particular.

    Just as Elemenope thinks that a sharp antidote is needed to curb the tendency to deify the framers, I think the same applies to the Lincoln cult.

  70. Clinton- 2004 Democrat convention. IMHO, way better than Obama’s speech there. Clinton’s words were quite moving at the funeral of Coretta Scott King.

    He was always too chickenshit to do anything other than mail it in while he himself was running for anything, so he gets no points.

    The Reagan stuff was very uneven; I sorta likes the ’64 speech. The Berlin Wall speech was very soundbitey. The Challenger Speech was great, but all credit for that one goes to Peggy Noonan (IIRC) who pulled that awesome shit straight out of her ass.

    Pointedly, Reagan wrote next to none of his own speeches, especially the good ones. That makes him at best a good “reader of lines”.

    “If I could fight anyone, I’d fight Gandhi.”

    “Lincoln.”

    “Lincoln?”

    “Yeah, big guy, long reach. Skinny guys fight to the burger…”

  71. We know about the founder’s weirder habits and vices 75% of the time thanks to Adams, who was brutally honest in his writings.

  72. Well, Iraq may no longer be the #1 issue for most voters (for now). But that doesn’t mean that won’t be important enopugh to sink McCain. On issues like the economy or immigration, voters are likely to be somewhat evenly split between the candidates. But I would expect them to lean heavily towards Obama’s position on Iraq. Working Surge or no Working Surge, the war remains unpopular.

    By the way, has McCain addressed this (which seems like it could undermine the whole “a timetable for witdrawal is a timetable for defeat” mantra that he has endorsed):

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/18/AR2008071801308.html?nav=rss_email/components

  73. I’m just glad you made a humorous reference to the short-lived soft drink of my high school years. I’ve been doing this for months and nobody gets it.

    SUUUUUUURGE!

  74. Until we pull out we can have no idea if the surge worked.

    Will the Sunnis we’re paying not to fight continue not to fight once we stop paying them?

  75. Maliki’s endorsement of the withdrawl plan

    Umm, Maliki did no such thing. That was either his press office having a little fun, or a bad translation. According to NYT, what he said was:

    “Obama’s remarks that – if he takes office – in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”

    Give or take, could be suitable, blah blah. Hardly an endorsement of the unconditional 16-month withdrawal Obama plan.

    Even when the interviewer studiously avoided that question, Obama brought it back to “when it comes to Iraq, my batting average is pretty good,” referring to his opposition to the war from the beginning.

    Sooner or later, the inherent inconsistency between “this war was a bad idea” and “now that we’ve won and Iraq has a stable, functioning government, we can get out no problem” is going to be noticed, I would hope.

    That said, I think Fluffy @ 12:19 gives the best case that a Dem make at this point. The difficulty with that sort of cost/benefit analysis (for both sides) is that you are balancing known costs against unknowable benefits – who knows how things would have played out if we hadn’t gone into Iraq? I think, for example that however inadvertant it may have been, the “flypaper” strategy has done enormous damages to AQ and their fellow travellers.

  76. “””Iraqi violence is way down, AQ in Iraq is about as defeated as it can be. How much better of a picture do we need before we can leave? Some violence will always exist, AQ will always try to restablish themselves. What does acceptable levels of violence look like? How much better does it have to be before we can leave?

    We can’t worry so much about what Iraqis will do once we leave. It’s their country, their choices, their freewill. They will reap the seeds they sow. They will do whatever they want after we leave. I think it’s foolish to use that as an excuse to stay since it implies that we can never leave their country.”””

    “””Sooner or later, the inherent inconsistency between “this war was a bad idea” and “now that we’ve won and Iraq has a stable, functioning government, we can get out no problem” is going to be noticed, I would hope.”””

    But probably only by partisan people that are looking for a gotcha game. Most Americans could care less as long as we can rap it up and chalk it in the win column. When it’s over and troops are home, much can be forgiven.

    If Obama wins, I think he will call Iraq a victory, openly credit the past admin for its “good efforts”, and bring the troops home. I think he’ll have the Iraqi government behind him when he does it.

    The problem with McCain is he has banked his campaign on the war must go on. He’ll be the fool in the stadium cheering a game that ended hours ago.

    This is all providing the violence stays low, of course.

  77. My first two paragraphs shouldn’t be in quotes.

    “”””Preview is my friend, preview is my friend, preview is my friend…””””

    Indeed

  78. Obama wanted to leave, McCain wanted to stay, before the surge. They feel the same way now that the surge is winding down and violence is down. No doubt they’d have felt the same way if the surge were winding down and violence was up.

    So what does one have to do with the other? I don’t get it.

    @Joe: “Relentlessly Negative Message of Hope” would be a great name for a band.

  79. An ordinary basketball arena was good enough for such ordinary figures like Reagan, Kennedy and Clinton but Obama needs a football stadium

    So, Obama, “an elitist”, wants to open the floor to the plebes (or, “the public”) and morphs into a fascist.

    Also: Kennedy gave his acceptance speech at the LA Coliseum, which is a giant football stadium. So, again, what’s your point?

  80. There’s no inconsistency in saying both “we shouldn’t have driven the car into this shopping mall” and “now that we’ve backed up off the ornamental fountain and swept up most of the broken glass, it’d probably be a good idea to go home”.

  81. If it was the only the surge that made so much difference in Iraq, wouldn’t violence had gone back up since the surge is now over and troop levels have declined?

  82. joe | July 22, 2008, 12:18pm | #

    Fluffy | July 22, 2008, 12:19pm | #

    Great posts there. This shit is better than shields & brooks at times.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLmE-99oiYk

    then lonewacko shows up. then its more like this

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRcO1rb0Giw

  83. The surge was one of many elements that helped bring the violence down. It probably wasn’t the most effective either. Paying them to kill the other guy helped a lot.

  84. Ron | July 22, 2008, 1:27pm | #

    No Name Guy: I agree Washington was not overly ambitious, particularly when compared to his contemporaries, but his ego was, as the verse from Yankee Doodle alludes, “big as all outdoors”. Washington didn’t lift a fork without thinking about how posterity would view the act.

    I wonder if thats really such a regrettable feature of a person? I mean, at least *thinking* about it seems reasonable. 🙂

    Of course, choosing to ignore posterity is often much more fun.

  85. I was raised to believe it’s not whether you win or lose that counts but how you play the game. Suddenly it’s all about winning. Obama voted against the surge because the Iraq war was wrong to begin with. That is what the American people have been saying all along. So I can tell you as one American, it was a dirty game Bush played getting into a war in Iraq. Can we win? There are no winners in an illegal war.

  86. It would be easy to tie this to the main public unease about Obama – his inexperience. “The one big call Obama has made, he got wrong. Given this track record, why do you think he’ll get the next one right?”

    Obama would be well served to drop “Afghanistan” and “Taliban” and “diversion” like Rudy dropped “9/11’s”.

  87. Joe, Fluffy, Lazlo–you all win. You win an internets!
    I gotta start visiting this blog more often. The commenters are better than the postings.

    “R C Dean | July 22, 2008, 4:00pm | #
    Maliki’s endorsement of the withdrawl plan

    Umm, Maliki did no such thing. That was either his press office having a little fun, or a bad translation. According to NYT, what he said was:

    “Obama’s remarks that – if he takes office – in 16 months he would withdraw the forces, we think that this period could increase or decrease a little, but that it could be suitable to end the presence of the forces in Iraq.”
    RC, Maliki’s no dummy. He knows Bush rules him for the next six months. Given that, that’s an astonishing statement in support of Obama’s proposal. Maliki’s press office “has a little fun” on the life-and-death issue, for them and other Iraqis, of when U.S. troops leave? I find that extremely unlikely, to put it mildly.

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