The Washington Post, in a report by the hopelessly biased Anne Kornblut, accuses John McCain of “not always [being] forthcoming with the public on the subject [of Iraq].” Specifically, Kornblut suggests that McCain was not forthcoming in his public assessment of the situation in Iraq during and after his visit to Iraq in April 2007.
During that visit, as readers may recall, he toured a market in Baghdad while being by protected U.S. soldiers. After the tour, he declared: “Things are getting better in Iraq and I am pleased with the progress that has been made.”
When he returned to Washington, McCain met with Secretary of State Rice. According to Bob Woodward’s new book, McCain complained to Rice that “we may be about to lose the second war in my lifetime.” He proceeded to sharply criticize the State Department’s effort in Iraq. After this meeting, McCain told reporters:
We’re just getting the third of five brigades over to Baghdad. We are achieving some small successes already in the strategy being employed by General Petraeus and General Odierno.
There is, of course, no inconsistency between what Woodward says McCain told Rice and what he said thereafter. His statements to Rice reflected his view of the job the State Department was doing. His statement to the press reflected his view of our military effort. Moreover, his praise was quite limited; he characterized the military successes as “small.”
Nor is the statement McCain had made earlier, after visiting the market, problematic. He said he was pleased with our progress (presumably military progress). He did not say that the danger of losing the war had passed. Moreover, it is not clear from Kornblut’s report whether he had even assessed the State Department’s efforts at this point in his trip.
At some point in his trip, McCain concluded that the personnel the State Department had sent to Iraq were too few and too junior. This view became the conventional wisdom and eventually was the subject of congressional hearings. Indeed, senior personnel at State famously balked at the prospect of being sent to Iraq. In warning Rice about this problem, McCain was performing another service to his country.
McCain could have gone public with his complaint about State, but the better course was probably to call the problem to Rice’s attention and give her a chance to fix it. In any event, McCain was not misleading the American public when he noted the “small” military successes we had achieved as of April 2007.
It’s also worth noting that throughout 2007, McCain sharply differentiated between the growing military success in Iraq and the political situation there. I heard him draw this contrast in more than half a dozen blogger calls in the second half of last year. McCain made it clear that he was disappointed by the lack of political progress in Iraq.
In sum, there is no merit to Kornblut’s suggestion that McCain withheld or sugar-coated his assessment of the political situation in Iraq. It is Kornblut who is being less than forthcoming here.
JOHN adds: Kornblut is a joke. She was last seen making a fool of herself by ignorantly slandering Sarah Palin in a front-page article that the Post tried to amend, but was too late to delete. If she isn’t being paid by the Obama campaign, she should be. Why the Post pays her, I can’t imagine.
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