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What They Are Saying

Barack Obama’s travel partner lets on that his Iraq trip is about “details” and not a rethinking of strategy. What is clear is that there is scant mention of winning, victory(except that which equates to our exit) or achievements coming from Iraq in Obama’s refined, revised, but not so-different vision. He is fixated on “ending” the war, not on securing any gains. (Does he not realize that our presence was and will be essential to obtaining a vastly changed Iraq, both in the political and military realm? His take on the current political scene there suggests not.)

John McCain blasted back (and put some meat on the bones on his Afghanistan policy). The entire speech is here. His main message is: “Senator Obama will tell you we can’t win in Afghanistan without losing in Iraq. In fact, he has it exactly backwards. It is precisely the success of the surge in Iraq that shows us the way to succeed in Afghanistan.” Obama’s shifts, evasion, defensiveness and airbrushing of past positions have not gone unnoticed. From Jake Tapper:

Weeks ago, after Obama said he would be willing to listen to commanders in the ground to “refine” his policy, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Republicans said Obama was flip-flopping. Then after Obama clarified that he is sticking by his plans to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months, McCain and Republicans painted him as an intransigent partisan whose pending trip to Iraq is nothing more than a photo op. . . The success of the surge, combined with some posturing by McCain, have seemed to put Obama on the defensive, as evidenced by edits Obama’s campaign staff made to language on his campaign website decrying the surge as a failure, as well as a speech Obama delivered today in which he explained why this success doesn’t change his view of needing to withdraw U.S. forces in that country. . . What Obama did not mention today was that the surge had succeeded in ways he did not think it would.

For a moment there, it did look like Obama was finally, albeit belatedly, going stand up to the netroots and use the success of the surge to commit himself to victory in both fronts — both Iraq and Afghanistan. But that seems unlikely at this stage. If all he is going to learn from Iraq is how the details of his fixed timetable retreat are to be worked out, it hardly seems worth the trip.


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