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I know many Republicans dislike South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Maybe that explains the tepid response he's getting at the Republican National Convention. Or maybe it's what he's talking about: Iraq - and American troops in Iraq. As the cameras span the crowd through obvious applause lines I'm hearing polite smatterings thereof, and seeing folks chatting on cell phones or amongst themselves. Waiting for the main event, no doubt. They did perk up and cheer a bit more when he mentioned John McCain or Sarah Palin, but when he spoke of "winning" in Iraq or the fact that the words "winning" or "victory" could be used without fear at the Republican Convention - not so much.
That may be because many Republicans know very little about Iraq - certainly less than the average Democrat. I'd add that Republicans who do know what's going on in Iraq aren't afraid to talk about it and are pretty much fair in their assessment of the pros and cons and ups and downs, they're aware of every two steps forward and every one step back. But on the whole Democrats are more effective in discussing Iraq because even if they base their ultimate "opinions" on political party talking points they are aware of some background information that can be used to support that position. (Even if that's only the death toll.)
Before I deployed to Iraq last year I did an interview with Politico in which I speculated on the American public's view of the war in Iraq:
"...those at one end of a spectrum want to ignore it, and those at the opposite want it to be something it isn't. Both groups wish it would go away. As a guy just interested in presenting facts, I believe my efforts are less and less appealing to the average American every day."Democrats are at that "opposite end". They need to know all they can about Iraq, if they didn't, they could accidentally say something true about the war. Republicans are the other end, and they demonstrated that as Lindsey Graham tried and failed to get them to cheer for "victory".
It's also possible that knowing a lot about politicians and nothing about Iraq they don't trust a politician enough to endorse - even by cheering - anything one says about the war their country is waging half a world away. That's a wise decision, because with all the favorable facts available to him, Graham chose to display his ignorance instead: "Barack Obama went 2 and a half years between visits to Iraq and never once sat down with General Petraeus."
Wrong - here's an outstanding story on General Petraeus from The New Yorker. Even this brief excerpt is waaay to long for any delegate to the Republican National Convention to ever read - but folks with even a passing interest in war or politics will somehow clear that hurdle:
In July, Senator Barack Obama went to Iraq and saw the General; he was rewarded, courtesy of Petraeus’s energetic press aides, with an iconic photograph, printed in many dozens of newspapers, which showed the Senator aboard a command helicopter, smiling confidently at the General’s side.You can argue against Obama's position on Iraq - or you can lie about whether the Senator ever sat down with the General and in so doing destroy your own credibility. Graham chose the second option. Maybe it's not such a bad thing that no one was listening to him. Maybe it even explains why.
At the September, 2007, hearings on Iraq’s progress, Petraeus’s questioners included Senator Barack Obama, who noted that under the hearing’s rules he had only “seven minutes,” which he found “a little frustrating,” because the war was “extraordinarily complex.” Obama continued, “The question, I think, that everybody is asking is: How long will this take? And at what point do we say, ‘Enough’?” The Senator’s formulation evoked Petraeus’s own question, on the sixth day of the war: “Tell me how this ends.”
Petraeus opposes a firm timetable for withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, because he fears this might lead to a revival of intense violence in the country. At the hearing, Obama asked him, “If we’re there—the same place—a year from now, can you please describe for me any circumstances in which you would make a different recommendation and suggest it is now time for us to start withdrawing our troops? Any scenario?” Ryan Crocker, who accompanied Petraeus that day, offered an answer, but the Senator’s time expired before Petraeus could utter a single word in reply.
Obama’s questions gnawed at the General. The issue was fundamental: What was a minimally acceptable end state in Iraq, from the perspective of American interests?
Obama and Petraeus have some similar talents—they are calm under pressure, cerebral, and adaptive. Their professional relations, however, have not been intimate. After the MoveOn episode, Senate Republicans introduced a resolution, transparently crafted for political effect, to condemn the “General Betray Us” advertisement; this ploy forced Senate Democrats either to cast a vote that would alienate one of their party’s most important grassroots organizations or to cast one that would appear to question Petraeus’s integrity. Obama skipped the vote. Some of Petraeus’s aides took note of his decision disapprovingly. This year, Obama twice telephoned the General and expressed support, and he also praised Petraeus publicly. Still, he was not among those senators who made regular visits to Iraq. Late last spring, after Obama emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee, McCain criticized him for failing to visit the war front or to consult with Petraeus. (McCain had been an early supporter of increased troop deployments to Iraq, a view that brought him into a natural alliance with Petraeus.) Obama scheduled travel to Afghanistan and Iraq; he was accompanied by two Senate colleagues who are military veterans, Chuck Hagel, a Republican, of Nebraska, and Jack Reed, a Democrat, of Rhode Island.
For Petraeus, because “the clock ran out” at the September, 2007, hearing, he recalled, the Senator’s arrival offered “an opportunity” to answer Obama’s question about the way out of Iraq. The main briefing for the three senators took place in a conference room at the U.S. Embassy complex. Petraeus and Crocker had mounted large storyboard charts on easels; for about thirty minutes, Petraeus ticked off bullet points with his laser pointer.
The General later described to me what he sought to convey to Obama about the prospective pace of U.S. troop reductions: “There are very rigorous plans. And they’re being executed. And we actually met the goals that were in much of the security lines for the summer of 2008. Here’s what they are for the summer of 2009—and for the end state, the eventual end state.”
Petraeus spoke about the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who had called a series of ceasefires against U.S. troops during 2007 and 2008. Some analysts have argued that Sadr’s pullback did more to reduce violence in Iraq than U.S. actions. Petraeus told the three senators, he recalled, that these ceasefires had not been undertaken “out of the goodness of their heart” but because U.S. and Iraqi forces had struck at Sadr’s militias and killed many of his commanders and recruits as well as Iranian fighters who worked with him. This battlefield action, rather than Sadr’s ceasefires, had deepened and sustained the lull in Iraq’s violence this summer, Petraeus argued.
The General also reviewed classified charts that outlined the Joint Campaign Plan’s priorities, divisions of labor, and timetables. The plan’s basic prescription, he said, is to move successfully through Iraq’s national elections, scheduled for late 2009, and then to begin a major transition: to get U.S. forces as quickly as possible to a role of pure overwatch. Exactly when this might be achieved, though, and how many troops might be required to make it work, is deliberately omitted from the plan.
The biggest difference between Obama’s goals for Iraq and the current Joint Campaign Plan is the Senator’s pledge to withdraw all American “combat brigades” within sixteen months. (Under his plan, a “residual” U.S. force would remain, to support Iraqi troops and conduct counterterrorism operations.) By contrast, in the Petraeus-authored design, which McCain has endorsed unequivocally, U.S. troop reductions would not be firmly dictated by any timetables but would be “conditions-based.” As the briefing ended and a discussion with the senators began, Petraeus made clear that he hoped to make further troop reductions in the near future, but he reiterated his belief that military commanders in Iraq needed flexibility to manage the pace of these reductions.
Reed cited the declaration made only days before by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, effectively endorsing Obama’s withdrawal deadlines. “You’re going to have timelines—that’s what the Iraqi political leaders will say to their publics,” Reed told Petraeus, as he recalled the thrust of his remarks. “The reality here is there will be some type of timeline or deadline”—and Petraeus and other commanders needed to start adjusting to that.
Obama told Petraeus, in Reed’s recollection, “that his responsibility as a prospective President was not limited to Iraq alone.” Among other American interests that had to be considered, Obama said, was a need to rebalance American forces in the region to reinforce the war in Afghanistan. This would soon be Petraeus’s responsibility, as CENTCOM commander, but the General did not declare his views on that subject.
Immediately after his meetings with Petraeus, Obama described for Terry Moran, of ABC News, what he considered to be the critical issue discussed in the briefing. “The question for me was: Does he consider the gains reversible when it comes to Al Qaeda in Iraq, or some of the Shia militias?” Obama said. “And, if so, what kinds of resources are required to make sure that we reach a tipping point where they can’t reconstitute themselves? And I think what came out of the conversation was a sense that this is not a science. It’s an art.”
Obama also said he refused “to get boxed into what I consider two false choices”; namely, that he should either embrace a “rigid timeline” or pledge, in advance of becoming President, to do in Iraq whatever Petraeus tells him is best, “which is what George Bush says he’s doing—in which case, I’m not doing my job as Commander-in-Chief. I’m essentially simply rubber-stamping decisions that are made on the ground.” The Senator’s distinction involves some intellectual acrobatics, but his meaning seems clear enough: Obama prefers his announced timeline, but he is not wedded to it.
Update: Follow up post here.
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 09/05/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.Posted by David M at September 5, 2008 04:28 PM
I had the TV on when he was speaking, but I was also trying to listen to CJ's new BlogTalk radio program. I'm not a big Grahamesty fan, so I wasn't too concerned with listening to him. Many pro-enforcement, anti-amnesty Republicans likely feel the same way...Posted by Miss Ladybug at September 5, 2008 05:17 PM
The shameless gasbag from SC can twist in the wind for all I care, but I took his statement to mean that Obama hadn't talked one-on-one to Petraeus during those 2 1/2 years he was avoiding Iraq.Posted by Watchman at September 5, 2008 07:09 PM
I second the Watchman's comments. Did Obama take time to sit down with Gen Petraeus when he was testifying before the Senate?Posted by Rich Berger at September 5, 2008 07:14 PM
Grey, I think you're misreading Graham's statement. Graham sounds like he's talking past tense, that Obama did not sit down with Petraeus during the 2 and a half year span between visits (no questioning him in a senate hearing where he (Obama) confused Iran and Iraq does not count). Not that he didn't sit with him during the last visit. The first part of the statement is definitely past tense and there is no break. In fact the next 3 or so lines are past tense as well. Seems odd to trhough in a present tense, especially with no break.Posted by Zaggs at September 5, 2008 07:24 PM
Sir, it has been a "few" years since I was born. I can remember when a 5-Star General was the President of the United States. When he left office, he went back to being "The General", this was even with his family until his death in 1969. He was GEN Dwight Eisenhower.
I was discharged honorably back in 1968, with a service-connected disability. As I looked at this post and the links, I noticed the fact, that most Americans are clueless about "The Uniform Code of Military Justice." There are some, who do not understand, you just may still be on active duty. Therefore, I respectfully refuse to ask your name, rank or any information on your military history or status. People do not realize it is a violation of the "UCMJ" for military personnel, while actually wearing our Military Uniform, to be involved in any way with a political event. As of this election, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, affirmed this policy.
Sir, I would respectfully like to THANK YOU, for your continual service to this GREAT NATION.Posted by Grumpy at September 5, 2008 07:33 PM
I am no fan of Lindsey Graham but he was referring to the fact that Obama did not meet with Petreaus until his visit this year that he was shamed into doing by the McCain campaign. A 5 minute question period from a Senator is not a meeting, it is true that they were both sitting in the same room though.
John McCain has also referenced Obama's refusal to meet with Petreaus until after he had already formulated his position on Iraq. The only meeting Obama had was the one in July of 2008Posted by robtr at September 5, 2008 07:42 PM
With all respect,
You need to really parse the sentence from Graham strangely to make sense of your post.
My Parsing which I think is obvious -
Barack Obama went 2 and a half years between visits to Iraq and [ during those 2.5 years while he had avoided going to Iraq, when opportunity presented it, like while he was state side for hearings ] never once sat down with General Petraeus.
You parsing which is really stretched.
Barack Obama went 2 and a half years between visits to Iraq and [ including all time not covered in the first half of the sentence ] never once sat down with General Petraeus.
I love your stuff, but I highly recommend removing this erroneous post.Posted by John Hansen at September 5, 2008 07:49 PM
I think "lie" is too strong a term here. I read Graham's comment to be that Obama did not sit down with Petraeus in the time between ascension to the Senate and his late visit after having wrapped up the Democratic nomination. That he never met one-on-one with the General in that period is, in fact, true.
I'm no fan of Lindsey Graham, but I think your characterization of him in this piece is a lot more unfair to him than you claim his characterization is unfair to Obama. I will not go so far as to call you a liar, however. Adults know that being incorrect or imprecise is not the same thing as being a liar.Posted by moqui at September 5, 2008 07:49 PM
You are right that Republicans want Iraq to "go away." They are tired of fighting this political battle, especially when their efforts keep getting undermined by a politically incompetent White House.
That said, I flatly reject your assertion that the delegates could not rouse themselves to cheer for victory. Several other speakers made similar comments about the Dems' antipathy about Iraq victory, and all of them were cheered lustily.
No, the reaction you saw during Graham's comments were about Graham. There is very little that man could have said that would have gotten those delegates excited because he repulses most of them. It was just one more sign of McCain's pugnacious stubbornness that his good friend was given such a plumb speaking slot when any idiot could have told him the reception would be cold. Dumb, dumb, dumb.Posted by Ben at September 5, 2008 07:52 PM
People do not realize it is a violation of the "UCMJ" for military personnel, while actually wearing our Military Uniform, to be involved in any way with a political event.I was wondering about that color guard, too. Posted by Greyhawk at September 5, 2008 08:00 PM
If that really is greyhawk@8:00 PM, why haven't you taken down this post or at least updated it, seeing that it is in error????
Several commenters, have already pointed out your error. I am no fan of Graham, but I give someone the benefit of the doubt when reading a sentence. Calling him a liar by parsing his sentence in a strange way is beneath your dignity.Posted by John Hansen at September 5, 2008 08:07 PM
exactly how do you determine that "many Republicans know very little about Iraq - certainly less than the average Democrat" - I mean, other than just making it up? You have no credibility. you're just a hack.Posted by Real American at September 5, 2008 08:15 PM
This post seems strangely angry. Calling Graham a liar for his statement is at best unfair.
On the other point readers (including me) latch on to, you may well be right that your typical Republican doesn't know much about the war in Iraq, but it's misleading to state it like that. And the other part of your statement--that DemocratsRepublicans merely wish it went away is stupid. What they wish is that it end soon and end in victory.
The media has made it difficult for people to follow the progress closely, that's why most Republicans (as well as most Democrats) don't know much. But contrary to your assertions, those who do keep track of what's happening are almost uniformly sympathetic if not outright supportive of the effort--and far more likely to be Republican than Democrat.Posted by tim maguire at September 5, 2008 08:30 PM
There is no way that I believe that Republicans know less about Iraq than Democrats--Remember the Dems wanted you to leave in DEFEAT--and this article you are praising was written by THE NEW YORKER---so you don't know just how much is true-Posted by Sherri Smith at September 5, 2008 08:34 PM
I don't know how that edit/deletion happened in the second paragraph, sorry. And I'm not sure how to reconstruct what is lost, but the important part is still clear enough.Posted by tim maguire at September 5, 2008 08:35 PM
Greyhawk, Sir, it is an interesting point about the Military Honor Guard to the American Flag. The Flag is neither Republican nor Democratic Flag, it is the American Flag. The Flag is impartial, and so should the people be who march with it.
V/R GrumpyPosted by Grumpy at September 5, 2008 09:06 PM
I'm not sure I would argue whether Dems or Repubs are more informed about the war. For every Spencer Ackermann on the left there is a Gateway Pundit on the right who seems to keep tabs on what is going on. I think people just hear what they want to hear about the war and draw up their own conclusions. The cognitive dissonance is frightening and sometime exacberated by the blogosphere. Best to keep an open mind. A good post, BTW! Very insightful and provocative.Posted by LT Nixon at September 5, 2008 09:12 PM
Of Course Al-sadr would never wait for US troops to leave before starting up his militia!
and Iraqi army can handle any future
and the moon is made of swiss cheese.
"Even this brioef excerpt is waaay to long for any delegate to the Republican National Convention"
Ah, dude, I enjoyed this article but would have more if you didn't feel the need to slag other people off.
-ACPosted by AC at September 5, 2008 09:57 PM
"Even this brioef excerpt is waaay to long for any delegate to the Republican National Convention"
Ah, dude, I enjoyed this article but would have more if you didn't feel the need to slag other people off.
"That may be because many Republicans know very little about Iraq - certainly less than the average Democrat. "
Really? Most of my relatives are Dem's and couldn't find Iraq on a map, don't know what went into the surge (besides more guys), and couldn't explain why Iranians aren't Arabs. But almost 100% of my conservative friends could do all of the above with aplomb.
Thank you for your service to our country.
-ACPosted by AC at September 5, 2008 09:59 PM
Wow, Greyhawk. I read this post and am just amazed. You honestly think Dems know more about Iraq than Repubs?? Most of my friends are Christan Repubs who know alot about the war in Iraq mostly from my sending them e-mails with posts from Greyhawk or Blackfive or other milblogs or because they have kids over in Iraq or Afghanistan.
But when I argue with Dems, all they know are the talking points they have heard or read about on DailyKos or the Media. I have often told them things from Michael Yon's book or blog and they are amazed since they hadn't read about it in the NYT.
This post is definitely angry at the Right and I am offended. Your political affiliations are obvious in this post. Are you sure that's wise?
Anyways, like the other posters here, I read the comments by Sen Graham and thought he was speaking about whether Obama had sat down with Gen. Petraeus or not.Posted by Artbyruth at September 5, 2008 10:53 PM
Can we all just agree that Graham is an unpleasant jerk with an inflated ego and sense of self-worth and let it go at that?
;->=Posted by JorgXMcKie at September 5, 2008 11:00 PM
Even this brioef excerpt is waaay to long for any delegate to the Republican National Convention to ever read
Wow. It's amazing how a fool can wipe away every bit of credit he's earned with readers in one fell swoop.
Did you miss how many VETERANS were in the pool of delegates? I had two relatives there, both delegates. Together they have almost *40* years of service between them. They fought in wars just like you. And you dare suggest an article is too long for them to read?
Where is your decency, sir? Where?
I'll give you a hint, it's apparently overwhelmed by your partisanship. Wake up and take a look in the mirror, and apologize to those your smeared without a thought. As a retired grunt myself, the last thing I *ever* want to do is say anything bad about another man who served. But you really let down your uniform today, and you did yourself a world of disservice.
What Graham said: "Barack Obama went 2 and a half years between visits to Iraq and never once sat down with General Petraeus."
What his defenders here say he meant: Barack Obama went 2 and a half years between visits to Iraq and in that time never once sat down with General Petraeus."
So why didn't he say the extra three words?
If Senator Graham chooses to clarify his remark, I'll gladly post that clarification in an update. But I'd never "delete the post" - regardless of how many people demand I unsay what I said or unwrite what I wrote.
As for obvious political affiliations, please clarify. Am I obviously a Democrat or Republican?Posted by Greyhawk at September 6, 2008 01:34 AM
You were one of the very first sites I visited when I discovered the blogosphere. I've read you and Jason (IRAQNOW) and Captainsjournal and others that your wife has brought up almost every day. I have very little money or you'd have received a check from me every month. I quit my business in publishing because from September 12, 2001, every business colleague I knew in the book business wanted this country to lose ANY WAR, ANY Time, ANY WHERE, and I was afraid that eventually I might do something violent in response. Every bookstore that I went to (well, there was one that was different!) and every one of them was a democrat. Don't try to tell me that they, the Democrats, know more about this war than my family (all of whom are now Republicans).
One of the reasons that Governor Palin is so popular with the base right now is because so many real republicans are fed up with Senators and Representatives ignoring the real needs of our military, whereas she seems to bring a much greater feeling for supporting the troops and America. I happen to despise Graham, so as your other readers have said, I suspect the lack of excitement from the floor has nothing to do with the lack of understanding about the war. McCain has chosen a no-nonsense type, who I hope will bring back the Party to something that cares more for victory than whether the media likes them. I only wish that they will bring a fresh broom to State (that wonderful organization that works feverishly to undo all the good that you military men and women do) and prepare this country for the difficult days and years ahead.
I'd guess your party affiliation was enraged republican, which describes many of us. However, I wouldn't make a mockery of republicans because so many of our representatives are irritating, to say the least. For too many years, good people like Palin got hounded out ot office because of the kind of media atacks that Governor Palin has been undergoing. Not everyone can stand watching their families get treated like dirt. I admire her family and her courage, but it's a reminder why the quality of the Republican Party isn't as high as it should be. How many good people enter the national or state level, when they know that the liberal media will try to destroy their most precious possession- their families??? Too few, that's for darn tootin!!!!Posted by Sara at September 6, 2008 03:55 AM
Like many other commenters, I disagree with your assertion that Republicans know less than the average Democrat about Iraq. In my personal experience, my friends who are Democrats have only superficial knowledge--the headline or the one sentence uttered on the Today show. They truly have no idea that the Surge has been successful. In late May I travelled with a group of (mostly) Democrats, highly educated types, and they were Shocked! (and dismissive) when I expressed optimism about how things were going in Iraq. If they "know" anything, it's from two years ago and they are unaware how outdated their knowledge is. Or perhaps, like the Democrat party's leaders, wilfully unwilling to acknowledge that there has been any improvement at all.Posted by Pat in MN at September 6, 2008 04:37 AM
Republicans know less @ the war than democrats? What nonsense.
And this is your rationale for the lack of enthusiasm for Graham at the RNC?
Lindsey Graham has a long track record of undermining Republican positions to court a constituency including Democrats. Could this possibly have anything to do with his reception at the RNC?Posted by RJR at September 6, 2008 04:31 PM
Opening line of post: "I know many Republicans dislike South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. Maybe that explains the tepid response he's getting at the Republican National Convention."Posted by Greyhawk at September 6, 2008 06:10 PM
I watched it within a couple hours of the live delivery (dvr) and understood Goober was referring to the time-period between the first visit and the second. In politics though, if you can stretch the truth to your advantage, you do it. It is very much like war, so it is not unfair.
Only an idiot would lie when the truth is on his side anyway. Graham is a liar - his intent was to deceive. Sure - if you squint at what he said and add a few extra words it means what you want it to, but I'm amazed and disappointed at the number of mindless supporters he has.Posted by Greyhawk at September 7, 2008 03:27 AM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(31) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)