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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Distortions in the 21st Century

There is a certain fascinating evolution over these comments made by John McCain.

Make it a 100. We've been in South Korea ... 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 Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, that’s fine with me. I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day."

Now, this statement doesn't sound all that newsworthy on its own, however many of his Democratic opponents seized on it. What the Democrats did was isolate the most provocative part of the comment in order to impugn McCain.

It wasn't merely the national party, but the Presidential candidates as well. Here is how Barack Obama first began to characterize the comments.

"And when it comes to foreign policy, John McCain says he wants to fight a hundred year war, a hundred years he says, as long as it takes

Hillary Clinton said this of John McCain.

He's willing to keep this war going for 100 years

They could also find some sympthetic media.

This off the cuff comment appeared to be one that would dog McCain for the entire campaign.

It was an off-the-cuff line, but in the YouTube-era, one that promises to dog Senator John McCain throughout the entire general election campaign. Responding to a question during his New Hampshire campaigning, John McCain said he saw no problem with the U.S. remaining in Iraq for 100 years.

Of course, we are living in the 21st century age and it is a brave new world. As soon as pundits and politicians grabbed on to this comment, so did the plethora of watchdog groups, new media, and even some in the dinosaur media. What has happened is an evolution that no one could have predicted. The first salvo was fired by, a group billed as non partisan.

The DNC's message portrays McCain as bent on fighting an "endless" war in Iraq.

DNC: We can't afford four more years with a President who fights an endless war in Iraq. ... On the war, McCain scoffed at Bush's call to leave troops in Iraq for 50 years, saying "Make it a hundred!"

That of course is a serious distortion of what McCain actually said to a town-hall meeting in New Hampshire back on Jan. 3. His actual words are posted in a video on YouTube. Far from advocating "endless war," he said the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq would be "fine with me" provided that they're not being killed or wounded.

Lesser well known groups like followed suit.

The Democratic candidates and groups that oppose John McCain have been quoting the Arizona senator as saying the United States could be in Iraq for 1,000 years.


As we explain above, McCain was referring to a peacetime presence, not the war. So we find Obama's statement False.

After this a slew of media like the Associated Press, Manchester Union Leader, the Atlantic, the New York Times, also all came out in defense of McCain and called the implication a distortion.

Suddenly Barack Obama and his Democratic brethren found themselves on the defensive.

Here is how David Axelrod put it,

Senator Obama hasn't said that Senator McCain said we would be at war for 100 years..."

Suddenly, an attack on McCain's war strategy turned into an attack on their own credibility. Such is life in the 21 century world of politics. The youtube age makes anything and everything you say potentially viral. While it is quite easy to take someone's words out of context and turn those new provocative words into an internet sensation, that very stunt can backfire just as quickly.

The irony is that McCain's comments wouldn't have become a story without the internet. They were not only easy to find but to distort. On the other hand, the same internet structure caused the attackers to be put on the defensive for their distortions. Such is the world in the 21st century.

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