Friday, May 30, 2008

One Article, Multiple Points to Make

Sometimes you are just surprised by how many ideas one article highlights. Today's WaPo piece on McCain and Obama's "jousting" on Iraq by Jonathan Weisman - one of the best reporters around - is one such piece. So, let's go through it.

First, let me just say - and I know Southpaw will disagree with me - that I think the Obama camp is misplaying this will he visit Iraq or won't he debate. I understand that the Obama campaign thinks a dialogue on Iraq benefits their candidate and polling appears to support that (more on that in a second). However, I can't help but think Obama is getting bullied. This whole exchange, to me, has played out this way:

McCain: Obama hasn't seen the improvements on the ground in Iraq because he hasn't been there recently. I have gone there many more times, so I know more.

Obama: Yeah? I am going to go to Iraq soon so I can figure out how best to bring the troops home.

Isn't that a tacit acknowledgement of that McCain's charge is right? What do you think?

Ok, back to the WaPo article. These grafs are particularly interesting: public opinion polling suggests the war is more a wild card than a slam dunk for either side. While voters still see the invasion of Iraq as a mistake, they are divided about the current course of the war and where to go from here. McCain continues to be favored as the candidate most trusted on the issue -- albeit with a statistically insignificant edge. But most Americans favor Obama's central position, withdrawing combat forces.

"What's surprising to me is that a Republican is doing better than a Democrat on this issue at all," said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which released a new national poll on the election yesterday. "That really says something about the lingering doubts and concerns voters have with Obama."

Republican strategists think the fight over Iraq may be the strongest ground for McCain to fight on. If nothing else, it pulls the campaign away from the domestic issues that voters want addressed but which favor the Democrats.

The Pew poll found McCain and Obama to be in a virtual tie over which candidate would do a better job handling the war, with 46 percent favoring McCain and 43 percent siding with Obama. That deadlock comes despite Pew polling last month that found that 56 percent favor withdrawing U.S. troops either immediately or over the next year or two.

More people still think that McCain would do a better job handling the war than Obama. I was talking to Southpaw the other day about political strategy. One of the key rules of campaigns, according to a couple books that, admittedly, may not be applicable anymore, is not to engage in dialogue on an issue that your opponent or his/her party owns. National security has been a GOP owned issue so Obama should stay away, this reasoning would say. This year's election is certainly more complicated because of the electorate's extreme dissatisfaction with the Bush administration and theirhandling of the Iraq war. But, nevertheless, it is something to consider, especially with a war hero like McCain as the GOP nominee.

OK, one more point from the article. Check out this quote:
"I think he's very susceptible to the question of whether he is indeed in touch with what's going on on the ground, whether he is aware of the implications of defeat in Iraq," said Pete Hegseth, an Iraq war veteran and chairman of Veterans for Freedom, an independent group whose Internet advertisements last weekend began goading Obama to visit the country.
Wait, huh? The Vets for Freedom? Really? If this organization isn't just a schill for the McCain campaign, as Southpaw has pointed out, it is certainly very close and could be violating some election laws. One anonymous commenter wrote this about the group in response to Southpaw's post:

VFF has a pac that it is running everything through. So, that means they are
good to go. PAC's can criticize candidates all they want. Check it out

I looked at and I still can't make sense of the rule. Can anyone shed any more light on it?

Regardless, I'm not sure that quote should have been in the article at all, let alone as an independent arbiter of Obama's knowledge of Iraq.

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