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What If He Goes?

The RNC is working overtime trying to embarrass Barack Obama about his failure to visit Iraq for a couple of years. After a day of this Obama now suggests he might go–just not with John McCain. If he did, whom would this help?

From McCain’s perspective, he would hope this would focus attention on the divergence between Obama’s position (that all is lost in Iraq) and the reality that there has been considerable political and military progress. And there is always the possibility that Obama would be unprepared for a question with cameras rolling. Reporters might even ask troops questions and receive embarrassing answers indicating that fighting men and women see the potential for victory.

From comments released by his campaign from at an appearance yesterday in Los Angeles you can already see what McCain is up to. You will notice the dig at elevating “ideology” over facts (hmmm, who uses that line a lot?):

I am glad to hear that Senator Obama is now “considering a trip to Iraq.” It’s long overdue. It’s been 871 days since he was there. And I’m confident that when he goes, he will then change his position on the conflict in Iraq because he will see the success that has been achieved on the ground and the consequences of failure if we set dates for withdrawal, as he wants to do. There will be chaos. There will be increased Iranian influence and fights amongst the militias. And there will be al Qaeda establishing a base there and then we would be back. And of course there would be, as I said, increased Iranian influence in the region.

So the fact is Senator Obama was driven to his position by his ideology and not by the facts on the ground. And he does not have the knowledge or experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be. So the success in Iraq is undeniable. It has been long, hard and frustrating and great sacrifice has been made.

But Obama might gain something as well. He might be able to silence this type of ad and show he is not “afraid” to get out and meet with the troops and commanders. He might even impress some voters that he is fluent enough in national security matters to be a credible commander-in-chief.

But if one candidate has essentially been forced into doing something, shamed even, by his opponent it is hard to escape the conclusion that his opponent has the upper hand. And that, it seems, may be a larger concern. After all, if McCain can get Obama to go to Iraq, where will it stop? Could he get him to go to Israel (he was there in 2006, it appears)? Or visit President Uribe in Colombia and explain his opposition to the free trade agreement? (He could also suggest Obama visit the UK and settle their nerves.)

McCain playing the role of the world tour guide for Obama is hardly something the junior senator from Illinios wants to encourage. So I suspect he won’t be taking travel suggestions from McCain anytime soon.


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