Calendar vs Conditions

A few weeks ago, a blogger surveyed the field and found that when asked to choose between a calendar-based withdrawal from Iraq and a conditions-based withdrawal, Americans by almost two-to-one chose a calendar-based withdrawal.

In other words, when asked to choose between "The 3rd Division leaves Mosul in February. No ifs, ands or buts about it" versus "The 3rd Division leaves Mosul when commanders on the ground certify that it's appropriate to do so and when the Commander-in-Chief agrees with them," Americans preferred the first option by 55% to 65%, depending on who was doing the polling.

Now that presidential candidate Barack Obama finds himself in agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, that for the US to get out of Iraq sometime in 2010, is a good idea, that left presidential candidate John McCain throughly deflated.

As Crooks & Liars comments on the 21 July Daily Show:

The speculation before Senator Obama left for Iraq that he would possibly commit a presidential-bid-ending gaffe was deafening.

The traditional news media was absolutely dying for Obama to slip up, because the news that Maliki agreed with Obama and not McCain, came as a crushing disappointment to them. Andrea Mitchell was so upset that she accused Obama of conducting "fake interviews" because he treated the press corps in exactly the same manner that McCain treated them back in March of this year. Of course, McCain can do that because he's a Republican and Obama is not.

So, when McCain was asked what he'd choose, a calendar-based withdrawal versus a conditions-based one, he was trapped between simply agreeing with Obama and Maliki or of coming up with his own spin.

McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said the senator's comments did not reflect a shift in position.
"The two years in his answer today is consistent with his position that we can begin to responsibly discuss the reduction of troop levels in Iraq as long as they are based on maintaining the security and stability of the gains we made," Bounds said.

In other words, McCain is for both a calendar-based withdrawal "two years is okay" and a conditions-based withdrawal "...as long as they are based on maintaining the security and stability of...," and of course the fact that these positions are mutually exclusive and contradictory won't bother anybody in the traditional media. In fact, McCain's people are now selling the position that a conditions-based withdrawal is more flexible in both directions than a calendar-based withdrawal:

"Whether that happens in 12 months, or 16 months, or 24 months, the important thing is that our troops come home with victory and America's vital national interests secured."

So Obama is now being criticized because his calendar-based approach is too rigid! He's standing in the way of American troops coming home even earlier than his "rigid" calendar allows for. Of course, the whole point of a conditions-based withdrawal is that conditions will never allow a withdrawal!

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