John McCain: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi et al were wrong when they declared defeat in Iraq a few months ago. Of course, had they been in charge they would have been right. Defeat is in their characters; they thought everybody was like them. Fortunately, they are wrong about that too. John McCain showed the kind of courage and character we need to lead our country.

John McCain is clearly the Republican with the most appropriate experience and character. He will also be in the best position to defeat whichever toy soldier the Dems present in November. If the three front running Dems could be summed together into a one huge hermaphroditic chimera, McCain has still more experience the entire beast and he has more character than all seven of the Democratic dwarfs. (You cannot include Kucinich. Who knows what kind of experience he had on whatever planet he comes from?).

I supported John McCain in 2000 and I will do so again. Ever since I have posted on Watchblog, my bio has included the sentences, “Jack made the mistake of voting for Jimmy Carter in 1976, but redeemed himself by supporting Ronald Reagan the next time. He supported John McCain in 2000 and will do so again in 2008.” I admit that I doubted McCain’s ability to win – oh me of little faith - & in my weakness held off making any donations. The dark despair has lifted. I sent my money to John McCain and I hope that those of you will do the same. The vindication of his long held policy in Iraq, which would have been an albatross around his neck had it gone bad, convinces me that he will be able to win the primaries and beat any Dem like drum in November.

My favorite magazine “The Economist” talks about John McCain in pithier prose than I can manage, but let me list my reasons I like John McCain.

Iraq – Iraq and the foreign policy around it is the most important challenge the new president will face. As success in Iraq becomes more apparent every day, Dems are trying to shift focus. We cannot let them. The economy is largely beyond the control of a president. It is only the economy, stupid, if you are stupid. Iraq policy depends very much on the president, as we have seen in this last year when President Bush was able to slap down Democratic calls for American defeat.

McCain broke with the Bush policy early on Iraq. Let’s get this straight. McCain held firm. President Bush changed U.S. strategy to be more like McCain’s and it worked. We can clearly see that in late 2006 the Dem leadership was wrong on principle; President Bush was wrong on strategy; John McCain was right on both.

What I wrote in In April was correct. The difference with today is now most of us can see it.

Environment is my key issue. None of the possible candidates (Chris Dodd is not viable) on either side has embraced the radical solutions, such as carbon taxes, that I think are necessary to address climate change. Of the candidates, I believe McCain is most likely to come around to a common sense solution like that. Even though his statements (like those of all politicians) are a little confused on the issue. Natural Resource Defense Council called John McCain Washington's most important champion of global warming legislation, and this was years back, before the issue became so popular. As president, John McCain will be able to dispense with a lot of that liberal pabulum and leftist human hating rhetoric and get to the job of actually improving our environment. He is my kind of environmentalist – one who cares more about nature than looking like he cares.

The reason he is not competing in Iowa is because of his courageous stand against ethanol subsidies. Other major candidates have genuflected in front of the corn god and sold their principles for a mess of Iowa corn porridge. Osama kissed the ears several time and did it with gusto. Hilary almost did the right thing, but found the call of the corn too strong to resist. How can we blame her? She doesn’t know what she thinks until she see the poll results. Ethanol may be a good idea; making it from corn is not smart. Subsidizing it is another example of a short sighted government program that makes some people feel good while harming the environment.

Besides national security and the environment … well if you get those issues right as president you have 90% of the problem solved. Let me just take from “The Economist” article (read the link), “His fights with his fellow Republicans have been driven by his (usually justified) conviction that they were betraying Republican principles. He opposed Mr Bush's tax cuts because he thought they would create a deficit. He led the charge against pork-barrel spending and lobbyists such as Jack Abramoff because he thought they undermined the principle of small government. Immigration is a genuine problem: he is seriously at odds with the bulk of his party on the issue, though many independents would go with his plan.”

John McCain often gets in trouble for thinking independently. I guess spending five years being tortured by sadistic communists makes him less timid about antagonizing the duller people in his own party or the more perenially dull Democrats. He has consistently stood on principle. Among all the candidates he will certainly make the best president.

The three top democrats all together have less experience than McCain alone. Of course they do have other attributes. One is good looking, very articulate and Dick Cheney’s distant cousin. Another has pretty hair, which he keeps perfected coifed. And the third spent a lot of time in the White House watching her husband be president and do many interesting and usual things. It sounds more like the pilot for a sitcom than a serious presidential field.

John McCain has what America needs now.

Posted by Jack at December 18, 2007 8:54 AM
Comment #240926

Jack, I also like McCain and agree with most of your prose. I am a little concerned about his age and his VP choice would be extremely important to me. I doubt that McCain, if elected, would run for another term making the VP the most logical choice for running in 2012. With his vast experience in government and his personal values and strength of character he would be a great face for America to show the world. Our enemies would exercise caution with him as the leader of the free world and his word would be trusted. He has also shown the ability to admit he is wrong and change his views when convinced as he has done regarding illegal immigration.

Posted by: Jim at December 18, 2007 10:41 AM
Comment #240929

Jack, McCain does have the character and courage to be President. He just doesn’t have the right policies to meet America’s challenges. Character and courage are not intelligence and wisdom, or appropriate problem solving capacity to solve enormous problems.

What American problems has John McCain addressed in his tenure as a public servant which have been solved, instead of being made ever more controversial?

Just because a person has an antiseptic appearance does not meant they are qualified to be a surgeon. Being a successful president requires far more than just character and courage. It took conviction of faith and self-sacrifice for the 9/11 terrorists to give their lives for their faith and their fellow Muslims who believe as they did. These qualities hardly qualify them as heroes in our eyes, do they?

Having some admirable qualities is in no way sufficient to qualify persons for an enormously wide range of positions in the human hierarchy of specialization. Just as McCain’s character and courage are insufficient to qualify him as a Navy Seal, his character and courage are insufficient to qualify him as an effective president capable of leading America toward a better future.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2007 10:59 AM
Comment #240937
What American problems has John McCain addressed in his tenure as a public servant which have been solved, instead of being made ever more controversial?

You’ve just invalidated all of the candidates, and platforms, of both ‘major’ parites, David… I like it!

Posted by: Rhinehold at December 18, 2007 11:47 AM
Comment #240942


I think Jack made some good points. Certainly character and courage are essential attributes for a Presidential candidate.
How about patriotism?
But what other traits do you rate as equally essential? You aver that McCain doesn’t have a publicly known legislative record of renown. Maybe so, but he sure knows the rules and how the game is played, which in our system helps a lot. Who among the other candidates knows this significantly better?
You mention intelligence and wisdom. McCain certainly is an intelligent man. And as to wisdom, that usually is an unknown until someone is really put to the test.

Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter profile available to do a perfect rating job on candidates. We take our best shot at voting time on the basis of media manipulated information which is almost a charicature from what each individual is really like under pressure of global issues.

McCain is the only candidate who comes closest to these desirable attributes in my view, although his age may be a bit of a problem. Your point is well taken that the choice of running mate would be very important.

Posted by: fred at December 18, 2007 12:38 PM
Comment #240943

You’re a little too confident in presenting Iraq as such an unqualified success story.

If Iraq was a shining example of democracy reverberating through the region, improving the quality of life of muslim youths, empowering the people, and resulting in diminished support for fanatics throughout the middle east - then you could make a case that McCain was right all along. Isn’t this pretty much what was supposed to happen in short order?

Still - he is better than the rest of the sorry republican field.

Posted by: Schwamp at December 18, 2007 12:57 PM
Comment #240944

McCain is clearly the best of a bad lot. I doubt he will be allowed much progress as he is not,to his credit,a corporatist.If he is nominated his election will depend on one fact. Just how many pro-war independants are there? That will be the biggest factor depending just how successful our “peace with honor” spin is accepted.
Whats a little forign invasion amongst friends? Once again we are busily betraying an allie,the Kurds,no doubt they are again being bombed by weapons from the USA.Ah,the smell of victory.

Posted by: BillS at December 18, 2007 1:27 PM
Comment #240945

fred said: “I think Jack made some good points. “

Me too, some!

Fred said: “Certainly character and courage are essential attributes for a Presidential candidate.”

Well, we have had presidents lacking in those qualities and yet, the nation survived. So, I would not say they are essential. I would say they are important. But, there are different kinds of courage, like the courage to admit when one is wrong as opposed to the kind of courage that would die at the hands of adversaries rather than admit one was wrong.

McCain was tortured and told the North Vietnamese whatever they wanted to hear. I am not sure, but, I think many who believe in McCain’s courage are unaware of this fact. I find courage in McCain’s convictions in the face of unpopular opposition, not in his performance as a prisoner of war. But, I would hasten to add, that I too would have had no more courage in the face of McCain’s torturers than he.

Character is a very subjective quality. I have known some alcoholics with an abundance of character. But, I would have to look to someone like Mahatma Gandhi for the kind of character most folks talk about wanting in a President. If character means integrity in one’s beliefs and actions, character and politics are normally enemies. I do respect McCain and once supported him for his character (meaning integrity, over the campaign finance issue).

Fred asked: “But what other traits do you rate as equally essential?”

I mentioned those in my previous comment. Intelligence and problem solving capacity, especially within constraints and bounds of the long term national welfare like our U.S. Constitution. Something nearly completely absent in this White House administration and GOP in Congress today. They would rather stymie Democrats in Congress than move the nation forward in problem solving, even if compromised problem solving, preferring abandonment of solutions instead.

Fred said: “Unfortunately, there is no cookie-cutter profile available to do a perfect rating job on candidates. We take our best shot at voting time on the basis of media manipulated information which is almost a charicature from what each individual is really like under pressure of global issues.”

I absolutely agree this is true for a majority of voters.

But, Joe Biden has demonstrated far more knowledge and intelligence on the Iraq question than John McCain. Though Biden’s courage to stand up against his own party on border security and illegal immigration don’t hold a candle to McCain’s standing up to his own party on campaign finance reform.

But, as of this moment, this entire conversation is moot. Neither McCain nor Biden has a competitive advantage to carry them into the White House. As of this moment, the race is between Clinton, Edwards, and Obama, and Giuliani, Romney, and Huckabee. For all their ads and visiting in Iowa, 50% of Iowans still can’t make a choice among these candidates. I entirely understand their dilemma.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2007 1:32 PM
Comment #240969

you raise some illuminating aspects of the current primary candidates and I agree that none of them are of persuasive impact in any sense. Yet, you say for instance, that the nation survived because we did have Presidents wanting in character and courage. I take a dimmer view of your “surviving as a nation” comment than you do. Because nobody has made a profound analysis of how we, as a nation, might be conducting ourselves today, if we had really had great role models as Presidents at a few critical instances in our history. I grant you that it is all water over the dam, but there is a price to be paid for the lack of character and courage, certainly in Chief Executives. Some business types of that ilk are still in jail as a matter of fact.
May the worst of it all is that we do not seem to learn much from our bad experiences. If only we would point at history a bit more.
So for me, these 2 primary attributes rate very high but in addition there should of course be other relevant attributes of experience, personality, education etc.,etc. This is a very critical subject we are addressing here so let’s go around once more on this one.

Posted by: fred at December 18, 2007 4:25 PM
Comment #240984

Fred said: “Yet, you say for instance, that the nation survived because we did have Presidents wanting in character and courage.”

Actually the intent of my words was that we survived despite their want for character or courage. Hence, they are not essential, but, very important, historically speaking.

There is no question that management skills are essential to a successful presidency. Some presidents have been very good in this area in their own right, others have relied heavily on their Chief of Staff and cabinet heads to shore up their lack. A few lacked management skills and the ability to select effective managers to rely upon.

Respect for, and historical education on our founding documents and history, are, in my opinion, essential to a successful presidency. Without respect for these, their presidency will be embroiled and tarnished by soundly justified opposition and criticism.

Intelligence and education I believe are essential. Intelligence gives a president the capacity to learn quickly on the job about the job and the capacity for creative solutions when the status quo solutions no longer work. Education provides them with the analytical and critical evaluation skills to decipher the sources and roots of problems facing them, and a broad knowledge of what’s been tried before or, at least, where to get that information in the form that they need it.

Earned self-confidence, I also consider an essential requirement for President. Without it, one can too easily become a puppet to advisors and end up with an agenda and legacy never really authored by them in the first place. Such, I believe, is the case with GW Bush. Earned self-confidence (vs. false bravado) comes from a personal history of success in one’s endeavors.

And lastly, I consider excellent or at least workable people skills is a prerequisite for a successful presidency. The ability to debate with, work, with, argue with, and appreciate the many people and their perspectives that a President must work with, and retain working and cordial relationships with them, is in my opinion, crucial to a successful presidency.

Many other qualities can be very important depending on circumstances, like flexibility, constancy, adaptability, sincerity, disposition, and other talents of the mind and experience.

As for character, being of less than impeccable character does not necessarily make one prone to criminal and evil acts. Bill Clinton’s sexcapades compromised his legacy and diminished his presidency. But despite this lack of character, he is still regarded by the majority of Americans as a successful President. (Though I attribute some of his success to having a Republican Congress to deal with, checking and balancing some of his tendencies like spending, and vice versa, obviously).

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 18, 2007 6:43 PM
Comment #241008

Well said David. In the end there doesn’t appear to be much in terms of where we differ regarding the attributes required for a potentially “succesful” Presidency.
However, the consequences for the country of a poor role model President is still something I am concerned about. For instance, the long term deteriotation in many people’s daily behavior, like civility, increased tendency to obstruct, lie,steal, a greatly diminished willingness to accept responsibility for personal actions etc. tends to erode the very character attributes necessary for a nation to perform in tough times. It is an erosion of character and then courage. This phenomenon, in my view is more a result of the hideous concept of political correctness than anything else, in my opinion, and certainly isn’t caused by one “immoral” President. But it mutually feeds on itself and becomes an accepted norm to the ultimate very negative result for the country.
We may have different views about our previous and current President but I’ll take GWB any time over BC.

Posted by: fred at December 19, 2007 7:21 AM
Comment #241010

fred said: “For instance, the long term deteriotation in many people’s daily behavior, like civility, increased tendency to obstruct, lie,steal, a greatly diminished willingness to accept responsibility for personal actions etc. tends to erode the very character attributes necessary for a nation to perform in tough times.”

These concern me as well. Coming from a sociology and psychology background, however, I am inclined to say that far greater causes for these behaviors exist than the role modeling of one person in government. That said, our government as a whole is role model to an incalculable range of justifications of aberrant behavior. And since, the president is one of the most visible persons in government, their role is important.

I cannot forget however, that the human species in very many ways, is not dissimilar from many other species, and we share the same fundamental mechanisms and drives toward survival and procreation. One can erect civilizations, but, in free nations, each individual is asked daily to decide if today they will act civilized.

There will always be a minority on any given day who will choose not act civilized, regardless of background, socio-economic status, or position, regardless of who sits in the White House. Nonetheless, it is a fundamental role of society to minimize uncivilized behaviors for the benefit and betterment of all who share in that society.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 19, 2007 8:16 AM
Comment #241013

Reading the first two paragraphs of Jack’s post leaves me wondering why they are alowed to stand. It seems to me that they violate Watchblog’s number one rule, “Critique the Message, Not the Messenger.” Jack offers an ad hominem attack on Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and “all seven Democratic dwarfs” and he needs to be called on it. If he has a problem with their ideas he should offer a reasoned discussion of those ideas not question their character and call them names.

Posted by: RMD at December 19, 2007 9:38 AM
Comment #241017

to borrow your approach for the occasion, you say:” nonetheless, it is a fundamental role of society to minimize uncivilized behaviors for the benefit and betterment of all who share in that society”. Of course I agree with that statement. But it addresses only a desirable objective and not the factors that need to function actively to make a society really perform that way. But it was precisely those aspects I was focussing on. To me, many of those factors are cultural and go back a long time because “civilizations” (literally) are not built in a day, but can be ruined in relatively short order. All it takes is for some “uncivilized” (ethically and morally challenged??) people to get their hands on the levers of power, in schools, print media, movies, churches, politics, etc. and be allowed to push the envelope of moral behavior over the edge a bit. And before long it starts moving by itself because it caters to some of the less desirable aspects of the human character, which is what civilization tries to address positively. If “anything goes” begins to take on a life of its own, the earlier disciplines which created and maintained the civilized community in the first place are gradually lost in a societal scramble of too many self-serving people acting as negative role models and courage and character become scarce commodities, nationally as well as individually. I hope this will not be a one-way street yet! Otherwise, the West is doomed. To help prevent this we need mostly, Presidents who are top grade charcter role models, as well as all the other desirable attributes you mentioned. Then the rest of us can take our cues from him, or her.
I think we are seeing things very much alike in many respects but because it is a complex subject it deserves dispassionate yet loyal analysis.

Posted by: fred at December 19, 2007 10:33 AM
Comment #241022


The three top democrats all together have less experience than McCain alone. Of course they do have other attributes. One is good looking, very articulate and Dick Cheney’s distant cousin. Another has pretty hair, which he keeps perfected coifed. And the third spent a lot of time in the White House watching her husband be president and do many interesting and usual things. It sounds more like the pilot for a sitcom than a serious presidential field.

Seeing past elections, I’ll bet the future winner is in that group then. ;-)

John McCain has what America needs now.

Sadly, that’s why he won’t win eventually…

Back to a more serious talk, I really don’t know that much about each runners, but in the past the McCain position he took sounded often to me as quite reasonable and contrasted to the usual political sphere one.Unfortunatly, if being right was enough to get power, it will be common knowledge…

Posted by: Philippe Houdoin at December 19, 2007 11:29 AM
Comment #241027


I am allowed to ridicule politicians, especially those who deserve it. Does it bother you when President Bush or VP Chenney are called crooks, liars, “chimps” or worse?

Re Pelosi and Reid, I merely extrapolated from the behavior I mentioned in the first phrase. Defeat in Iraq seems to be something they accept easily.

Go to YouTube and watch Harry Reid admit defeat and tell me you can respect his opinions. I am brought up in the never say die until you do school. I don’t like that their kind of behavior.

Of course there is an upside to Reid and Pelosi. They have managed to make George Bush look powerful. He slapped the two of them around so much they gave him more than he could have gotten from a Republican Congress. All he had to do was put up with their endless posturing. Defeat is in their natures.

Posted by: Jack at December 19, 2007 12:02 PM
Comment #241029

of course you were completely right to critize the Pelosi’s et al, particularly since you do it so articulately and demonstrating the actual differences between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys. That’ll elicit comments, I’m sure,

Posted by: fred at December 19, 2007 12:14 PM
Comment #241108


As I pointed out long ago (before anyone else was talking about it), John McCain is just too freaking old to be running for President. Even if he just served one term, he would be 76 when he left office.

That is a practical problem. The political problem is that conservatives don’t trust him to tow the line.

Posted by: Woody Mena at December 20, 2007 10:36 AM
Comment #241126

fred said: “Then the rest of us can take our cues from him, or her.”

I think you monumentally overestimate the role modeling the public cues from the President. In fact, sociological and psychological research demonstrates that parental, sibling, and peer role models are vastly more important in shaping behavior of the young than the President of the U.S. or any other politician from afar.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 20, 2007 3:58 PM
Comment #241144

To be honest the news is better described as mixed, but troubling. This is an article on a Pentagon Report Which basically says that insurgents have moved their bases to other parts of the country keeping violence levels there above 2006 levels. The Pentagon is saying that these gains we got are good, but easily reversible.

We have the surge coming to an end; we’re at the top of a very slippery slope, manpower-wise, and you better hope the surge is not all that’s holding this peace together. We don’t have the troops in rotation to halt the logistic slide. Poor planning has ensured there’s no plan B that involves putting soldiers back in surge level numbers any time soon. If the troop levels we have by next summer are not enough to keep the peace, then what exactly will your people pull out their hat to resolve things?

Political reconciliation would be all that stands in the way of the violence flaring back up, as the thinning of our troop levels would leave less of our well-trained soldiers between the rival factions. If its not there, things are going to go to hell whether or not we withdraw in full.

There is just so much that has been left to chance, so much failure whose consequences have not disappeared in the convenient interests of this country, and your leaders. I know you guys like to think of yourselves as backing this because you’re not scare enough to think you will lose, but the way you guys shape your policy has made courage an irrelevant factor. You’ve pretty much put victory in Iraq in Iraqi hands. The Iraqis, overwhelmingly, want us out, and consider us an aggravating factor.

I think the real yellowness here is in the failure to confront the real problems of the war, the failure to own up to the weakness of the position we’ve been put in.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 20, 2007 10:12 PM
Comment #241145

I think you misunderstand the context in which I mentioned the value of a morally strong and courageous President. Of course, he is not the primary teacher of people generally, but since we are in our current impasse where general civility, fair play and the concept of honor have taken a back seat in many instances of our daily lives, a bad President represents a stamp of “approval” to those who cheat. Whereas a “good” Presidential individual demonstrates for everyone what is right and what is wrong, which has a strong leveraging effect. Your psychology classes certainly teach that. That’s what good role models are all about at every level of society. But if he is the only one practicing a civil mode of conduct without a responding resonance from the public, then we would be in the process of becoming more uncivilized. Unfortunately, a civilization is like a super tanker, if you do not carefully keep it in a safe channel by watching its progress constantly, you may find out too late that the point of no-return was passed. Even a good captain may not be able to rescue the ship of state. I hope my metaphors are allowed.

Posted by: fred at December 20, 2007 10:40 PM
Comment #241149


Think of it like fighting a pathogen. We have almost cured it. Of course it could come back if we stop treatment too soon.

I think you misunderstand the surge. It was not simply more forces. The forces were used in a very different way. Instead of hunkering down on bases, when we had a problem area, we put down a group of Marines or soldiers in that place. They insurgents often attacked them, which is why casualties went up at first. But as we defeated the bad guys, they went back down.

The report you mention, like all reports, just confirms what I have been telling you. We have made real gains. We could lose those gains if we pull out too soon. IF we finish they job we could win. We have made a remarkable turn around, something thought impossible a short time ago.

War leaves a lot to chance. War is risky. Most critics of the policy just do not understand it. They would have given up WWII the day after Normandy. I am really glad (and I am not simply being rhetorical) that Bush is still president for the next year. I am convinced Kerry would have already been defeated and I know Pelosi and Reid would have been. They have said so themselves.

We are going to give America a victory in Iraq. Democratic leaders can accept it or pretend it didn’t happen and loose what we earned in blood and treasure. I believe responsible Dems will step up and do the right thing. The Dem congress has cried and complained a lot, but gave the money for the war. I am glad they are hypocrites. If they really did what they said they wanted, we would be in serious trouble.

We won’t let America be defeated because some people have no stomach for finishing the fight.

BTW - I will not be able to respond for a couple of days. I will be out of range doing things that will help us finish this job right. Do not pull the rug out from under us.

Posted by: Jack at December 20, 2007 11:35 PM
Comment #241180

If the Iraq War has been like fighting a pathogen, then what the Bush administration has done is like stopping the antibiotic treatment short early.

Which is, yes, the way you get antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria. By doing everything half-assed for the first four years, the Bush administration allowed that infection to rage out of control, to the point now where the antibiotics no longer work as well.

And now, our prescription is running low.

I don’t misunderstand the surge. I do understand that we distributed the soldiers more. However, it wasn’t the new strategy’s success that brought casualties down. Instead, it was a greater use of airstrikes, which improves our casualty situation and worsens that of civilians.

Folks at the top have made a political decision that they did not want to see as many casualties as we were taking, and they may pay for that decision with our crediblity to these people, what little is left of that.

As for losing gains if we pull out too soon, we’re going to be pulling out a brigade a month over the next year until midsummer, until we only have 100,000 or fewer troops in the region. You can talk about finishing the job and not withdrawing, but your manpower policies will leave your forces nearly cut in half.

War leaves a lot to chance. War is risky. Most critics of the policy just do not understand it.

The expression “Fog of War” means that you can’t alway see how a plan might go awry, or the full scope of events. That doesn’t mean you strategize relying on your hopes and dreams to make up for your lack of preparation. The aforementioned manpower problem is a big result of your people refusing to prepare for anything else than your plans succeeding. You never laid down the numbers in the army proper to maintain the war this long, and now we’re going to pay for that.

As for Normandy? My God. You do understand that a modern day liberal directed the film that gave you that battle as a pop-culture reference. Within a year of our landing, we marching into Germany, and in no small part because our leaders put more than enough soldiers and waves of invasion into that critical battle in order to overwhelm the opponent. They didn’t stick with small numbers for political reasons and hope for the best.

You can’t give us a victory in Iraq. Iraq disintegrated, is no longer what it once was, and even your people are reluctant to say that they can put humpty dumpty back together again anytime soon. You guys messed it up, and it’s not getting better, not like it matters. We are still worse off than we were last year, and the year before that, in terms of the political situation and the casualties overall. Our manpower problem is worse than ever before.

We are in serious trouble. You guys just won’t admit it. You take a recent decline in casualties as a sign that you’re winning all of a sudden, and you’re ignoring all the other signs of trouble.

We plenty of stomach in this country, but we do not have much patience for those who not only persist in deluding themselves about the state of affairs, but arrogantly expect everybody else to join in or be called a coward for being skeptical.

You’ve been calling us cowards all along for confronting the issues you’re too scared to deal with, before they become big problems. You make all kinds of comparisons to a war that worked, a war people wanted, to justify a war that has utterly failed at its original purpose, and which nobody wants anymore, even with recent improvements in conditions.

The only cowards in our party are the leaders who won’t confront your boss and end this war like the people wanted them to.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 21, 2007 9:11 AM
Comment #241182

fred, don’t know about my psychology courses teaching that the nation’s morality follows the ups and downs of the president’s, but, I know from experience, that anyone who looks to a politician for their role model is in trouble.

The very definition of a politician is a compromiser, a negotiator, a trader, and one motivated by self-promotion, and with the blessing of the Supreme Court earlier this year, a liar and distorter of the truth, facts, and accuracy.

Sorry, I just can’t seem to buy into your proposition that the President can ever be relied upon as a role model for ethical and responsible character. Even those highly regarded like Reagan were liars and subverters of our laws, ala Iran-Contra Affair, and people who, by virtue of their office, are compelled to cloak their actions and deeds from the public eye like thieves in the night.

Politicians are necessary. But, they were never holy men or women to be heralded as role models except in political party literature inspired by PT Barnum who said a sucker is born every minute. It is still amazing to me that in this day and age of incredible information, that Americans would still hope to find moral and ethical role models in their politicians, when their very job description is that of a huckster salesman playing for a team competing for control of the greatest single repository of wealth on the face of the earth.

Huckabee may have once been a preacher, but as president he will seek to place 95% of the tax burden to run this ship of state on those who spend all or the greatest portion of their income to stay alive and raise their families with a national sales tax, while exempting the very wealthiest from taxation of anykind on the majority of their wealth.

And Huckabee will work ardently to undermine the Constitution and its Bill of Rights starting with the Establishment clause of the First Amendment. Sorry, but, anyone who wants to be a politician is not seeking a higher moral existence or role - they are seeking POWER for them and theirs, and power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Reality is not always palatable, but, rejecting its existence proves PT Barnum absolutely correct.

The closest thing to an honest politician is one who believes his own lies, passionately. They can be very convincing. But, behind underneath that self-deception is the engine of self-aggrandizement and control of power. The simple truth is, it is a very rare individual who can wield power and not become morally and ethically corrupted by it. The story of Jesus or Mahatma Gandhi come to mind.

Render unto Ceasar that which is Ceasar’s, and unto the Lord that which is the Lords, or words to that effect. In other words, don’t seek love and purity of heart in politicians, and don’t seek military and economic power and defense in holy persons.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 21, 2007 9:51 AM
Comment #241185


McCain has run a rather wishy washy campaign in what I see as an unassertive effort. If this is indication of his abilities and character then it does not bode well for his leadership capabilities. While he may be the best the republicans have to offer that is not saying much. He still moves in direct opposition to the majority of Americans with regard to the Iraqi war. He is just another symbol of an obstructionist party so full of itself that to this day it fails to recognize and admit its failings with respect to the needs of the American people. The stink of corruption, scandal, and self serving agendas still permeate the air surrounding the central core of your party.

McCain may be more experienced. Unfortunately most of us common Joe’s today see that experience as the ability to make back rooms deals with special interest groups as their primary concern. Padding their pockets and insuring their success beyond politics seems more important than addressing the needs of the people they supposedly represent. Republicans fight serious ethics reform and advocate tax breaks and subsidies for some of the most profitable businesses in the world, while ignoring the needs of those who pay the bills. None of this is indication of a party that is truly concerned about the needs of us common people. What your party fails to recognize is that the people of this country are hungry for credible, honest, good intentioned government willing to accept accountability and provide governance that works for all not just a few elite class snobs.

Posted by: RickIL at December 21, 2007 10:06 AM
Comment #241208


I know I threatened to stay away, but sand kept me on the ground.

The new strategy is to put troops among Iraqis. We have not come to rely on airs strikes any more than before except for in the deserts where we have pushed the bad guys. Both civilian deaths and military deaths have declines. The guy writing for Slate is just full of crap, I do not want to be harsh, but there is no other way to say it. I have been to Haditha, Ramadi, Fallujah & Al Qaim. These were terrible battlegrounds sometimes even months ago. Today the markets are full and the bad guys are gone. Our troops are there, living among the Iraqis, often sharing buildings with the local Iraqi police. The same thing is happening in Diyala, it is just a couple months behind.

The problem is that not many journalists come around anymore to see these things. They have stopped writing and taking pictures. You guys still are running on last year’s news. We had a Fox News team here. They walked around the marketplace in Hit, near Haditha and they were there when a terrorist attacked the bridge. The local people were outraged at the insurgents for killing innocent people and cutting off there communications. They set about rebuilding the bridge almost immediately and the insurgents won’t last long if they show up in town.

We have not yet achieved success. There are still bad guys lurking out there. They can still torture, murder and intimidate, but not as before. The Slate article annoys me. That clown is trying to tell you a story that he must know is false. He is taking facts out of context and purposely missing the bigger picture.

We do not have good options. If we stay we still might lose. If we leave too quickly we will lose. The costs of failure will be high. My fear is that Dems just think that this is Bush’s war. You may blame him, but America will do well or poorly as a result, not Bush. It is America’s war and you cannot just cut it loose w/o serious consequences. There are people risking their lives to make it better for America. Nobody is fighting for George Bush, except that he is president of the United States. That still makes a difference to some people.

Re being cowards – I think some opponents are good people with whom I disagree. Many are misinformed. Others however are worse. Harry Reid’s defeat statement was horrible. Nancy Pelosi’s posturing about funding is absurd. AND they KNEW they would cave and support the war. That is true moral cowardice.

Re Normandy – My father (and two of my uncles) landed at Normandy. He told me that the movie was great in the sense of uniforms and realism, but that it completely failed to catch the spirit. It was a good movie, but the attitudes of the characters was very 1990s. They would certainly have killed that German w/o much thought, for example and the Tom Hanks character would have been concerned with saving AMERICAN lives, not lives in general. “Band of Brothers” was a much better representaion.


McCain has fought corruption and showed the highest form of ethics.

Posted by: Jack at December 21, 2007 1:55 PM
Comment #241213

I completely agree with your latest. From Reid and Pelosi on down, anybody who wants us to pull out of Iraq now is either an ignoramus, very misinformed, passionate Bush-hater and an irrational and dishonorable anti-American or all of these. Because many of these people are voters they represent in effect an enemy fifth-column, betraying the country. That might also help to explain why so many of these people never say anything intelligent or well considered, they only enjoy character assassinating pro-Americans from Bush on down.
You are right to say that they are cowards, morally as well as intellectually.
McCain may not be another Reagan, but he’s the closest thing we got and his age doesn’t bother me as long as he is healthy. He is also responsible enough to admit he cannot run anymore if that would change before the election.
David made a good observation recently that we need to spend some serious time on identifying a really good VP candidate. I think he is right. What about a long shot, such as Lieberman, he also has courage, is a real American and now Independent. At heart he is probably a bit more Demo than Rep, but that might change with the occasion.

Posted by: fred at December 21, 2007 3:07 PM
Comment #241214

Jack said: “These were terrible battlegrounds sometimes even months ago. Today the markets are full and the bad guys are gone.”

Lulls do not an end to conflicts make. The tensions between Shiite factions is actually growing now that their common foe, the Sunnis, are largely absent from their midst and their is no reconciliation in the offing. Just a pregnant pause of recovery hording of American dollars stolen and lost into the civilian population (1 out of 3 as of last report), and of course the usual lull time activity of purchasing and hording new weapons caches.

The American choice is to bankrupt itself for the next decade or longer baby-sitting the factions, or come home and restore do it a bit of its own rebuilding and recovery. There is little doubt that after Jan. of 2009, Americans will be coming home. And the violence in Iraq will increase as a result. Those are the facts on the ground. However, no one at this point in time can say whether the violence after our departure will be short lived or actually create the impetus for a stronger reconciled Iraqi government that takes the bull by the horns and wrestles it to the dirt simply because there is no other healthy alternative for anyone in the government or to come to the government.

It could go either way, just as the Revolutionary War in the American colonies could have gone either way for a good while, and the same can be said of our Civil War. Such is the nature of internal civil conflicts within nations. They eventually resolve themselves, one way or another.

Bush’s request for spending this year now stands at 192 billion dollars for on year. 5 such years equals 1 trillion dollars. All added to the national debt. America needs to tend to its own house and PDQ.

Posted by: David R. Remer at December 21, 2007 3:14 PM
Comment #241227
McCain has fought corruption

This naturally requires everyone to forget that McCain was one of The Keating Five. Unfortunately some people haven’t though, and it looks like he is still trying to squash any talk about that scandal.

and showed the highest form of ethics.

Such as his ethical stance on the Confederate Flag.

Or with his ethical views on Evangelicalism .
In his 2000 campaign he stated that “Neither party, should be defined by pandering to the outer reaches of American politics and the agents of intolerance.” Yet in the the current campaign he’s likes them enough to make a speech at Falwell’s Liberty University, and to say things like “The Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation.”
We also hear that he’s in talks with his pastor about undergoing a full-immersion baptism so he can become a full-blown evangelical, and that the prospect a Muslim presidential candidate would make him queasy because he could only approve of someone who shared a “solid grounding in my faith.”

Or the ethical way he denounced in 2004 that the Swiftboat attacks were “dishonest” and “dishonorable” but during this campaign, he’s taken money from both Albert Huddleston and Harold Simmons, who together gave 3.1 million to fund SBVT. Not to mention fellow Swiftboat financiers and brothers Sam and Charles Wyly (guilty of tax evasion in the amount of 300 million), who ran ads against McCain in 2000 and who at the time he called “sleazy” and “disgraceful”, are now totally forgiven. So much so, that in the current campaign the Wyly’s were members of the host committee raising money for him in Dallas, Texas.

What an uncorrupted, ethical, and straight-talking fellow that McCain is!

Posted by: veritas vincit at December 21, 2007 5:03 PM
Comment #241233

If I were you, I’d tone down the rhetoric. It’s nothing most Democrats haven’t heard before. Especially those of us whose critiques started from practical problems we had with the way the war was going. Our basic response to comments like yours is “Oh God, not this s*** again.”

Try saying that to yourself after you’ve had a real tiring and frustrating day, and you’ll get approximately the tone of voice we use.

You talk about the bad guys being gone. No, They just agreed to work with us for the time being. The link goes to one soldier’s perspective on the matter. The real question is, when we start bringing home our brigades from Iraq, what is there to prevent these former bad guys from becoming current ones all over again?

I think talking about “bad guys” is dangerously naive. No offense, but there are plenty of different operating definitions of “bad guys” in Iraq, among the different factions. the term also ignores the very obvious flexibility of that definition, as you folks make deals with insurgents to keep other insurgents at bay.

It’s the mess in Iraq that’s the problem, and that’s got no end in sight. Even if we were capable of keeping the peace in Iraq nationwide, which we’re not, we’d still have the problem that it would require us to stay to keep Iraq from degenerating. What kind of victory would that be? None at all. A victory is something you can leave alone for the most part, not perpetuate an active shooting war to stave off defeat.

At the end of the day, though, we have neither the soldiers to completely pacify Iraq, nor the political cooperation to ensure its stability after we leave.

The best chance for peace is for the Iraqis to realize that they are on their own. No more American money flowing like tap water, with no more accountability. No more Americans standing in for the defenders they should have. No more Americans to kick around and blame for their problems. It’s amazing that Republicans decry dependence on the part of our people here, yet are perfectly happy to see Iraqis dependent on us for the next few decades.

We need to be quit of the place, and they need to be quit of us. The arrangement is doing neither country any good, least of all us.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 21, 2007 6:30 PM
Comment #241238

Sen. John McCain said yesterday that he has “never done any favors for anybody — lobbyist or special interest group,” as his presidential campaign issued a statement denouncing allegations of legislative favoritism as “gutter politics.”

That must be why McCain has just now hired prominent Washington criminal attorney, Robert Bennett (who defended Clinton during the impeachment), to defend him over this new scandal. Immediately hiring a lawyer is very first thing that all uncorrupted, ethical, straight-talkers like McCain feel the need to do when an allegation pops up.

Posted by: veritas vincit at December 21, 2007 9:54 PM
Comment #241241


Having less conflict, returning to prosperity and rebuilding do not prove that the conflict is over, but they are good signs. And almost nobody would have believed this possible last year. When Harry Reid predicted defeat, I doubt he thought that the situation would improve so much.

American troops are coming home already. More will leave and not be replaced in 2008. Yes, we still could lose. But we are currently winning. I do not advocate – nobody does – that we stay there with big forces forever.

You know that we spend a smaller % of the budget on defense than anytime in the last sixty years with the exception of a few years in the late 1990s when we thought the world was a safer place. The argument that this is by itself breaking the budget just is not valid. There is plenty of wasteful spending all over the government.


All this talk about the Confederate flag is so much BS. I will not get into that argument except to say that it is a political argument. Whether or not you think he was on the right side, it is not possible to see this as an ethical problem.


Your side spares no passion in making their arguments. Some of them are outdated and some are untrue. Believe me when I read many of the blue comments my reaction is much like the one you describe. It is only that I also see the misinformation.

I use the term bad guys in the theatrical way. That said, most of the people still fighting us really are bad guys in all the ways. They are no longer even attacking Americans very often. Instead they murder civilians and try to ruin the whole country in hopes that they will eventually rule over the ashes. This is not an honorable fighter.

Our strategy recently has included a more aggressive protection of civilian populations. We are risking our lives to keep the civilians safe because the bad guys (term applies here) are trying to kill them. Very few of the civilians killed today are “collateral damage”. THEY are the targets and sometime our guys get hurt standing between them and the terrorists. This kind of heroism is not often reported and people who do not understand the conflict are reporting pure BS that fits their own political ines.

Your side is also the one that thinks it has a monopoly on certainty. I am not sure we can win. I think we have a chance to produce a good outcome. I know we are currently winning because I see it, but the future is not something I can be certain about. Your side is certain America will be defeated. They evidently CAN predict the future. Others say we ARE defeated already. They just are not paying attention.

This wishful thinking about Iraq suddenly coming together in peace if we leave is silly. As I said, our troops are currently protecting civilian populations from attacks by terrorists. We cannot stop them all, but if we were not there we would not be stopping any. We are training Iraqi security forces, who have already taken over many of the responsibilities. They are taking more, but they still do not have the skills required to investigate, patrol etc. We are transitioning to Iraqi control all over the place. We are taking down fortifications. Our goal is to get most of our guys out as soon as possible, but we prefer not to leave those we helped and those who helped us to be murdered by thugs.

If people want to stop reading what I write, that is there business. If I am the last person telling this truth, I will continue to do it. Our troops in Iraq are currently engaged in a noble mission to protect civilians and help them establish a stable and prosperous country. This is true. It would be a shame if we cannot succeed and I am not certain what we will.

Your side has every right to complain that the war should not have started or that it was mismanaged. You can advocate that anybody who supported the war not be elected to office. You can ridicule all the decisions made in the past, but we now have decisions to make about the future, not the past.

No matter how we got here, right now in Iraq we are doing the right thing, the honorable thing and the moral thing. I am certain about that. I am not certain if we can be doing the successful thing, but I am hopeful.

We are like a couple guys crossing a frozen river and trying to help a child get to the other side. The ice is thin and we may fall through. Your side keeps on saying that we should not have started across. Whether or not this is true, it is not useful. All three of us will fall through the ice if we do not make it. Our only right decisions are how we can progress best from where we are today

Posted by: Jack at December 22, 2007 12:11 AM
Comment #241245

First, Iraq will unfold in historical terms. Though the past may not determine the future, as people have choices, it does pull on it, the way the sun pulls on the planet. Or, if you want to get Einsteinian about it, history curves the space of possibility around it. People’s choices must struggle against or go with the gravity of what has come before.

Second, define “very often.” The figures I hear still have us up about a hundred attacks a day.

Third, if ruling over the ashes was their intent, they’ve succeeded. Sunni and Shia Extremists, in exchange for keeping the other insurgents down, are being given power. So far, the surge has failed to keep these people we’ve been arming, training and giving organizational support to from splitting up the country amongst themselves. Nobody, though, will be happy with such an arrangement. Everybody will have memories of lost homes, lost neighborhoods, lost comrades, and nobody will sit still once it’s plain that American forces no longer have as much power as they did.

Which, by the middle of next year, will be quite true, unfortunately. The Shia government will also not stand for having more than one army in Iraq. As we find ourselves more and more out of the way, we will likely see one group move against the other.

That is, unless they’ve made the deals necessary for stability between each other. You keep on focusing on the stability within these areas, but that’s not going to necessarily scale, especially with the distrust between the factions.

As for BS Political lines? Don’t get me started. Your whole position these past four years has been that. The surge itself is evidence of that, both in its belatedness and its strategies. It is more or less everything you were fighting against when we were suggesting it, being carried out now that everything has made the war next to impossible to win. You folks took up these strategies because your alternative was suffering the political consequences of sticking with a strategy that everybody knew had catastrophically failed.

You like to believe that somehow we’re being hypocritical, but what you’re missing is the historical element. History doesn’t sit still. Iraq now is an Iraq whose basic political order has collapsed, which now enjoys what law and order it has now at the expense of it being a fragmented mess of local fiefdoms.

This is what you’re handing off power to. Even the architects of this plan are treating it like a longshot, and for obvious reasons. Nobody will be content with things the way they are, with who has the oil, who has the power, with who has soldiers and armed forces. Rival Warlords will vie for power.

If there is no higher-level political agreement, if all you have is just an ad hoc structure which keeps the peace with our manpower and their cooperation, then your plan depends on the willingness of these people to give up power for the greater good.

Which hasn’t happened. Now, I can’t predict everything that can happen with this, but many other Americans and myself can observe what’s likely and what’s unlikely. And it’s unlikely that leading figures will willingly give up power.

As for your metaphor?

I think the kid’s already blue and dead, underneath the ice, washing down the river, or blue and cold and being dragged or carried by somebody who won’t admit the kid is no longer alive, in no small part because of the decisions made by him or her.

We need to get off the ice, but you’re insisting on going slow so we don’t wake the child.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 22, 2007 10:01 AM
Comment #241251


We can get off the ice by going ahead of backwards. It depends on which shore is closer and safer. Going backwards in this case will cost more than finishing the journey.

Iraq may not again be a centralized state. That is a good outcome. Some ethnic segregation has occurred. That does not preclude and may expedite a solution. I do not think we really care about the exact composition of Iraq, as long as it is reasonably democratic, stable and not a threat. That said what you have not read in the press but I have seen are Shiite families returning to places like Falujah and the Sunni police kicking out Sunni squatters to give their former neighbors their houses back. Refugees are returning in large numbers to Baghdad. Iraq is not dead. It is not divided into fiefdoms. It is being revived.

I do not know if we can succeed, but the experience of the past months has made me much more hopeful. It is worth the risk and the cost to try to finish this job. If Hillary or Obama wins and wants to run out quick as they can, that will be up to them. I want to make sure that they will not have to make that choice.

BTW – before somebody gives me a hard time re risk and loss, let me explain it. You risk you life every day when you drive to work. If you were certain you would be killed on any particular day, you would not drive. But you are willing to accept the risk KNOWING that every year around 50,000 people are killed on the roads because you assess the benefits greater than the risks.

The same is true of people fighting for America in Iraq. Some of them will die doing it. But individuals are willing to risk their lives in order to do their duties. I believe the results of failure will far outweigh the risks we are taking to avoid it. The risk is very much worth it.

You and I disagree about the probable outcome in Iraq. Neither of us knows the future. I am just figuring the odds and choosing among the uncertainties. My reckoning tells me it is worth the risk. We shall see.

Let me tell you a ground truth. Although we will be reducing our troops, we will be in Iraq in significant numbers until 2009. The Democrats in congress will not do anything to change that. They know it; we know it; everybody knows it except a few lefty loonies. Why don’t they just stop the posturing, which hurts morale of the Americans fighting the war in Iraq? If their predictions are correct, there will be time enough to pull out when one of their own takes office. Their constant impotent complaining makes it harder to do the job here and serves no other useful purpose.

Posted by: Jack at December 22, 2007 12:19 PM
Comment #241268


I have no time for a substantive debate with you here Jack, but that you are celebrating victory a little soon, but you repubs are prone to declare “mission accomplished” and yet, then, and now, refuse to declare victory and walk away. Still building permanent American military bases - seems to leave 2 possibilities: Bush as usual, is lying when he says that we will stand down or he recognizes that we are not anywhere near victory. You know somthing else that is a long way away from victory - defeat. Things are not going that well - for us - for Haliburton things are going great.

Posted by: Ray Guest at December 22, 2007 4:21 PM
Comment #241285

There’s a term for nations where authority has become as strongly decentralized as it is in Iraq, and Philip Zelikow of the State Department used in 1994: failed state.

There’s a federalized, where power is shared, but the states and the municipalities recognize the authority of the overal state and are bound by it, and then there’s failure, where the different parts of the country simply don’t recognize central authority.

Spinning the failure of the state as a good thing is a dangerous exercise in solipsism. You can talk about not caring about the exact composition of Iraq, but the violence from these sectarian matters do not get better the longer people are separated. Successfully integrated nations are more stable than those where lingering grudges and separation enable a balkanizing effect.

Quit talking about reasonable democratic and stable. It either is stable or it isn’t. We can either leave it alone, or it must be attended to.

The only reason the complaints of the Democrats are impotent is that your party’s minority in the Senate has been the most obstructive in history, taking a party-line, an unpopular one at that, to stall and interfere with any plans that would cut the war short. It’s disingenuous to speak to our lack of commitment when we’ve already passed legislation, which Bush has had to veto to stop from becoming law.

You talk of risk, but I just hear about gambles. You’re like gambling addicts at the table. No matter how many times the dice don’t turn up the way you want them to, you keep on rolling them so you don’t have to acknowledge the loss.

These gambles are causing us problems. They are putting us deep in debt. They are depriving this country of a functional ground force for anything else than Iraq. And where are we now for it? You say we’re close to victory, yet the critical goals for making this a purely Iraqi affair remain undone.

You can talk about remaining in Iraq with significant numbers, but there’s something deceptive in using the word significant. How about sufficient? If things haven’t changed enough in the intervening months,(which they haven’t, as the failure of the benchmarks show), then we will not only end up in as bad of a position as we had last year, we might even be worse off than we were before.

Folks are serious. Even your vaunted successes have not convinced Americans to hold off on their judgment. They acknowledge the improvements. They’re just no convinced it adds up to victory.

This is just defeat dressed up. We’re still handing the real power, the arms and the organizing capacity over to the insurgents themselves. We’ve provided these factions with the resources to entrench themselves. What happens when you let up on such a system, and the different parties assert themselves?

To be quite honest with you, despite all your talk of not knowing the future, you never fail to provide a positive forecast for the way things are going. You’ve obviously decided we’re going to win…

… if those dirty leftist don’t get in the way.

Trouble is, most of what you define as success is really failure spun through the bigotry of low expectations. The fact we’re still fighting a war in Iraq, that it got as bad as it has these past couple of years, should indicate the problematic lack of results with your administration’s policies.

You have mostly failed to carry out your original goals. You move the goalposts, point to some good points or small successes, set new goals on that basis… then fail to meet the last goals you set out.

This is a holding pattern, not victory on the way. This is staving off defeat, not bringing about a triumph. Worse, your party is acting like the rest of us are just behind the times, poorly informed, or worse just maliciously trying to saboatage things. You folks, even after being so painfully humbled in the last election on account of this subject, are still trying to convince people that the doubters are just ill-informed malcontents.

And still, you keep on failing.

Maybe your hold on the situation isn’t quite as solid as you thought.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 22, 2007 11:39 PM
Comment #241286
All this talk about the Confederate flag is so much BS.

A man who would bend his knee to bigotry in South Carolina simply because he was afraid he might scare off a certain portion of the votes, was the cowardly reaction of someone who has absolutely no business being the president of the United States. And this was a reaction he himself was forced to publicly admit he was unfortunately susceptible to.
No matter how his admirers may choose to see it, in the minds of the majority of people this event set up the undeniable and unavoidable question of what else that man would automatically react to in a cowardly and unfortunately susceptible way, in the future.
Despite McCain’s honesty in admitting his mistake in that particular instance, that clear demonstration of weakness did not bode well for his overall strength and conviction of character.

Come to think of it, the Iraq War is exactly the kind of a situation that currently begs for strength and conviction of character. Despite the “maverick” moniker that has been draped over McCain, he seems as petrified to pull the plug on that mistaken fiasco as the rest the congressional cowards, in the GOP (and in the Democratic party to some degree).
Almost all of these politicians have been hiding behind a ridiculous tough-guy attitude, because none of them know what in hell they can do to make the situation come out right. To make it worth the money that has been spent. Or anything, anything at all.
And from where most Americans stand, there is nothing that can possibly do that, at this point.
Sometimes the way to make things right is to admit that things have become irrevocably screwed up. That the mission has totally failed to meet any of the initially stated goals. And that there can be no do-overs.
The majority of the GOP candidates obviously aren’t man enough to face these facts.
Yet these are facts that the rest of the country has already absorbed, faced up to, and understood for quite a long time now. That’s why the majority wants nothing more than for us to cut our losses, and bring the troops home.
But the hardliners cannot, will not face those facts. And this is why everything is pointing toward the GOP losing big in the next election.
Even as I write these words, I realize that I am preparing to hear nothing but more denial. So many of us have seen it before, we have come to be surprised by any other kind of argument. Meanwhile, these years roll by with not a single sign of any “mission accomplished.”

“I will not get into that argument”

No, of course you will not. Still, I see that the Confederate Flag issue was the only argument you chose to say even a word about. (As though the others I raised had no substance or weight? Or was it because because their substance and weight was too heavy a burden…?) Anyway, it was the one comment I said almost nothing about.
Kinda weird?
Maybe not so weird at all.

“except to say that it is a political argument. Whether or not you think he was on the right side, it is not possible to see this as an ethical prolem.”

No. A man not being able to stand up for what he really thinks in the face of entrenched opposition is not a political argument, even if you wish that was the case. Instead, it cuts straight into the heart of who that individual is. Of what a man is really made of.
A person seeking the highest leadership position in the country, certainly shouldn’t show such cowardice, or such an unfortunate susceptibility toward being swayed by the outdated, backward and obviously wrongheaded opinions of other people.
And this is true even when he (or she) desperately needs the votes.
The real truth is, it is issues like this one that can, and very often do, separate the men (or women) from the boys.

Posted by: veritas vincit at December 23, 2007 12:21 AM
Comment #241291


Read more carefully. I believe we have a chance for success and we are now succeeding, but nobody has declared victory. I am saying that your side has declared defeat too soon. I simply request that if you do not want to finish the job, get out of the way for a year. If you still want to run out at that time, maybe a Dem will be in the White House. Of course, by that time, I believe we will have demonstrated success.


In very democratic and peaceful Switzerland, people live in ethnic cantons where they speak different languages, live by differently laws and generally do not pay much attention to each other. We do not need to have an fully integrated state to be successful.

There are also degrees of stability. No country is 100% stable. There is always crime, individuals who do not cooperate with the authorities and downright separatists. The UK suffered years of IRA terrorist attacks and yet remained a stable country. We had riots in the 1960s all over our country, but there was no serious chance of a collapse. That is why I say reasonable stability.

Let me also be perfectly clear. ALL U.S. troops are not leaving Iraq anytime soon, maybe not anytime in decades. We have troops in Europe, Japan, Korea, etc. IF the Iraq government chooses to allow American troops to remain, they will be very helpful in maintaining stability in the region.

Re original goals – If you look back in my writings, I have always defined success as a reasonably democratic and stable Iraq that is not a threat. I believe that is achievable.

Achieving success took longer than most people thought. It was not inevitable. I believe that a less stubborn president than Bush would have caved to lefty Dems and we would have lost by now and be presiding over a blood bath instead of this “lull”.

I will give you another dose of reality. We WILL be in Iraq until at least the 2009. We will achieve sustainable success by that time or not. Nothing opponents can do will cause the troops to come home any faster. All they can do is make success more difficult, which will SLOW down the troop’s return, since success allows us to draw down and failure requires more effort. My request is to leave it alone until next year. This constant denigration of our efforts in Iraq is damaging morale of the people who are here fighting on your behalf.

Re the last election – the strategy we used at that time in Iraq was not showing results. The election forced a change – thank you. We got a new commander, a new secretary of defense and a new strategy. Your assessment of Iraq was accurate in November 2006; it is not accurate now. The changes have been remarkable. I invite you as a Dem to take credit for the change. I do not care about who gets the credit as long was we win the war.

But do it soon. Otherwise it will be hard to avoid the ignominy of association with mistaken defeatism.


I live in Virginia. I admire Robert E. Lee & Ulysses S. Grant. The American civil war was unique among such conflicts in world history. It ended in April 1865 with a remarkable lack of reprisals, given the nature of such a bloody conflict I suggest you reread Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and remember that history cannot be reduced to two dimensional caricatures.

The flag means different things to different people. I do not have a strong opinion about it, but I certainly do not think that being on either side of the debate indicates ethical problems.

BTW - Those talking about Iraq today would do well to study the events and ideas of April 1865 and not just fixate on a flag they saw in the movies.

Posted by: Jack at December 23, 2007 2:28 AM
Comment #241336

“history cannot be reduced to two dimensional caricatures.”

Right. So, a statement such as: “McCain has fought corruption and showed the highest form of ethics” can be seen as the caricature that it is, for example.

The truth is, McCain has been previously been up to his neck in blatant corruption, and has recently hired a prominent D.C. lawyer because brand new allegations of corruption are just now emerging. And rather than “high ethics”, McCain’s sense of ethics have proven to be unfortunately weak and rather flexible. Especially when it comes to running campaigns and trying to win votes among the bigots and religious fanatics who comprise a certain obvious segment of the GOP.

“The flag means different things to different people.”

Sort of like burning crosses and white hoods might be associated with a proud family tradition in the South?

“I do not have a strong opinion about it,”

A very weak and flexible comment.

“but I certainly do not think that being on either side of the debate indicates ethical problems.”

Actually, there are all sorts of ethical problems on the Southern side of the Confederate Flag debate.
It is a symbol of contemptuous rebellion that flies in direct opposition to the Stars and Stripes.
It is a symbol of black slavery. As Lincoln said in the Second Inaugural Address, of “colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strenghten, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war…”
A symbol that “may seem strange that any men should dare ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces…”
It is a symbol not of heritage, but of a bigoted mindset and a way of life (justly) defeated. And so, whenever and wherever it is flown now, it is a symbol of immaturity, too. Of a certain faction of people in the South being unwilling and/or unable to face the fact that the Confederacy lost the war, and that the Union of the United States of America, despite their obvious contempt for it, was ultimately preserved.

For John McCain, the Confederate Flag can now be considered a symbol of his weak and very flexible ethics, as well as of his cowardice. A cowardice that he himself easily admitted to.

“Those talking about Iraq today would do well to study the events and ideas of April 1865 and not just fixate on a flag they saw in the movies.”

Other than the fact that Lincoln did find himself having to usurp power in certain Unconstitutional ways in the midst of the war, in order to preserve the Union of the United States of America, I see no reason to try make a serious comparison.
Those who are well versed in that period of history realize that Lincoln’s actions and motivations in doing so were entirely unlike those of the current president.
Instead, we know that George Bush has usurped power in Unconstitutional ways simply because his life of ease and privilege among the most elite of the elite moneyed class has wrongly lead him to believe that people like himself should always get their way, and somehow entitled them to a life that can be lived completely above the laws (that the rest of us live by).

No, other than power being seized in unprecedented, and never before seen ways, I see no similarity between our Civil War, and the endlessly ongoing, senseless and illegal Occupation of Iraq.
Although, I guess it could be argued that both Lincoln and Bush were Republicans. But that can only be said in the very loosest and most cock-eyed sense of the term. And after all, Lincoln knew exactly what his war was about, and he won the day. Bush, despite all the multifarious reasons that have been given over Iraq, doesn’t seem to know a damn thing, and has done little else but make America lose.

Posted by: veritas vincit at December 23, 2007 11:57 PM
Comment #241354

Switzerland, last time I checked, wasn’t a open war zone. The UK, even at its worst, never saw a tempo of attacks or amounts of casualties from the IRA anywhere close to what the Iraqis experience now. The Riots in country were quickly put down, control re-established in just days, if not hours, and we saw no militia take over a chunk of our country.

You talk of “reasonable” stability and democracy. Why do you use such a qualification? Do you even know? The semantic implication of that term is that there are degrees of stability and democracy that it would be unreasonable to expect. But given what? What are we unreasonable to expect?

Political reconciliation? An end to the death squads? The re-establishment of civil order? It just seems to me to be a term that once again fulfills the Bush Administration’s pattern of steadily moving and lowering the goal posts so the most mediocre and unsuccessful of recent wars can be touted as a triumph. Every goal your administration has made to the public has later being backed off of, forgotten, if not repudiated.

As for the troops? It’s amazing how emotionally fragile the troops you mention seem to be. I think the soldiers could handle dissent and disagreement from Americans just fine. It’s the administration that chooses to get overwrought about it, to do America the ill-favor of promising that the rhetorical beatings will continue until morale here at home improves.

I think the true cowardice is among those who refuse to discuss or deal with problems such as people like myself has highlight, and legitimize that by hiding behind the soldiers, and their supposedly fragile egos. Meanwhile, they use this defense, supposedly for the benefit of the soldiers to resist moving on just about ever suggestion or objection made by the dissenter from the Bush policy. The good of the administration, politically speaking, is conflated with the good of the soldiers.

And to what end? So our soldiers lack armor, so that they spent all of this war trying to fight a battle with insufficient soldiers? So that a losing policy is perpetuated on the grounds that admitting it’s gone wrong would encourage the terrorists and discourage the soldiers?

With friends like the Republicans, do the soldiers need enemies? The Republicans and their policies have done more to decimate and discourage our soldiers than anybody or anything else. You talk about our brigades now leaving Iraq because of success. Bull. We’re leaving because in order to keep that brigade a month from leaving, we have to extend already overextended deployments, and the top brass don’t think they could keep people from leaving the armed forces in even greater droves if they pulled that kind of crap.

We can’t slow our withdrawal until July, and Secretary Gates is even talking about keeping things going after that. And this may just be the necessity, given the manpower problem your people never address, and the surge you folks executed, probably knowing full well how much additional stress it would add to an already overstressed military.

You folks keep on trying to beat square pegs into round holes, keep on pushing things to the breaking point, and then act like it’s not your fault, or that everything can be quickly and easily redeemed.

That, ultimately, is how you lose a war. The surge can successfully bring peace, in limited places and degrees, but that, at the moment is only something imposed by our presence. The real question is, have we put in place what’s necessary to make peace a natural, emergent, self-sustaining quality of the system as a whole.

It’s late December, and much of what we would need to resolve in order to create peace in Iraq, and therefore success remains unresolved. If we had the soldiers to continue or expand the surge, we might have time to resolve it. Unfortunately, the withdrawal of brigades that your administration had double-talked so much about, the one being imposed by the administration’s logistical stupidity earlier on, has put a time limit on how long Americans can operate at their current capacity. As in, time’s up. The brigades will start coming home next month. Even some are coming home this month.

Maybe you got some improvement on this go-round, but if these people wouldn’t agree on things with our presence building in Iraq, what’s their incentive to cooperate as we reduce that presence?

Once again, you guys are in denial about how things could go wrong, and once again, you folks keep your blinders on so you can plow on ahead and not admit that you have a problem. If Americans had little patience for this last year, they have even less patience now.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at December 24, 2007 10:17 AM
Comment #241366


I keep hearing that Bush has seized power and that he is pushing so many Americans around. How is it then that you guys still manage to be so loud and well heard in opposition? It is a pretty strange seizure of power that doesn’t yield the power to control one’s enemies.

Re the South – I was referring to the specific events of April 1865, a month remarkable in human history for the way a very bloody and terrible civil war ended w/o major reprisals of continued bloodshed. I know, like all human endeavor, it was not perfect, but compared with things we saw in France, Russia, China or even England in 1648, it was amazingly successful.

I do not have a strong opinion about the rebel flag. I do not fly one myself, but it doesn’t bother me if others do. I know for lots of southerners it simply represents their heritage. I don’t propose to take that away from them. Robert E. Lee was a great American who was welcomed back after his lapse. That was the genius of April 1865, when America managed what I do not think any other country in the world history managed as well. We agreed at that time to look forward and we should not go back on that 150 year old successful bargain.

Re Iraq & April 1865 – I am referring to the successful reconciliation of individuals and regions. Ending a great hatred often created great hatred. We should take the lesson from our own history. I know there are important Iraqis who understand this, because I have spoken to them about this.


I use the term reasonable because I am a reasonable man. I never expect to get all that I want nor to I expect to give it to others. We reach a reasonable result.

Re morale – consider the simple situation. Life is hard in Iraq. You try lots of things; most do not work. You like to think somebody cares if you succeed; you like to think the people you are trying to serve back home at least want a solution. Then you turn on the news and see somebody like Harry Reid telling everyone that we have already lost, that he doesn’t care about the sacrifices you are making because you have already failed. I am very emotionally resilient, but I felt exactly that way a couple days ago. I spend a day and a half waiting to make a trip. I couldn’t fly because of sandstorms and I was unable to accomplish my mission. I got back to camp, turned on the TV and there was Harry Reid telling me that all that effort was indeed a waste. That is what I am talking about.

I have no trouble with dissent and disagreement. But when some people are in the middle of doing an unpleasant and dangerous job and leaders back home are saying that their work is worthless, it is discouraging. During WWII Nazi and Japanese propaganda told allied soldiers that nobody back home cared and they would be stupid to be the last man killed in a wasted effort. Does that sound familiar to you?

Another thing about “you folks”. I am working to do what I think is best for America. I might be wrong and we all might fail, but it is not a kind of exclusive club and it is not something anybody is doing for fun. We all know the surge will not last. That was the entire plan. It surprises nobody. The plan is to withdraw troops and not replace them, or more correctly to replace them with Iraqi security forces, who – BTW – are coming along nicely. We literally trust them with our lives.

I am well aware that lots of things could go wrong. We are trying to make sure they do right.

Stephen, I like to talk to you. I am sorry if I am sharing too much personal exerience, and I do not mean to use it to close off debate, but it does seem to fit in this particular situation.

Posted by: Jack at December 24, 2007 12:56 PM
Comment #241405
The problem is that not many journalists come around anymore to see these things. They have stopped writing and taking pictures. You guys still are running on last year’s news. We had a Fox News team here. They walked around the marketplace in Hit, near Haditha and they were there when a terrorist attacked the bridge.

Jack, Do you think that bridge would have been bombed if the news media wasn’t there? Perhaps the presence of the american news media prompted the bombing to undermine the progress that is being made there?

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 25, 2007 9:50 AM
Comment #241412


Yes. I think the bridge would have been bombed anyway. They did not do it for the media and if they did it backfired badly. The Iraqi authorities boldly (if perhaps a bit too bravely) went to the site and they immediately began to rebuilt. It turned out not to be a story of victims but of victory over fear and intimidation. I would like that story to get more play. I doubt if the terrorists would.

Posted by: Jack at December 25, 2007 10:49 AM
Comment #241413

I heard a soldier being interviewed on NPR stating the reports of specific excersizes he was on are the exact opposite of what actually transpired. Do you find this to be true?

Posted by: Weary Willie at December 25, 2007 10:57 AM
Comment #241465


I am unfamilar with the precise detail of what you are asking. Generally, reports from Iraq fail to convey they real situation here. I am afraid too many journalists have an idea before they come and - probably unintentionally - find information that confirms their bias to the exclusion of everything else.

Posted by: Jack at December 26, 2007 2:58 AM
Comment #241574
I keep hearing that Bush has seized power and that he is pushing so many Americans around.

Maybe the reason you keep hearing that is because its true. Or does the Patriot Act nullifying the Bill of Rights, making U.S. soldiers go to war on faulty, cooked-up intelligence, making them continue to fight and die in Iraq’s civil war in order to occupy Iraq indefinitely, NSA spying on and wiretapping Americans, holding American citizens in jail without charging them of crimes, repealing Habeas Corpus, using signing statements to get around legislation, ordering people in his administration to keep everything secret and to ignore congressional supeanas not count as seizures of power, or of pushing Americans around?
Because those things do count as that to a huge number of us.

How is it then that you guys still manage to be so loud and well heard in opposition?

Because we’re patriots who love our country, our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights. And many of us don’t care if they’re listening in, or taking down our names as they plan to further their fascist clamp down.

It is a pretty strange seizure of power that doesn’t yield the power to control one’s enemies.

Many who study history are aware that Kristalnacht wasn’t built in a day.

Re the South – I was referring to the specific events of April 1865, a month remarkable in human history for the way a very bloody and terrible civil war ended w/o major reprisals of continued bloodshed.

I have to assume you haven’t forgotten that Lincoln was shot in the head? But did you know that after Lincoln’s death, Johnson broke with the Republicans and vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which was intended to protect the civil rights of the freed slaves? Eventually the balance did shift in order to overcome Johnson’s veto, but he was almost impeached at the time. He managed to be acquitted by only one vote, yet the end result was that he ended up being basically powerless over what would happen with Reconstruction. Did you also know that the Republicans denied the ability to vote to somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 white Confederates (the high officials and senior officers were first on the list) during Reconstruction? Or that they were forced to use the Army to take over the South so that black men could vote? Then of course there was the whole wave of corrupt “Scalawags and Carpetbaggers”, and lots of KKKlan violence, too.
To say that the end of the Civil War came without any real reprisals or bloodshed is just plain wrong.

I do not have a strong opinion about the rebel flag.

Unfortunately, and even if you don’t realize it, that says a whole lot.

Re Iraq & April 1865 – I am referring to the successful reconciliation of individuals and regions.

It’s too bad that Lincoln didn’t take his need for armed-guard protection seriously. He would certainly have done a much better job with Reconstruction.

Ending a great hatred often created great hatred.

Unfortunately, it took until the 1960’s for Jim Crow to be seriously addressed. In many ways he is still alive and well.

We should take the lesson from our own history.

I agree. But to take the most important lessons, it becomes mandatory to not just focus on only the things we like.

I know there are important Iraqis who understand this, because I have spoken to them about this.

In my view, people who remain loyal to the Bush administration seem inordinately fond of selling simplistic, and chronically one-sided views on various issues. Personally, I’m not at all impressed with this tendency.

Posted by: veritas vincit at December 27, 2007 2:59 PM
Comment #241611


Our experiences are different. I have seen things and talked to people that make me see the world as I do. I suppose the same is true for you. Everybody has a mental model of reality. None are perfect. Some work better than others.

You may not be impressed by my world view. It works for me and has reasonable predictive power. I hope yours works as well.

Re you last point - I have spoken to Iraqis about this very topic. Some of them are aware of our history. I do not know your experience on this particular point, but I bet it is not as comprehensive. So I think your using the term simplistic is … simplistic.

And please take a look at a book called “April 1865”. It will help you understand the simple truth that ending the civil war as we did was a unique accomplishment.

Posted by: Jack at December 28, 2007 12:00 AM
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