Foreign Policy

McCain's Ball and Chain

After he has spent more than five years meticulously building a second presidential campaign, this one meant to carry him over the finish line, it's hard to believe Sen. John McCain's candidacy has stumbled so badly. With money drying up and poll numbers falling, McCain has found ever since the midterm elections of 2006 that his support for the Iraq war is a ball and chain following him wherever he goes. As he drags it around it drags him down but doesn't seem to hold back Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney, both of whom supported the recent troop increase right along with McCain.

On Sunday, McCain began a public-relations offensive he hopes will help redefine him as the right leader on the country's most difficult issue. With a Washington Post editorial, a "60 Minutes" interview and an upcoming speech at the Virginia Military Institute, McCain is making his case for finishing the job in Iraq. Though he has campaigned in primary states, McCain has not had much national visibility in recent months, and during this time polls have indicated a majority has begun to support a withdrawal from Iraq. McCain knows he is pushing a political boulder up the side of a mountain. He is asking voters not to agree with him but to trust his position and his leadership. With some luck and skill his new strategy just may help him.

The Republicans' Pinocchio Problem

Now Mitt Romney lies about hunting.

The former Massachusetts governor said he had been a hunter for just about all his life. Almost immediately his staff reminded him he had only been hunting twice. Presumably Mr. Romney forgot about all the times he never hunted.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is now engaged in intensive preparation for his congressional testimony. Will he accuse his former chief of staff of lying? Or will he admit that he lied himself when he said he was not involved in the U.S. attorney firings?

Of course, Scooter Libby was convicted of lying, to the applause of the neoconservative community, which calls for pardon because, for them, putting one's hand on the Bible with an oath to God Almighty and lying is really OK, thank you.

After many tall tales about Iraq WMDs, a little perjury between friends is no big deal.

Reid And Pelosi Have Bush Flanked

America, Iraq and the Middle East may have entered a profound and historical turning point.

At this moment, the Reid-Pelosi flanking maneuver is brilliant and powerful. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moves aggressively to turn around the military escalation, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) moves aggressively to support Middle East peace initiatives.

Lets begin with one key point. When George Bush said yesterday that he decided to surge the troops and escalate in Iraq at the request of American commanders, he was telling a bald-faced lie.

No more niceties. This is so fundamental and important, with so many American lives at stake, that we should be crystal-clear about the truth.

The Political Battle Lines Become Clearer

A smart press strategy by Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) crack staff has muffled the potential political explosion of his announced support of an amendment to cut off funding for the troops as they fight in Iraq. But this story is not going away. In fact, Reid’s announcement is not merely a political tactic to get President Bush to the negotiating table. It is philosophical dogma to the hard left of the Democratic Party.

Democratic leftists want us to leave Iraq now. They wanted us to leave Vietnam, too, and guess what happened there. A communist takeover of Saigon, massacres, genocide and a crisis of confidence in the United States that led to a weakening of American influence from Iran to South America to Africa.

Bush's Empty Threats

April 15th. Yes, it’s tax day, but we all want to forget that. The other significance of that date? Bush really seems serious about focusing on it as the day “we will run out of money in Iraq.” He is playing politics with the war, just as he has since he started the conflict. Instead of working with Congress and finding a solution, Bush thinks he will have a Clinton-Gingrich budget-shutdown moment.

Of course, this is the administration that told troops “you go to war with the equipment you have” and proclaimed our veterans’ care was “fully funded.” Right. This is the administration that fired a general when he told the American people that the war might cost as much as $200 billion. Hmm. This is the administration and president who have been accused by the military and many Republicans of trying to wage a war “on the cheap.” Please.

Cautious Optimism

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spoke from Baghdad Sunday with "cautious optimism" about the progress a surge in U.S. forces has produced in Iraq, having become cautiously optimistic during what the Washington Post described as "a heavily guarded walk through a newly fortified Baghdad market." But McCain added wisely, "I am not saying 'Mission Accomplished.' ... we have a very difficult task ahead of us."

As McCain struggles to keep his footing in the presidential race he led until recently, progress in Iraq is key to progress on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and other political battlegrounds for this war's strongest supporter. He must tout each incremental success in the face of an increasingly emboldened opposition party in the Congress and an angry, disheartened public, even as politicians in Iraq have begun to conclude that American forces are on their way out sooner rather than later.

The Big Picture

Having just returned from a brief vacation, where I looked back at Washington from the Left Coast, I saw little blurbs of gossip and information that from far away reveal the big picture.

Here are the bits that came through the news:

  1. Tony Snow, the best thing that has happened to this White House in four years, has cancer again, and it may have spread to his liver. This is bad and very sad news for all who know Tony personally and for this White House team that needs his leadership.

  2. The Iranians' seizure of 15 British marines is needlessly provocative and possibly much more significant geopolitically than has been acknowledged by the White House thus far.

  3. The Democrats are having a field day beating up the executive branch, especially the Justice Department, and the Attorney General has done a fairly lousy job explaining himself. Getting thrown under the bus by his ex-chief of staff yesterday was not helpful.

  4. The Democrats finally won a short-term victory on the war supplemental. They got their votes, and some Republicans’, and now they have a bill that will surely be vetoed by the President. It is too early to tell who won this battle, and only God knows how much pork has yet to be added to get the conference report to final passage.

  5. So here is the Big Picture. Washington is screwing around, playing political games here at home, while the Iranians are licking their chops and hoping that we leave Iraq so that they can finally dominate once and for all their neighbor and long-time adversary. The Iranians are so confident that they can win the endgame that they are playing a risky game of hardball by seizing those British Marines and then parading them on television. They are calculating that we have a weak hand because of our political shenanigans, and that we won’t do what it takes to win this game in the long run. I hope they are wrong, but given the realities of the situation today, they may be right.


Troops In Harm’s Way Because Bush Acts Unwisely

This is my friendly, professional — but strong — response to what Ron Christie argues in his post today.

Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are not playing, but taking the wise and appropriate actions that happen to be in line with the will of the overwhelming majority of the American people and the results of the recent election.

Regarding the surge, the troops are in harm’s way because George W. Bush ignored and disrespected the overwhelming and possibly unanimous advice of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who opposed the escalation.


Troops in Harm's Way While Congress Plays

Fifty-three days ago, President George W. Bush asked the Congress for additional resources to reinforce our troops in the field as they wage the war on terrorism on our behalf. Among other things, this included $769 million to support deployed troops in Iraq with an additional $1.5 billion to provide armor and equipment to these troops.

For Afghanistan, the president asked the Congress for $272 million to deploy a Combat Brigade Team and $99 million to support linguists in Afghanistan and provide additional support for the team mentioned above.

Speaker Pelosi's Magic Moment

Wouldn't it be amazing if the first woman Speaker redefines national politics and regains the high ground for Democrats on national defense and national security?

The truth is, the Speaker comes from a family of old-fashioned values and traditional standards and views America as a larger family and shared community.

The Speaker is a woman of faith, a grandma, mother, daughter, and wife. In her world, all Americans are security moms and security dads; all Americans are military moms and military dads.

For military families, it's a family affair. The Speaker's daughter Christine Pelosi is a strong advocate for vets and troops in her own right, and initiated a major program for vets through the Democratic National Committee.

If the Speaker leads an unprecedented battle for better treatment of our troops and vets she will transform American politics and can seize the high ground on national security for many years to come.