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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

He'll meet with Ahmadinejad, but not Petraeus?

John McCain made a fine suggestion yesterday: that he and Barack Obama take a trip to Iraq together, have a look around, maybe discuss America's future in and with that country.

"Look at what happened in the last two years since Senator Obama visited and declared the war lost," the GOP nominee-in-waiting told The Associated Press in an interview, noting that the Illinois senator's last trip to Iraq came before the military buildup that is credited with curbing violence.
The Obama campaign is, however, having none of it. Taking a short break from holding his breath until he turns blue, Obama spokesman Bill Burton said:

"John McCain's proposal is nothing more than a political stunt, and we don't need any more 'Mission Accomplished' banners or walks through Baghdad markets to know that Iraq's leaders have not made the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge."
Emphasis mine, hat tip to Sean at TAM for the links.

When President Bush visited the World Trade Center site following 9-11, was that a stunt? After all, it's not like he was there helping pick up debris.

When Governor Doyle visited flooded parts of Wisconsin last year, was that a stunt? He wasn't helping dry out anybody's basement.

But that doesn't make such things stunts. It's leaders showing the people who've been hit by something bad that we give a damn, and we're not just going to change the channel and forget about them.

Oh, and by the way, you can learn something by seeing it with your own eyes.

Sean writes:

Two Presidential candidates walking side-by-side surveying the situation in a foreign land is nothing I’ve ever heard happen in American politics… An American electorate tired of political bickering would welcome two competitors traveling together to Iraq to learn about any improvements or setbacks.
I quite agree.

I think their reaction says one of three things about Obama and his campaign.

One: Obama doesn't give a damn what happens in Iraq – not about the people, their budding democratic government, the jihadists who'd love to move in, or the American troops. His constituency wants out, so he's going to get out. To actually go there and appear to care would be…well, it would be appearing to care, and that's off-message.

Two: it's a sure sign of the Obama campaign's maturity or, more likely, the lack thereof. A joint visit is a bad idea simply because the McCain camp suggested it.

Three: a joint tour of Iraq with McCain would highlight McCain's foreign policy and national security credentials, while spotlighting Obama's vast weakness in that area.

That third option gives the Obama camp credit for political savvy. Make of it what you will.

NRO's Jim Geraghty also noted the story. He writes:

…isn't Obama vulnerable to the argument that a man who's pledged to meet unconditionally, one-on-one, face-to-face with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad really ought to meet at least once one-on-one with Gen. David Petraeus?
Zing. Geraghty also notes that Obama's visited Iraq exactly once, in 2006, for two days. The RNC picked up on that:

Barack Obama has only visited Iraq once – and that was 871 days ago. Despite lacking the experience and leadership to be Commander-in-Chief, Obama has done shockingly little to educate himself firsthand about the war in Iraq. Instead, he displays an arrogant certainty gained on the campaign trail.
They're counting the days since Obama last visited Iraq: right now, it's 871.

Hey, you can "argue about the value of seeing the situation on the ground with one's own eyes," as Geraghty puts it. But dismissing the idea out of hand as a "stunt" is dumb, immature, and disrespectful for the large numbers of Americans and Iraqis who care deeply about what happens there over the next few years.