Thursday, July 24, 2008

Obama, the "inexperienced" candidate

The conventional wisdom about this campaign, propogated by the vapid US political media, is that McCain has lots of foreign policy experience, and it's Obama who needs to prove his credentials in international affairs. That was a major goal of Obama's world tour this week, as he travelled across the Middle East and Europe, culminating in his speech today in Berlin.

By most accounts, his trip was a resounding success. Iraq's leader publicly endorsed his withdrawal plan, sending McCain and the Bush White House into a tizzy as they scrambled to spin his comments. The Globe and Mail approvingly notes his "delicate dance" through the "political mindfield" of the Mideast. The same article implies that both Israeli and Palestinian leaders were very impressed with Obama, an achievement worthy of no small amount of admiration. He drew a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin, and is clearly the favored candidate for Europeans.

Meanwhile, McCain referenced an imaginary border between Iraq and Pakistan, mentioned Czechoslovakia in the present tense on several occasions, even though that country no longer exists, confused the timeline of the Iraq surge, and credited it for saving the life of a Sunni tribal leader who actually was murdered.

Ginandtacos does a good job highlighting the absurdity of all this:

Imagine this for a moment. Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki gives an interview
with a well-respected news magazine and says:

“Look, there is absolutely no way the government of Iraq can support a timetable
for American military withdrawl. It’s the wrong plan, period. We need American
troops here until the job is done and we don’t know when that is.”

In other words, imagine that he stated John McCain’s position almost verbatim. Tell me what the reaction would look like among the American media and voters. I will save you the trouble: shit would not hit the fan, for no fan on Earth would be powerful enough to withstand the nor’easter of shit that would result. The fan would
literally be buried under an Everest-sized mountain of rhetorical feces. And Obama’s campaign would rapidly become an updated version of McGovern ‘72. McCain would do nothing but repeat this single talking point incessantly. Your email inbox would fill to bursting with forwarded emails of al-Maliki’s quote and endless derision of Obama’s contrarian position. We wouldn’t have a campaign so much as we’d be having Obama’s wake.

Of course, Mr. al-Maliki did not say that. He said the exact opposite. In effect, he offered Obama’s position as his own opinion on withdrawl:

“That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the
possibility of slight changes,” al-Maliki was quoted as saying. “Those who
operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more
realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause

While one high-profile Republican strategist responded to this development succinctly (”We’re fucked.”) this will ultimately amount to a minor flap in the campaign. No eulogies will be sung for McCain. The man who thinks Pakistan and Iraq share a border or that Czechoslovakia is still a country or that he knows what Iraq needs more than the Iraqis do will continue to wear the Foreign Policy Expert crown. Obama will remain the guy your aunts and uncles very seriously intone about as “too inexperienced,” lacking McCain’s many years of experience in being white promising to cut taxes international affairs. No one will point out that McCain has repeatedly stated that when the elected government of Iraq wants us out, we’ll leave.

Also this from Slate.

The truth is that John McCain is a complete lightweight on foreign policy (just like he is on almost every other issue) who sees the world in very simple and incorrect terms, just like George Bush. The idea that this issue is his "strength" is based entirely on the notion that being pro-war somehow means you are knowledgable about the world. You'd think people would know better than to fall for this crap, since the hawkish foreign policy establishment was so utterly and completely wrong on Iraq, but never underestimate the stupidity of the US media.

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