Hey, Barack: Context Matters

Back in 2004, in the lead up to the presidential election, Democrats excoriated President Bush and the GOP for “exploiting” a national tragedy by creating campaign ads with video of the president at the World Trade Center site after 9-11.  Democrats claimed the ads demeaned the memory of fallen heroes and insulted the families of all those who perished.  

This year, the Democrats struck a similar note in calling out John McCain for TV ads that include footage of him as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, an act that Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean claimed made McCain “a blatant opportunist.”

Fast forward to this week.  A new DNC advertisement includes a brief video of John McCain in which he appears to be telling voters at a campaign stop in New Hampshire that it is OK with him if we stay in Iraq another 100 years.  The video (which you can viewed here) includes images of American soldiers in Iraq apparently being blown up by an IED, and reminders about the length and cost, in lives and dollars, of the war.  It ends with an ominous voice-over that says, “If all he offers is more of the same, is John McCain the right choice for America’s future?”

So let me see whether I have this straight.  The Democratic Party leadership thinks it is inappropriate for President Bush to remind voters of his leadership on 9-11.  They also think it is off-limits for John McCain to mention the most defining episode in his life.  But, it is just fine to show images of U.S. soldiers being killed in Iraq while the war is still going on.  

There are questions about the origin of the video clip of the IED explosion.  Although it is unclear whether any U.S. soldiers were killed in the explosion, the video clearly makes it appear as if some were.  The clip may have been taken by jihadists, who often videotape IED explosions that kill American combat troops and post them on one of what the Army estimates are more than 6,500 jihadist websites that promote violence against Americans.  Other theories suggest the clip came from Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9-11” or from the camera of an NBC reporter.  

Regardless, the Left’s use of images of attacks on U.S. soldiers for partisan political gain doesn’t square with its constant criticism of Republican use of wartime footage.  

Of course, the Left never hesitates to use the U.S. military for its own purposes.  Last week, Time Magazine exploited WWII veterans when they placed a doctored photo of the U.S. Marines raising the U.S. flag on Iwo Jima on its cover.  Sounds fair, but the Marines in the doctored photo are not holding a U.S. flag but a tree, and the cover story’s point is to push the agenda not of victory of freedom over tyranny but of climate alarmism.

What’s more, the substance of the DNC ad mischaracterizes McCain’s “100 years” remark.  Here’s what McCain actually said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire on January 3rd.  Responding to a questioner who said, “President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years…” McCain chimed in:  

“Maybe a hundred.  That would be fine with me. … We’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That would be fine with me, as long as American, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. It’s fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day.”

And it’s true.   Thousands of U.S. troops remained in South Korea, 55 years after war ended there.  And sixty years after World War II, there were still over 65,000 American troops in Germany, 35,000 troops in Japan and 12,000 troops in Italy.   These were not “combat troops” during wartime, but rather American military personnel working to maintain peace and helping to rebuild the infrastructures of war-battered nations.  

Barack Obama also distorted what McCain said, recently telling a Houston audience that his would-be general election opponent “says that he is willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq,” and suggesting that a President McCain would have “high-level of combat troops inside Iraq for… as John McCain said, perhaps 100 years.”  All this from a man who admits he would consider keeping “a strike force in the region” if elected president.

The Republican National Committee is demanding that TV networks stop running the DNC’s new ad.  I highly doubt the that the DNC will pull the ad, as it provides it with an opportunity to contrast Obama — the self-described “hope-monger” — with the man it wants to portray to voters as a war-monger.   

With the political world’s attention once again focused on the Rev. Wright controversy, Barack Obama has said that he considers his ex-pastor “fair game,” but both Obama and Wright have insisted that Wright’s comments should not be quoted out of context.

Fair enough.  But McCain ought to be extended the same courtesy by Obama and his surrogates when it comes to the Republican nominee’s remarks about the war.