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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

McCain's Iraq Political Jujitsu

Over the weekend, John McCain's campaign made a masterful political stroke regarding Iraq. They invited Barack Obama to join McCain on joint fact finding trip to Iraq. This was one of those political moves where the two option were, heads I win, tails you lose. If Barack Obama went on the trip, he might actually find that things are getting better and then would either admit he was wrong or try and spin in a war zone. Neither of those situation was a good one politically for Obama.

On the other hand, Obama could refuse. Then, McCain can claim that 1) Barack Obama is making military decisions without seeing the facts on the ground, and 2) he is more willing to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than General David Petraeus and the men and women that are so bravely fighting for our freedom. Like I said, heads I win, tails you lose. Obama chose the latter.

John McCain’s proposal is nothing more than a political stunt, and we don’t need any more ‘Mission Accomplished’ banners or walks through Baghdad markets to know that Iraq’s leaders have not made the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge. The American people don’t want any more false promises of progress, they deserve a real debate about a war that has overstretched our military, and cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars without making us safer

The problem for Barack Obama is that this is one of those things that he won't feel the consequences of for months, but when he does, there will be nothing he can do about it. From now on, everytime Barack Obama talks about how he will bring a new foreign policy, John McCain will be right behind him to remind everyone that his foreign policy means a greater willingness to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than General David Petraeus. Just like this ad already does...

...or like McCain does himself right here

Everytime Barack Obama says he will commit to pulling troops out, John McCain will be right behind him reminding everyone he is committing to pulling troops out without even going to Iraq to see the situation first hand.

In politics, all jujitsu is a delicate balancing act that can explode and boomerang at any moment. Just because this looks masterful now doesn't mean that it will work out masterfully. As Yogi Berra used to say,

in theory there's no difference between theory and practice but in practice there is

McCain needs to create several dueling narratives and tie them together. The first narrative is one of a naive and inexperienced freshman Senator that simply doesn't understand foreign policy. He needs to tie that inexperience to a naive policy of meeting with our biggest enemies with no preconditions. Furthermore, he needs to tie that to an equally naive belief that retreat from Iraq will have no consequences. Finally, he needs to tie that mindset to an intransigent state of mind that refuses to check things out for himself, and makes decisions from the comforts of Washington. John McCain takes a back seat to no one on credibility on all foreign policy issues. Thus, this is his territory. If he is successful here, he can turn Iraq from his albatross to Obama's.

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