This Imbecile Again | Main | Karl of Protein Wisdom on "McCain Derangement Syndrome"
January 30, 2008

Debate Open Thread
Update: Romney Vs. McCain On Who Flinched Less In War's Darkest Hour-- Advantage, Surpisingly Enough, Seems To Be... Romney

The debate is on.

Someone should tell John McCain that holding up newspaper endorsements to defend himself against charges of holding un-Republican thoughts is...unwise.

This is a really good debate... [Ace] and you should watch it in rebroadcast if you've missed it. I have to rewatch it myself to dig up the good bits.

From what I saw -- and I'm not sure I saw enough of it to judge -- but McCain seems to have dug up a damaging quote by Romney refusing to take a position on the surge in December 2006. Romney's answer seemed to be he waited for a briefing by Fred Kagan before deciding upon his position, and, immediately after hearing the plan from that surge promoter, supported it.

McCain flip-flopped on whether he would vote for his own bill should it come up again, after initially evading answering it.

Romney Response [Ace]: I just asked for a clarification of Romney's response on the quote I mentioned above; I imagine the Romney folks will have it out soon.

In the meanwhile, before they've addressed that directly, they've offered this response to McCain -- that McCain himself proposed benchmarks that would end the war, well short of the goal of victory, if not met.

In 2007, Sen. McCain Suggested Setting Benchmarks In Iraq Which, If Not Met, Might Mean The End Of Our Mission In Iraq


In January 2007, Sen. McCain Suggested Setting Benchmarks For Success In Iraq. "Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the most stalwart supporters of the war in Iraq, said Thursday that he might propose that the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks for the United States to continue its engagement. Fellow senators and independent political scientists said McCain's thinking reflected growing concerns within the Republican Party about the course of the war, and also might mark a turning point for the likely 2008 presidential contender, whose previous unconditional backing of the war may have hurt his prospects. McCain said Thursday that he hadn't yet decided on precise benchmarks. 'They'd have to be specific and they (the Iraqi government) would have to meet them.'" (Margaret Talev, "McCain Suggests Iraqi Government Meet Benchmarks," Knight Ridder, 1/25/07.)

Sen. McCain Suggested An End To The Iraq Mission If Benchmarks Weren't Met:

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the most stalwart supporters of the war in Iraq, said Thursday that he might propose that the Iraqi government meet certain benchmarks for the United States to continue its engagement.

Fellow senators and independent political scientists said McCain's thinking reflected growing concerns within the Republican Party about the course of the war, and also might mark a turning point for the likely 2008 presidential contender, whose previous unconditional backing of the war may have hurt his prospects.


McCain said Thursday that he hadn't yet decided on precise benchmarks. "They'd have to be specific, and they (Iraqi government officials) would have to meet them," he said.

Asked what penalty would be imposed if Iraq failed to meet his benchmarks, he said: "I think everybody knows the consequences. Haven't met the benchmarks? Obviously, then, we're not able to complete the mission. Then you have to examine your options."

(Margaret Talev, "McCain Suggests Iraqi Government Meet Benchmarks," Knight Ridder, 1/25/07).

McCain's claim that he has been unwavering seems rather overstated. And here are his own words stating that he supported benchmarks which, if not met, would end the US engagement in Iraq.

I don't find that to be a shocking position, myself. I've always thought McCain was less a hero and more a politician -- a hero once, to be sure, but he's had plenty of time to adapt to his chosen profession of politics. And many conservatives were scrambling at that hour as to what to do in Iraq.

But it seems that his claims that Romney supported a timetable for withdrawal, or benchmarks which would compel withdrawal if not met, are entirely off-base. No statement from Romney supports such a scheme, whereas a statement from John McCain himself does.

When the war seemed about to be lost -- and his own political future imperiled -- he did talk up hard benchmarks, not soft ones used only as a guide-post. I think he was probably not giving us Straight Talk here, and was grasping for some formulation that might appease anti-war sentiment, but he did go further in his statements on this front than Romney did.

And for him to criticize Romney for hedging at the war's darkest hour when he himself hedged even more seems, well, par for the course, actuallly.

The Media Parrots... are all chirping about the McCain attack and how he alone stood up, unbowed, at the moment of truth.

They really should check their email boxes.

Incidentally, was I dreaming or did Janet Cook actually ask the sort of questions someone should ask Republicans at a Republican debate? They were good questions designed to elicit differences on issues important to Republicans.

She should be invited to do more of these.

Romney's Response: I got this from the Romney people. It just restates what I thought Romney's take was.

Fred Kagan briefed Governor Romney on the surge in early January of 2007. Gov. Romney supported the surge on the same day that President Bush announced it: Jan 10, 2007.

So McCain, who advocated benchmarks for withdrawal in January 2007, is knocking Romney for not supporting the surge affirmatively before it was actually proposed as a policy -- in December 2006.

Trust the media to continue to get this one wrong.

Hmmm... Jim Geraghty crunches the numbers and finds that rumors of Romney's political death have been greatly exaggerated. After Mega Tuesday...

That would put things at about McCain at 500+ (needing 1,191 to be the nominee), Romney at 325, Huckabee at 230 or so.

Dude. That's barely ahead at all.

In Fairness... now that I consider it, it's likely that McCain was mixing that sop to anti-war sentiment in his call for more troops. So he was saying, in total, give the surge a chance and I'll consider hard benchmarks; if it doesn't work, then we pull out.

That's an understandable way to sell it. Still, I don't think McCain is as clean on this as he seems to believe. Apparently Romney's answer to the timetables/benchmark question should have been a firm no -- this is what McCain contends -- but in fact, when asked about it himself, McCain supported hard benchmarks.

Video of the exchange at Stop the ACLU.


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posted by Slublog at 09:14 PM

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