The Republican National Committee (RNC) released a statement today criticizing Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama for distorting John McCain’s position on Iraq as wanting to stay there for 100 years. They claim that, “Obama is adopting the same old school political tactics he claims he opposes by distorting Sen. McCain’s remarks for political advantage.”
The RNC uses lots of quotes from Obama, pundits and media sources, but they don’t use McCain’s disputed statement in the press release. This is more than a little suspicious, because if they are going to claim that a quote is being distorted, isn’t it important to put the correct interpretation out there?
Here are John McCain’s statements at a January 3, 2008 town hall meeting in Derry, NH. The discussion started when a man asked a question about McCain’s support for the war in Iraq. McCain replied, “What happens is American troops withdraw and they withdraw to bases and then they eventually withdraw, or we reach an agreement like we have in South Korea, with Japan. We still have troops in Bosnia.”
The man wasn’t satisfied, so he asked if the troop surge was really working, and McCain defended the surge. The man started to ask, “President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years –,” but McCain interrupted him and said either, “Maybe a 100,” or “Make it 100.”
McCain then displayed his enthusiasm for a long term stay in Iraq. “We’ve been in South Korea, we’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea for 50 years or so. That’d be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. Then it’s fine with me. I would hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”
Obama is distorting McCain’s position, because McCain may only want to stay 50 years instead of 100. I don’t think a potential 50 year stay in Iraq will make the American people feel any better about McCain, or his position on Iraq.
It is tough to distort such pro-war remarks out of a candidate’s own but what the RNC was trying to do was soften McCain’s position on Iraq without actually using his own words. They realize that McCain will be crushed by Obama in the fall, if the war is a big issue. The only way they can win on this issue of Iraq is if they destroy Obama’s credibility, and that was the point of this rather weak press release.
McCain’s own words:
RNC press release: