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 problems."
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.
No one will question the GOP's mind-boggling insistence that A) Iraq is so goddamn safe we can hardly believe it but B) we can't leave. They declare victory for democracy while simultaneously trying to convince people that Iraq will become Uncle Osama's Terrorism Fiesta if we leave. We've achieved victory – stable democratic government and peace – but without 150,000 troops on the ground it would quickly become the seventh circle of hell. That's a pretty curious interpretation of having achieved stability and peace.