Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Past McCain Bites Present McCain Again

I've already illustrated John McCain's 180 on foreign intervention depending on the administration and whether or not he's running for president. Having pleaded for Bill Clinton to pull troops out of Somalia and Haiti in the 90s, he pleads with the American public for the exact opposite in Iraq.

I've refrained from using McCain's now-infamous '100 years' line because I think he was clearly stipulating a situation like Germany and South Korea, not active conflict for a century. (Of course, I don't think that's possible, but that was his contention.) Well, it seems past McCain doesn't agree either.

From January, 2005, on Hardball:

MATTHEWS: Well, what do you think of the Democrats sharpshooting now, saying come home?

MCCAIN: Well, I don‘t...

MATTHEWS: As a policy suggestion, is it something that we all want the world to know we‘re eventually coming home and we might as well argue about when or...

MCCAIN: Sure we‘re going to come home.

But the fact is that the key to it is not when the troops come home. It is when we stop reading—today, Shuster just reported four brave young Marines were killed. It is the casualties that creates the discontent amongst Americans. We‘ve been in Bosnia for, what, 10, 12, years, Kosovo for 10 years, South Korea for 50 years. Americans aren‘t upset about that.

But we have got to get the casualty rate down. And that‘s the transfer of well-trained and well-equipped Iraqis to handle the security situation.

MATTHEWS: But you‘ve heard the ideological argument to keep U.S. forces in the Middle East. I‘ve heard it from the hawks. They say, keep United States military presence in the Middle East, like we have with the 7th Fleet in Asia. We have the German—the North Korean—the South Korean component. Do you think we could get along without it?

MCCAIN: I not only think we could get along without it, but I think one of our big problems has been the fact that many Iraqis resent American military presence.

And I don‘t pretend to know exactly Iraqi public opinion. But as soon as we can reduce our visibility as much as possible, the better I think it is going to be.

MATTHEWS: So no Guantanamo in Iraq?

MCCAIN: I don‘t see any reason for it.

He begins with the same line about staying but eliminating casualties, but then illustrates that at least at some point in time in the past he had a somewhat accurate perception that the scenario in Iraq isn't comparable to post-conflict Germany or Korea.

Also of note is his dismissal of Iraqi public opinion. While the United States extends its infinite benevolence across the globe, it seems that the opinion of those upon whom it bestows such beneficence barely registers.

Almost three years later, in the midst of a presidential run, McCain reiterated much the same stance on the Charlie Rose Show:

ROSE: Do you think that this — Korea, South Korea is an analogy of where Iraq might be, not in terms of their economic success but in terms of an American presence over the next, say, 20, 25 years, that we will have a significant amount of troops there?

MCCAIN: I don’t think so.

ROSE: Even if there are no casualties?

MCCAIN: No. But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws.

During a subsequent visit in November, McCain would answer the same question with an answer closer to his January answer in the townhall meeting.

Either this is a natural progression, one in which McCain takes in facts and new realities and adapts his opinions to meet them, or it's simply yet another reflection of McCain's constant remaking of his image. As this campaign has progressed, McCain's rhetoric and policy suggestions have taken a hard turn right, with the occasional buffeting when he misplaces his notes.

Eventually, once the Democrats are done beating each other up, perhaps someone will notice the inconsistencies.

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