Barack Obama has a political “problem” with national security which is kind of like saying Howard Dean has a “problem” with voice modulation. Obama, of course, has no foreign policy training or experience (not to mention no record of military service which may explain why his notion of an Iraq policy centers on some ill-defined "strike force" in a not yet determined location), yet he wants to have tea with the world’s dictators. He also said (and still says) the surge wouldn’t improve security in Iraq. So Obama and his sidekick DNC Chairman Howard Dean thought they had a great idea: try to play some gotcha, sound bite politics on Iraq. After all, the press wouldn’t notice or care if they fuzzed up the facts, right?
Things started out well for them. They spotted a response by John McCain to a question from a New Hampshire voter as to whether he agreed with President Bush that troops might be in Iraq for 50 year. McCain said:
“Make it a hundred. We’ve been in Japan for 60 years, we’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That’d be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me. I hope it will be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping, and motivating people every single day.”
“Yeah, that’s it!” the newly formed political brain trust (Obama-Dean) concluded. “Let’s tell folks McCain wants to fight for 100 years.” They must have calculated that: 1) their allies in the MSM wouldn’t point out that they were playing cut-and-paste politics and 2) McCain wouldn’t fight back. They were wrong on both counts, which at least is consitent with Dean’s record on such matters. What’s worse they only emphasized Obama’s greatest weaknesses and diminished one of his strengths. Good work fellas.
Because the claim that McCain was advocating a 100-years war was so obviously absurd and easily checked (Note to Obama-Dean: there are these new things out called Google and YouTube), the conservative media as well as the MSM quickly called out the Democrats for political gamesmanship. The reaction was so swift and unified that the RNC actually put out a press release listing the quotes from top MSM outlets (and some conservative ones too) all reaching the same conclusion: the Obama-Dean ploy was just that — a ploy and a distortion of McCain’s words. Even the MSM labeled this effort “unfair” and a cheap effort to “mischaracterize” McCain’s words.
Nor did McCain’s team just sit back when Obama-Dean went to work. McCain and the RNC spotted the chance to turn the tables. A RNC spokeswoman said bluntly: “Barack Obama seems happy to continue twisting John McCain’s words in a way that has been described by non-partisan Politifact.com as ‘false.’ This is despite seeming acknowledgement from Barack Obama today that he is indeed mischaracterizing John McCain’s position with regard to a continued US troop presence in Iraq.” McCain’s team responded on a nearly daily basis by reminding voters of the full context of his statement. In short, McCain and the RNC, to Obama-Dean’s amazement no doubt, hit back – and hard.
IT GETS WORSE FOR THE DEMOCRATS
But Obama-Dean didn’t just make a miscalculation, they made a blunder. A miscalculation would have been a foul ball with two strikes; the batter just gets another swing. In this case, Obama-Dean’s wild pitch allowed the base runner to advance, not just one but two bases.
First, Obama-Dean’s ploy set the naïf Senator up for a swift counterpunch from McCain. This was an ideal opportunity to remind voters that only McCain had actually done anything about our failing Iraq policy and his potential opponent has zilch national security experience. McCain blasted:
“It displays a fundamental misunderstanding of history and how we’ve maintained national security, and what we need to do in the future to maintain our security in the face of the transcendent challenge of radical Islamic extremism. And I understand that because he has no experience or background in any of it. (He) either hasn’t read or (doesn’t) understand…the history of this country in warfare, and the way that we secure alliances and secure the peace — and that’s through military government to government agreements that call for United States presence and mutual defense. Not only in that country itself, but also in the region. Our troops in Japan maintain a military presence in Asia. Our troops in Japan and South Korea maintain stability in Asia. The same thing was true after World War II about our troops in Germany.”
Boom. So, far from scoring a cheap point, Obama-Dean gave McCain the opening to hit Obama where he is weakest — on national security. Nice work guys.
But wait, the damage wasn’t done. Obama’s appeal, especially in his battle to drive a stake through the Clinton era in American politics, has been his lofty appeal as the only on candidate above the grubby fray of partisan politics. He is going to take us into a new era of politics, a higher ethical plane where we won’t vilify our enemies.
Woops: we have a discontent here. As the RNC so succinctly pointed out: “It’s becoming increasingly clear that for all his protestations as to representing a ‘new brand of politics,’ when push comes to shove, Barack Obama is worryingly comfortable continually repeating known falsehoods in order to score political points.”
The “100 years” gambit coupled with Dean’s crack that McCain was practicing “blatant opportunism” by highlighting his life story on a biographical tour (was Dean suggesting that McCain had just been clever when we was taken prisoner and gave up a chance for an early release?) left no doubt who was already on the political low road in the not yet begun general election.
So the next time Dean offers Obama some political advice he might want to run the other way. Together they seemed to have achieved the unimaginable: turning the MSM’s sights on Obama, emphasizing the likely Democratic nominee’s utter lack of national experience, and revealing Obama to be nothing more than a classic old-style politician. McCain can only hope that Obama-Dean is the beginning of a long and deep political alliance.