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June 11, 2008

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You just think that because you aren't living in McCain world in which a peaceful, german or japanese style occupation is just over the horizon. Why those soldiers will be begging for a tour of duty in a reconstituted baghdad--which we will rehydrate, like those dehydrated babies, with a judicious application of bottled hot water--just like soliders in previous conflicts would have preferred to be posted to non fighting posts. This is why Steve Benen and I separately came up with the "underpants gnome" observation when McCain's earlier proposal on Iraq came out. Because a plan for either victory or withdrawal leading to some conclusion (happy or sad) requires *an actual plan* and not wishful thinking. But when you drill down to the bedrock of McCain's plans for iraq they turn out not to be blueprints but castles of sand.

aimai

You just think that because you aren't living in McCain world in which a peaceful, german or japanese style occupation is just over the horizon. Why those soldiers will be begging for a tour of duty in a reconstituted baghdad--which we will rehydrate, like those dehydrated babies, with a judicious application of bottled hot water--just like soliders in previous conflicts would have preferred to be posted to non fighting posts. This is why Steve Benen and I separately came up with the "underpants gnome" observation when McCain's earlier proposal on Iraq came out. Because a plan for either victory or withdrawal leading to some conclusion (happy or sad) requires *an actual plan* and not wishful thinking. But when you drill down to the bedrock of McCain's plans for iraq they turn out not to be blueprints but castles of sand.

aimai

Another point to highlight the difference between deployment in Iraq vs. Japan or Germany (and possibly South Korea, but I don't know for sure) is the ability to have one's spouse/children reside there as well.

McCain's just not very good at this politicking stuff: he's prone to speak off-the-cuff, but half the time he doesn't know what he's talking about.

if this is a just world, Obama will utterly crush McCain in the GE.

This seems like more "gotcha" politics than anything else. Nice way to spend an afternoon, I guess.

"But, as Greg Sargent notes, McCain did not in fact say that when the troops come home was less important than something else; he said it was not too important, period."

Obviously, according to the video, (unless my eyes and ears are deceiving me), Sargent's claim is not - in fact - technically true.

Note the actual quote: “No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq."

Having said that, McCain's fast and loose use of assertions without any apparent reaching after fact or accuracy is terribly troubling and, in a just world, will herald the demise of his presidential aspirations.

or... what cleek said. ;-)

But, as Greg Sargent notes, McCain did not in fact say that when the troops come home was less important than something else; he said it was not too important, period.

Holding conversational speech to strict standards of precision that were once reserved exclusively for the written word is apparently the new pastime of political bloggers of all stripes.

Jonas Cord Jr. and Model 62 seriously misunderstand what is going on here--its not that picking apart McCain's speech, or holding spoken McCain to the same strict standards as written McCain is a waste of time (or nitpicking) at all. quite the opposite. McCain has coasted for a very long time with the press on always making enough gaffes, or being brutal or careless in his speech and then laughing it off as just his way, or his charming honesty, or something he did for the rubes, or something that went against the grain--the politico's writer fell for it just today in a piece that spoke admiringly about John McCain's "authentic" dislike of endlessly repeating his own political slogans even as he happilly repeats them for the billionth time. http://www.politico.com/blogs/jonathanmartin/0608/McCain_is_in_on_the_joke_cont.html

This is say stuff, disavow it, complain you have been misunderstood, and then waffle and point in all directions to some non existent actual plan/policy paper/good intentions has been McCain's shtick-within-a-shtick for years. Just because journalists let themselves get played for suckers over and over again by allowing McCain to use them to forward his own propaganda while never taking responsiblity for what he says doesn't mean the rest of us should. Au contraire. Hilzoy's posts, and the other posts critical of McCain's blithe attitude towards other people's sufferings, are a classic example of McCain and his supporters telling us "who are you going to believe, me or your own lying ears?" Well, there's pretty much not only nothing that's off the record when you are president, but everything isn't going to be in a position paper. If McCain isn't responsible for what he says and thinks now, or if he's saying stuff he doesn't really think, why is that off limits for comment? I'd say those are really dangerous traits in a president--especially coming from a presidential candidate who has, as far as I know, offered no actual speeches or position papers fully fleshing out his plans.

aimai

McCain lives in the magic place where a stint in Iraq is like a stint in Germany or Korea. Here's some dialog from McCain's special place:

(Soldier to soldier at base in Iraq) "Let's jump in a car and buzz off to Basra this weekend for some R&R"

(Soldier to wife on phone) "I know honey, I miss you too. We have lost of miles. Why don't we meet in Baghdad? I have four days of leave coming up."

(Iraqi policeman to HQ) "Send an ambulance right away! An American GI out for the evening slipped and hit his head. It could be a concussion!"

(Ad voiceover) Republican. The Party to go to for hard-headed foreign policy realism.

Jonas: I did specifically note that McCain undoubtedly did not mean this to be as callous as it came off, and then said why I didn't think that was a particularly convincing reply.

There have been a number of 'gaffes' that I have not jumped on for the reasons you suggest. 'Bomb bomb Iran' is the one that comes to mind: I thought: well, at the end of a long day, people get punchy and do things just like that. This was different, I thought.

For one thing, you just shouldn't forget the troops' point of view. And for another, there's no coherent thing he could have been "really" saying instead.

Jonas:

First, that's not a particularly strict standard of precision for anyone paying any degree of attention to their own words.

But more to the point: unless you hold McCain to some kind of standard, you miss what the McCain campaign was obviously trying to do. What they were trying to do is simply obfuscate what he said. Now, do you find that acceptable? Is it acceptable for campaigns, owing to the fact that we're not going to hold people to scrutiny, to simply interpret words as meaning anything at all? Are you comfortable with that?

Whatever McCain may have meant, he *certainly* didn't mean what the campaign glossed him as meaning. He was not contrasting the importance of casualties to whether he had a better estimate of the withdrawal.

So if you are not going to hold him to some reasonable standard, then your choice is between simply accepting the campaign's bizarre gloss or conceding that you can't figure out what he meant.

Now, are either of those alternatives preferable to the standard of precision that we have put into?

especially coming from a presidential candidate who has, as far as I know, offered no actual speeches or position papers fully fleshing out his plans.

I'm more interested in learning about McCain's plans (or lack of plans) than learning more about about his gift for gaffe. The whole Left Blogistan hammers away at the gaffes, 24/7; he's not getting a free pass. I thought Hilzoy's look yesterday at McCain's Energy Plans? Proposals? ... Position! was helpful.

'Bomb bomb Iran' is the one that comes to mind: I thought: well, at the end of a long day, people get punchy and do things just like that.

Interesting. I thought that one was far more callus and damning than this one.

but Model 62, These are only gaffes because McCain said they were gaffes after he got in trouble for them. As far as I can see he, of course, meant exactly what he was saying. He doesnt' think getting our troops home in a timely manner is important. And why should he? Its a respectable military position, after all, that the troops are there to do their duty until the president thinks he's done using them. That it isnt, in fact, the position held by the majority of the voters or by the military brass is McCain's problem, not that he "misspoke" in some way.

McCain is appearing nightly on our TVs and sending his surrogates out to explain to us what he means all the time. In fact he prefers, as we are told over and over again by his sycophants and his handlers, a talkative, question and answer, town hall format (see newsweek today for this stunning piece of McCain spin.) Well, presidentin' is hard work and its not all going to be joshin' with the folks on the campaign trail. Just what does McCain think we should do in Iraq other than wait for the next millenium and some really amazing miracle? If he isn't saying that I have to assume he doesn't have a plan, or doesn't want to say what it is. Otherwise I'd have to assume that contra his self representation he's not in charge of his campaign or his own words but is waiting on someone else to figure out what he is planning to do.

I just don't see why you see it as "gaffe coverage vs real policy coverage." Its not--its discussion of the talking points mccain makes over and over again in the absence of his having any actual plans, or being willing to admit to actual plans.

I object to the discussion being turned into one in which John McCain, a millionaire Senator running for President, presents himself as a victim of the voter's curiosity about what he actually intends to do. He's got the bulliest pulpit a man can have. If he doesn't think the troops length of stay in Iraq is a matter of no importance there was literally nothing preventing himself from taking the time offered to him to make his case for something else.

aimai

Model 62: I might write about this at some point in the future, but: here's McCain's issues page. You can spot a number of missing topics, especially if you compare it to Obama's.(Service is the one from Obama's page whose absence is most striking on McCain's, to me.)

But one thing about McCain's page: the only ones dealing with foreign policy are National Security and Iraq. NatSec would be where you'd expect to find most foreign policy that doesn't have to do with the Middle East. And yet it's almost entirely concerned with the military. (It's subtitled 'A Strong Military in a Dangerous World'.)

Other than a section on the war on terrorism, and (as noted) the page on Iraq, here's the entirety of John McCain's position on foreign policy:

"The global war on terrorism, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, threats from rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and the rise of potential strategic competitors like China and Russia mean that America requires a larger and more capable military to protect our country's vital interests and deter challenges to our security. America confronts a range of serious security challenges: Protecting our homeland in an age of global terrorism and Islamist extremism; working with friends and partners overseas, from Africa to Southeast Asia, to help them combat terrorism and violent insurgencies in their own countries; defending against missile and nuclear attack; maintaining the credibility of our defense commitments to our allies; and waging difficult counterinsurgency campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.

John McCain understands national security and the threats facing our nation. He recognizes the dangers posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, violent Islamist extremists and their terrorist tactics, and the ever present threat of regional conflict that can spill into broader wars that endanger allies and destabilize areas of the world vital to American security. He knows that to protect our homeland, our interests, and our values - and to keep the peace - America must have the best-manned, best-equipped, and best-supported military in the world."

That's pretty striking.

A more charitable interpretation that I can think of is that McCain was addressing the importance (or in his mind the lack thereof) of the “return home” date for American forces as a whole, which would be defined by the date when the last serviceman or servicewoman boards the last US aircraft (or other vehicle) departing from Iraq. In this interpretation, he was not speaking to the importance of the dates when individual men or women in uniform can return home. Note that the questioner asked him about “forces” (i.e. units), not “troops” (i.e. individuals).


If this more charitable interpretation is correct it would mean he wasn't implying that rotations do not matter and that it isn’t too important when individual soldiers can return. There would be two different levels of granularity being talked about here by McCain and his critics over his statement, which don’t match up. Of course for this interpretation to carry any weight, McCain would need to do a far better job of explaining himself and clarifying what he meant.

If it does go that way, his comment would suggest not callousness on his part regarding this issue, but IMHO a different problem, which is ignorance regarding how infeasible it is for us to achieve a realistic rotation schedule with the current force levels in Iraq and given the manpower constraints of our current volunteer Army, which prevent these two different schedules from collapsing into one another (effectively nullifying the distinction between forces and troops).

Either the Army has to expand, or our forces in Iraq will have to shrink. If neither of those things happen, then the individual men and women serving over there will effectively be serving out a series of rotations for the duration of our occupation – which is totally unlike the situation in Germany or Korea.

If McCain wins the election and tries to move forward with a long-term occupation in Iraq at current force levels, I think he will be forced to reinstate the draft in order to do so. Maybe he has already decided to do this and just isn’t bringing it up now because he knows it would ruin his chances of getting elected, or maybe he just doesn’t think that choice will be necessary, and will cross that bridge when he comes to it.

That's pretty striking.

I agree. It is as if Team McCain thinks their guy can wing it. Which, given the McCain's message mangling, seems like a big mistake.

hilzoy,

I just saw your 4:26 comment quoting from McCain's website, and this part jumped out:

America requires a larger and more capable military

I'd say I feel a draft.

I find it extremely interesting that all the stated reasons for not staying in Iraq are purely practical.

Why can't we leave because we lied to do a terribly evil thing? That leaving is of the utmost importance just at the tiny chance of redemption for pre-emptive war?

How come I fucking never hear that? Why is it so hard to comprehend that we as a people are capable of terrible things, and that what little morality we fooled ourselves into having is a crock of shit?

Do we get scared that such a statement of fact would mean others scream at us that we hate America? Are we really that puny? I fiercely love my country, but I also accept it's reality in totality. Are there so few of us that the truth cannot be spoken?

I really would like to know about this silence. Should we as a people ever face it we'd leave one hell of a lot quicker, I tell you that.

Sure, McCain didn't mean his words to come off as "callous or thoughtless," to borrow two of hilzoy's adjectives, as they did.

No matter.

He said them.

Can you imagine if Barack Obama had said the same thing? The Republicans would be using it as more evidence that, in their book, he is a no good, Volvo-driving, unAmerican, arugula-eating, Latte-drinking, no-flag-pin-wearning, closet Muslim extremist.

Dare we forget:

McCain is supposed to be the War Expert.

Yikes.

Even Bush didn't make these kind of stupid mistakes when he ran for President both times -- that's mainly because Karl Rove had the good sense to script damn near everything the man did on the campaign stump.

McCain, long a favorite of the media, both on the right and left, fancies himself as their friend, too.

Only, now, he is running for Commander-in-Chief. Words have meaning, they have consequences.

So, he can no longer go on "Hardball" or "Today" or "Face the Nation" or "This Week" and sit alongside the host and play the role of Johnny Maverick and, oh, well, if Johnny M makes a mistake that's just good, ol' McCain speaking his mind, speaking off the cuff, and misspeaking along the way. No reason to hold it against him -- that's our John, always available, always quotable, always meaning well. Hey, he's a maverick, after all, right Chris, Tim, Bob, George, et. al?

Some maverick.

So far in this campaign, he's been Johnny One Note: Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

Oh, I forgot about Iran. (Remember his "Bah-Bah-Bahm Iran" gaffe?) So make that a Johnny Two Note, I guess.

This much is for sure: We will see more of these blunders from McCain. For one, he doesn't have Karl Rove to put a muzzle on him. For another, with limited campaign funds, he needs to do free media.

Just wait until he starts getting peppered about the economy, which he himself said isn't his strongsuit.

Iraq.

Iran.

The Economy.

You go, John.

Keep talking.

Keep sounding callous and thoughtless.

And clueless.

When will the Koreans, Okinawans, and Germans start to draw the obvious inference: why are they acquiescing in the American imperial occupation of their countries?

That it isnt, in fact, the position held by the majority of the voters or by the military brass is McCain's problem, not that he "misspoke" in some way.

A point also explicated by Josh Marshall.

When will the Koreans, Okinawans, and Germans start to draw the obvious inference: why are they acquiescing in the American imperial occupation of their countries?

Ha Ha.

But seriously, they do in fact acquiesce, unlike the Iraqis.

Speaking of acquiescence remember the "indispensible" Subic base in the Phillipines? After the Marcos years the Phillipines asked us to leave, and we did.

That was one of the biggest bases in the world, supposedly critical to our defense. And then we left, and then... nothing. The Phillipines is fine, we are fine, no problem.

If we leave Iraq I doubt the Iraqis will be fine because they are in the middle of a civil war. But we will be fine. Fewer Americans soldiers will die, our military can recover from its present over-extension, we can pay more attention to more important problems in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and we will save gobs of money.


Speaking of acquiescence remember the "indispensible" Subic base in the Phillipines? After the Marcos years the Phillipines asked us to leave, and we did.

And note that we left after having been involved in the Phillipines first as an occupying power fighting an insurgency, and later as the invitee of a very conveniently friendly govt., for roughly 100 years or so since we took it as part of our spoils from the Spanish-American War.

I wonder if that analogy is where McCain came up with his "100 years" figure, rather than Korea or Germany.

You go, John.

Keep talking.

Keep sounding callous and thoughtless.

And clueless.

Too much analysis of a gaffe. This one was better and more entertaining, since this is really all gaffes are.

hilzoy -

Anaolgies. I forgot analogies when I was listing your gifts on TiO. Nicely done.

I think this post foreshadows a theme you will find yourself returning to a bunch of times before November. The most damaging things for McCain won't require people to look for hidden motives. They'll be able to give him the benefit of the doubt and still find him suspect.

And also, what cleek said. Except that I don't think a just world is even a precondition.

"And note that we left (Subic) after having been involved in the Phillipines first as an occupying power fighting an insurgency, and later as the invitee of a very conveniently friendly govt., for roughly 100 years or so since we took it as part of our spoils from the Spanish-American War"

I had not thought of that, but now that you mention it it a damn good point. And it gets better. We used torure and other brutality (including waterboarding!!) to put down the Filipino insurgency, shocking the concience of many Americans. Then for decades the Phillipines was the standard case used to demonstrate that the US tried its hand at imperialism and it didn't quite take.

Inside the US after the war fever the Filipino adventure was mostly viewed as a failure, with any gains more than offset by the cost. The Subic base was for decades pumped up as strategically more important than it really was to justify our ongoing support of cruddy client governments that were never seen by the Filipinos themselves as legitimate. Remember the burst of joy after Marcos fell and Corazon Aquino came into power?

Doesn't Iraq (a Muslim oil power in the heart of the Middle East) seem way less likely to turn out well, compared to the Phillipines?

Heh -- I didn't know there was a list of my virtues (I read TiO off and on.) But thanks.

And yes: I think he'll do a lot of the damage himself. I am truly not trying to just pile on or anything, but he strikes me as scarily ignorant -- especially when you consider that some of the things he's ignorant of, like the major players in Iraq or our troop strength, are things that he's supposed to have oversight responsibility for, and that are supposed to be his strong suit.

The level of historical knowledge on this comments threads exceeds McCain's

hilzoy: despite my huge endorsement of your not-inconsiderable virtues (as per dk xvii above), I think you are seriously offbase if you consider Sen. McCain's pronouncements on the situation in Iraq, or his prescriptions for future actions, to be informed in any way by "ignorance".
Delusional? probably. Overly optimistic? Certainly. Pandering to perceived public wishful-thinking? Undoubtedly. Ignorant? IMHO: No way.
I think Sen. McCain's utopian happy-talk about the US' future in Iraq - however ludicrous it may sound - is informed principally by two converging factors: campaign themes he won't (and probably can't abandon). First: to vigorously reinforce the meme that "we" (the USA) are first and foremost and forever The Good Guys - and whatever we do on the international scene is (and can only be) motivated by the purest and noblest of intentions*. Second, to endorse (if somewhat obliquely) the Bush Administration's attempts at executing the neoncon Great Game Master Plan for American "hegemony" in the Middle East (and by extension, the world) - a scenario in which a peaceful, pro-US Iraq, no more a danger to US forces than, say, Fort Dix is a major goal - and, not coincidentally, validate any further such "liberations" - i.e. Iran.

However ineptly Sen. McCain may articulate this stuff, hilzoy, I don't think ANY of it stems from "ignorance": rather, I think he is relying on the ignorance of the electorate to swallow the same-old, same-old rhetoric of "victory" to keep the GGMP alive for another four years. And, of course, the electoral hopes of the Party that has promoted them.

* which, of course, can be twisted to make any critics of said policies "anti-American", "self-hating", "relativistic" - pick your denigration

Jay C: how do you explain McCain saying that Iran is training Al Qaeda?

JayC: TOFrancis asked what I would have. I can't see any nefarious reason for him to say that, and certainly had he had one, he wouldn't have changed what he was saying when Lieberman corrected him.

I really think that as strange as it seems, he doesn't get why Iran training AQI would be, well, beyond unlikely.

Jay C: how do you explain McCain saying that Iran is training Al Qaeda?

I don't know! It beats me why a US Senator (who presumably has access to a greater range of (hopefully accurate) intelligence than even we "high-information" types in the blogosphere should be so - to put it charitably - misinformed.

My guess (fwiw): he just wants to burnish his credentials as the hawkiest war-hawk of all hawkery, and figures that the public will simply hear the juxtaposition of "Iran" and "al-Qaeda" and get all impressed with his handle on the boogeymen-du-jour.

AS I said, fwiw....

Jay C: how do you explain McCain saying that Iran is training Al Qaeda?

I don't know! It beats me why a US Senator (who presumably has access to a greater range of (hopefully accurate) intelligence than even we "high-information" types in the blogosphere should be so - to put it charitably - misinformed.

My guess (fwiw): he just wants to burnish his credentials as the hawkiest war-hawk of all hawkery, and figures that the public will simply hear the juxtaposition of "Iran" and "al-Qaeda" and get all impressed with his handle on the boogeymen-du-jour.

AS I said, fwiw....

The Okinawans don't have a lot of choice, since they're second-class citizens in Japan anyway. If all those forces were on the main island of Japan, the politics of it would be considerably dicier.

It's unfortunate that the analysis and attacks have to be all about the gaffe. In the real world of politics, I understand why that is. But I wish the media and general populace could handle making the argument over hilzoy's third point, which I think is the most damning one. I was actually physically present when McCain made his first "hundred years in Iraq" statement in New Hampshire (I traveled to NH for the primary) and it's a little unfair to grab that single soundbite. But I've never much minded, because he really was - indisputably and plainly - saying that Iraq could and probably would soon become just like our military bases in Germany, Korea, and Japan.

I really, really wish we could have a public discourse on why that's so flat out impossible. Even if casualties dropped to a much lower level - let's say an average of 4-6 dying per month and 25-35 wounded per month (both from combat/enemy action only) - for some unlikely reason, it's almost literally impossible to imagine a circumstance where Iraq could be a pleasant deployment.

As farmgirl mentioned, your family would be unable to come. It's almost inconceivable there would be no attacks, since it's so much more accessible to Middle Eastern terrorist organizations, so there would still be wariness and heavy psychological stress. Soldiers would still live among an at best ambivalent and at worst hostile and resentful population; tying into this, they would be much less likely to have local friends, much less girlfriends. There would be many more restrictions on behavior due to cultural differences. World opinion would still be inflamed. It would be unlikely that amenities would be available, and the "host" nation's economy and services are far below Korea, Japan, and Germany's. Those forces would actually be tied down in the country for the foreseeable future, on a set deployment, keeping our military overstretched. And so on...

That's even leaving aside the question of how casualties would possibly fall in the first place.

TLTinABQ : I actually think the draft is an issue someone really needs to chase McCain on in a publicized town hall or on a news show. Cite statistics about how overstretched our military is and how bad recruiting numbers are. Point out where McCain has called for a much enlarged military, and said there are all these threats we may need to take action against. And ask him: if your generals came to you and said, "Mr. President, we can't possibly do what you want or reach the size you want without a draft," would you reinstate the draft?

Then really chase him on that and don't let him dodge it as hypothetical. For one thing, if he seems to at all lean toward a draft, his reputation as a 'maverick' among young voters won't mean crap to them. You might actually see high turnout in that demographic for once too, if college campaign organizations can use that draft issue to mobilize people.

As a side note on this, I'd also point out that while McCain has opposed the "new GI bill" basically because it might make it too tempting for current soldiers to leave, if the rewards from military service seem low it will depress the supply of future soldiers.

Paradox : I don't much like talking about it in simple and absolute moralistic terms pointing toward a single outcome without practical thought along the way. That's too much like what led us into this war, only from the opposite position.

To me the evil here was the chaos, destruction, suffering and death we've plunged Iraq into in the aftermath of our invasion, not the mere fact of war itself. Well, except that the aftermath was really an inevitable and foreseeable consequences - but my impression is that you're fingering only the fact that we declared war on a country that had not attacked us just beforehand. Actually, I amend that: depending on the reasons, intentions, and long term plan, the fact of invasion may have been immoral without reference to the outcome, but even there it's not based merely on the fact of preemption.

If there was a way for us to actually greatly improve the situation of the Iraqi people there by staying, that would be my primary moral concern. There simply isn't, though, so the best way to alleviate the damage we've already done is to withdraw as much and as quickly, safely, and responsibly as possible. I'd also look at the realist angle, but that seems to argue for the same thing. Notice that both involve at least practical calculation, even if one is to reach a conclusion in a moral argument.

Question for you - if it actually did seem like a change in administration/strategy was starting to substantially improve life for the Iraqi people and patch things back together (for the record, I believe nothing of the sort will happen, but that's due to... practical calculation), would you still want us out as quick as possible to 'atone'?

Gaffe or not - how about

Fifth - the military forces currently deployed are RESERVE and National Guard troops for the most part. These arent guys who signed up for this. Shouldn't these guys & gals be the ones sandbagging the Midwest and rescuing folks from disasters like Katrina? I hear every day about how vulnerable our food and water supplies are to attack. You cant get a tomato at a restaurant these days to save your life.

Yes ask a soldier on the 14th month of his deployment what he thinks of this idea. These guys go above and beyond the call of duty every damned day!!!
Jen Smith

Jen Smith:

I agree that the possibility of a draft is an important wedge issue. I also think that part of the reason why most voters don't react to the image of a long-term occupation of Iraq when it's described in terms of what we already have out there in Japan, Germany, and Korea, is that most folks are barely aware that we have a significant number of troops stationed in those countries, and they rarely think about how long it's been. I suspect that this low level of awareness is partly due to the peacefulness of the occupation, partly because they are all very long-term situations, and partly because we rarely connect the dots. When wounded soldiers are flown back stateside from Frankfurt, if it makes the news at all, not a whole lot is said about the fact that they were in a U.S. military hospital on a U.S. military base that is (IIRC) approximately the same size as Andrews AFB. The media might make an oblique reference to it, but somehow (to my ears) manage to make it sound as if it's a special or temporary arrangement, or they gloss over the fact that the facilities are ours and not borrowed from the Germans for the occasion. (Just as a for instance.)

Also, I think part of what McCain is taking advantage of is the related fact that many Americans don't think outside our borders, and if they do, they have trouble believing that the rest of the world is really all that different from here. Remember all the fuss about giving the Panama Canal to Panama? I distinctly remember a lot of my friends being shocked that the U.S. had a presence there. I know many people who have never been out of the country, ever, including (until recently) my mother, who went to Canada for a couple of days last year at the age of 72.

Jen Smith: sorry, my applause blanked out for some reason. Please mentally insert it at the top of my last post.

Daniel Merritt: Sorry, my refresh wasn't working right, and so I attributed some of your comments to Jen Smith. Much applause to you, too.

Sorry for the drive-by commenting on my part, everyone.

aimai,

McCain has coasted for a very long time with the press on always making enough gaffes, or being brutal or careless in his speech and then laughing it off as just his way, or his charming honesty, or something he did for the rubes, or something that went against the grain

I just don't care if McCain is unjustly immune to the "gaffe" game, as trying to avoid "gaffes" are why politicians tend to talk like they are from another planet. I'm saying we don't have to play if we don't want to.

...especially coming from a presidential candidate who has, as far as I know, offered no actual speeches or position papers fully fleshing out his plans.

If this is true, well, I guess you have a point. There's not much else to do other than closely parse conversations if McCain isn't outlining his policies.

Hilzoy,

For one thing, you just shouldn't forget the troops' point of view. And for another, there's no coherent thing he could have been "really" saying instead.

I guess we'll have to agree to disagree - what you're describing ("there's no coherent thing he could have been "really" saying instead") is a very strict standard that is better suited for the written word or a prepared speech. Statements come out of my mouth, as well as others, that bear absolutely no relation to what we mean - merely because people are inarticulate sometimes.

ara,

So if you are not going to hold him to some reasonable standard, then your choice is between simply accepting the campaign's bizarre gloss or conceding that you can't figure out what he meant.

Now, are either of those alternatives preferable to the standard of precision that we have put into?

Yes, I'll take the alternative where I concede I can't figure out what he meant. I think this is the kind of ridiculous minutia that the media loves to get preoccupied with, and now I guess we get to do it too at home. No thanks.

Shorter Jonas Cord Jr.: Very often, McCain speaks as if he's had a brain bypass operation.

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