Sunday, August 17, 2008


... are, unfortunately, not on the air -- they're in this New York Times story today. Why am I reading them there? Why haven't haven't I actually seen them?

Here's the first one:

...Within hours [of 9/11], Mr. McCain ... had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

...Within a month he made clear his priority. "Very obviously Iraq is the first country," he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: "Next up, Baghdad!" ...

And here's the second ad. It needs a voiceover introduction, so I'll provide one: He was the biggest celebrity politician in the world. But in the days after September 11, where was his judgment? Notice not just what he says but where he says it:

...To Jay Leno in mid-September, Mr. McCain said he believed "some other countries" had assisted Osama bin Laden, going on to suggest Iraq, Syria and Iran as potential suspects. In October 2001, ... Mr. McCain interrupted a question about Afghanistan from David Letterman on that night's "Late Show." "The second phase is Iraq," Mr. McCain said....


Larry King of CNN asked whether he would have named Mr. Rumsfeld and Colin L. Powell to a McCain cabinet. "Oh, yes, and Cheney," Mr. McCain answered, saying he, too, would have offered Mr. Cheney the vice presidency.

When will we see ads like this? Will we ever?


In some ways, it's odd that I came around to supporting Barack Obama in the primaries -- he really wants to run a positive, non-rancorous campaign and I still long to see Democrats send the message that the GOP is actually the scary, crazy, dangerous party in this country. I want people to think that voting Republican isn't just a bad idea but can lead to utter cataclysm ... because, well, it has, hasn't it?

I came around to Obama because I preferred his ideas on foreign policy and I found the Clintons increasingly heedless of the damage they were doing to the party and to race relations in general with their attacks on him. But I had to put aside qualms about Obama's apparent reluctance to get down and dirty with opponents.

I assumed he knew what he was doing because his approach seemed to be working, and there's a fairly good chance it's still working. But I want people to reject McCain with no qualms, not because they assume America can afford to forgo his sound judgment, but because they know he has lousy judgment.

If the Obama approach doesn't work this year, four years from now I want a candidate who's a junkyard dog.

And by the way, I'm far from convinced Hillary Clinton is that candidate. I can't prove this, but after sixteen years of Clinton-watching, I strongly suspect that after the primaries she'd have tacked to the right so fast it would have made your head spin. Not on abortion rights, maybe, and possibly not on withdrawal from Iraq. But I suspect that, if she were this year's nominee, she'd have been far less confrontational with John McCain than she was with Obama, primarily because Clintons also seek to reach for what they think is the center. See Hillary in a hard hat on a drilling rig, courting blue-collar voters! See her talk tough about Putin! Maybe I'm wrong -- in any case, I hope Obama's positivity is the right approach, even if it frustrates me.


Oh, and lest you think McCain's truly learned anything about Iraq, the Times story notes that he e-mailed the paper two days ago as the article was being prepared:

The Sept. 11 attacks "demonstrated the grave threat posed by a hostile regime, possessing weapons of mass destruction, and with reported ties to terrorists," Mr. McCain wrote in an e-mail message on Friday. Given Mr. Hussein's history of pursuing illegal weapons and his avowed hostility to the United States, "his regime posed a threat we had to take seriously."

Er, Al Qaeda is not a "regime," Johnny Mac. And Saddam's Iraq was a regime, but one that we now know didn't possess WMDs and thus didn't pose a threat. Do you still not understand that?

Apparently not:

But Mr. McCain, in his e-mail message, said the reason he had supported the war was the evolving threat from Mr. Hussein.

"I believe voters elect their leaders based on their experience and judgment -- their ability to make hard calls, for instance, on matters of war and peace," he wrote. "It's important to get them right."

Yes, he actually wrote that, without shame: It's important to get them right.

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