Obama Bends McCain’s Straight Talk
John McCain’s straight talk about the possible length of U.S. presence in Iraq opened him up to a distorted quote by Barack Obama.
On January 3, 2008, at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, McCain said this to a man who began his question, “President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for fifty years,”
“Make it a hundred. We’ve been in South Korea, we been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or more. That would be fine as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me. I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every day.”
Later, when questioned by a reported from Mother Jones, McCain used hyperbole to stress his point, saying U.S. troops could be there a thousand, or a million years.
The “100 years” comment gave the Obama campaign an opening to distort McCain’s straight talk to their advantage. In the months ahead, we’ll likely see frequent airings of Obama’s ad wherein he bends McCain’s statement out of its original context.
“Senator McCain said the other day that we might be mired in Iraq for 100 years, which is reason not to give him four years in the White House.”
The comparative worldview of the two candidates could hardly be more diverse. One, Obama, promises near instant gratification for those passionate to abandon Iraq. The other, McCain, takes the long view because he understands better the arc of history.
The heads-up for the McCain campaign going forward is to prepare to (1) make a clear and compelling case for long-term U.S. engagement with the Middle East as being in our best interests, as well as in the best interests of the people of the region. And (2), when Obama plays word games, like inserting “mired” into a quote where the qualifying context of the statement explicitly excluded the concept of “mired,“ McCain needs to immediately push back, saying something like,
“Senator Obama is a fine orator, except when he takes other people’s straight talk and bends it to his own purpose. That’s the kind of word game that keeps people’s opinions of politicians mired in mud.”