Friday, November 30, 2007

Reflections on the Debate (St. Petersburg)- No. 7

The following question, and John McCain's response, indicate both the base of support (such as it is) for the Arizona Senator's bid for the Republican nomination, and his periodic foray into pandering. From the 11/18/07 CNN/YouTube debate:

Hello. My name is Buzz Brockway from Lawrenceville, Georgia. All the talk about the war in Iraq centers around how quickly we can get out. I think that's the wrong question. We need to make a permanent or long-term military commitment to the region.

By staying in Iraq, we provide long-term stability to the region, we provide support for our allies, and we act as a deterrent to the trouble-makers in the region. Which presidential candidate will make a permanent of long-term military commitment to the people of Iraq?


And John McCain's effective, though disingenuous, response:

Well, let me remind you, Congressman, we never lost a battle in Vietnam. It was American public opinion that forced us to lose that conflict.

(Applause)

I think it's important for all Americans to understand the fundamental difference. After we left Vietnam, they didn't want to follow us home. They wanted to build their own workers' paradise. If you read Zarqawi, if you read bin Laden, if you read Zawahiri, read what they say. They want to follow us home. They want Iraq to be a base for Al Qaeda to launch attacks against the United States. Their ultimate destination is not Iraq.

Their ultimate destination is New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Phoenix, Arizona. This is a transcendent challenge of our time.

(Audience booing)

McCain: I believe that we can meet it and we will defeat it.

The Senator's response is essentially "we're fighting them there, so we don't have to fight them here" (in New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Phoenix, Arizona; I suppose he forgot Manchester, New Hampshire and Orlando.) And note the twisted logic: it's not what happened in Vietnam ("after we left Vietnam, they didn't want to follow us home"); therefore, it is what will happen in Iraq. Curious, too, that McCain believes our enemies ("read what they say") rather than Western intelligence.

But more appalling is McCain's resort to waiving the "bloody shirt." Vietnam wasn't the wrong war, or fought ineffectively, or a sacrifice of American blood and treasure that we couldn't sustain as a democracy- oh, no, it was those liberals, American public opinion, "that forced us to lose that conflict." It's clearly a way, if Persian Gulf War II ends badly, not to acknowledge mistaken judgement but instead to blame it on the liberal Democrats, who opposed, or at least were skeptical, about the war.

But on a lighter note. What of the booing after McCain referred to "the transcendent challenge of our time?" Did the Repub audience fail to understand McCain? Did it forget when it was supposed to cheer, and boo? Did the audience lose sight of the cue cards?

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