So we now have a pattern. Obama’s chief economic advisor (Austan Goolsbee) and a prominent foreign policy advisor (Power) have now told the truth on two important issues, trade and Iraq respectively. Their truth contradicted some of the overheated rhetoric their boss was using on the campaign trail. Hillary Clinton–whose actual positions on trade and Iraq are probably the same as Obama’s advisors–has attacked Obama in both cases for saying one thing and believing another…when she is doing the exact same thing.
You’d hope for something better in a crucial election year, but hey, this is politics. For what it’s worth, I score this contretemps slightly in Obama’s favor: At least his advisors know the truth about these issues and are impolitic enough to be honest about it.
I am certainly disappointed that Clinton didn’t use this opportunity to address the Iraq problem for real–to say, “Look, even though Samantha Power called me a monster, what she said about Iraq is true. Both Senator Obama and I would like to be able to pull a brigade a month out of Iraq, and I’m sure we’ll both try to do that. But truth in advertising requires me to say to you that it’s a best case scenario. I have no idea what the situation on the ground is going to be on January 20, 2009. I have no exact idea how we can use the prospect of our withdrawal to leverage the Iraqis into getting their political act together, but it’s the only real leverage we have–and a new President needs to point the military and our diplomats in that direction. So my policy will be different from John McCain’s, which is to use Iraq as a permanent U.S. base in the region. That’s a bad idea. Permanent U.S. bases would be a permanent irritants in the region. So we’re going to try to leave. But it won’t be easy and it won’t be as quick as we’d all like it to be.”
So in other words, both campaigns are running on distortions of the truth, where only some of the most naive of Obama’s supporters actually tell the truth, and instead of trumpeting that point in print and ensuring it becomes a major campaign issue, Joe Klein just wishes it was not the case to the extent where he can write an alternative speech.
Look, I’d love to start writing alternative speeches on this site too, and occasionally I probably fall into that trap, but it’s more important to actually call people out as loudly as possible. When both sides are doing it and no one is paying attention to what McCain says, it’s likely that the press and people like Joe Klein are the only ones who will have the ability to make that case. Playing silly games with this (or falling into the “Oh SNAP Hillary went after Samantha” trap) is pointless and only encourages more reckless politics from both Democrats.
The people who actually can fix this will only fix it if there is enough pressure upon them to do so. An isolated blog post on a busy Monday on a secondary story will not bring that pressure.
See my annotated version of Clinton’s Iraq speech today for more.