In the ongoing struggle to pretend that, despite long-standing poll results, there is some sort of debate in America as to whether we should leave Iraq, the Republican nominees for President are coming up with the most laughable rationales for staying.
That no one is pointing out that these statements, made on the record, out loud and in front of microphones, virtually guarantee a rout for the Democratic nominee in the 2008 national debates, is curious. The Democratic nominee merely needs to quote some of this stuff, and ask whether anyone wants the quoted Republican near the nuclear button, or, for that matter, near large boards with nails in them.
Democrats in Washington either haven’t realized this or don’t want to admit that they have, for fear that the admission would then require them to stop worrying about “tactics” and to move aggressively in the direction of their constituents.
Senator John McCain on Meet the Press today, as reported in the New York Times:
But Mr. McCain, a Republican presidential candidate and Vietnam veteran like Mr. Kerry but also a onetime prisoner-of-war, offered an impassioned, personal argument for standing firm in Iraq:
“I know what it’s like when we have a defeated army,” he said. “It’s tough when you have an overstressed Guard and reserve. It’s tough when you have overstressed men and women serving in the military with incredible bravery and heroism. But when they’re defeated – in the 1970s after we were defeated, we had riots on our aircraft carriers. We had rampant drug use. We had insubordination. We had a broken army. And it took us a decade to recover from that.”
This “Keeping Our Kids Off Drugs” rationale for sustaining the occupation of Iraq deserves scorn, and lots of it. Never mind that McCain is old and befuddled; he wants to rule the free world.
Of course, the idea that leaving Iraq would dampen the spirits of men and women getting stop-lossed there is not a new one for Senator McCain. It is also not true. Huffington Post, Feb. 8, 2006:
A first-ever survey of U.S. troops on the ground fighting a war overseas has revealed surprising findings, not the least of which is that an overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year.
For the record, when McCain says “riots on our aircraft carriers” he is referring, I suppose, to the 1972 race riot on board the USS Kitty Hawk. Time magazine reported that there had been 46 injuries and 28 arrests resulting from a 6-hour fight while the ship was at sea:
Some scuffling between blacks and whites began in early October. The blacks circulated-and believed-a report that the whites had hired a karate expert to intimidate them. They also took umbrage at a rumor that two blacks who had slugged whites had been thrown into the brig, while a white who had beaten up a black was given only a warning. Just before the riot, frequent fights flashed through an enlisted men’s club in Subic Bay, where the ship was docked for resupply and recreation.
The Pentagon concluded that the riot on board the Kitty Hawk as well as two previous riots on board Navy ships had been caused by systemic racism.
A congressional subcommittee is currently investigating the Kitty Hawk riot, along with racial outbreaks on the carrier Constellation and the oiler Hassayampa, to determine whether or not such problems stem from a lack of discipline in the Navy. Meanwhile, the manner in which the Kitty Hawk conducts its courts-martial will also be watched carefully. A biracial Pentagon task-force report on military justice, released last week by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, charged that there was a definite pattern of discrimination against blacks in the meting out of punishment. The report gave substance to black sailors’ claims that recent riots have been fueled by discrimination; it also lent credence to recent statements by Elmo Zumwalt, chief of naval operations, who has attributed such insurrections to the fact that the Navy’s “middle management” has not carried out his myriad programs to ease racial tension, rather than to any lack of discipline that could be traced to his reforms of traditional Navy regulations.
The unrest was not, that is to say, caused by any military defeat; although McCain is free to argue that the U.S. was defeated in Vietnam in 1972 — months before the Paris Peace Accords — and that this defeat was the cause of racial tension in the U.S. In fact, I encourage him to do so, on stage, next to the Democratic nominee for President.
Earlier this year, Rudy Giuliani offered the entertaining suggestion that losing our militancy in the Were Against Terror would result in a mandatory change of clothes for American women.
The gray-haired woman raises her hand and compliments His Honor for his Sept. 11 bravery. Then she asks him:
Why does so much of the world hate us? Haven’t we failed to understand Arab grievances? We misinterpret their word “jihad,” which is not necessarily a hostile word.
— snip —
“They hate you,” he says of the Islamic terrorists, bringing his hands up to his chest. “They don’t want you to be in this college, or you, or you – -.”
Mr. Giuliani wheels around and points toward another middle-aged woman in the front row, who looks momentarily startled. “And you can’t wear that outfit because you’re showing your arms.”
“This is reality, ma’am,” he continues, his voice streaked with just a touch of exasperation. “This isn’t me making it up. I saw reality after 9/11. You’ve got to clear your head.”
Be it noted that this dangerous lunatic is the Republican front-runner.
The alarming thing, then, is not that Democrats might lose the Presidency; they won’t. Bush’s “aw shucks, so what if I’m stupid” routine won’t work for any of the Republican nominees, both because of their personas as serious men and because of the times.
Rather, the alarming thing is that the Democrats in Washington aren’t using this Republican punt to 2012 to more effectively combat, ridicule, and heap scorn upon the beleaguered Republican party. Taking the Republicans seriously in this election cycle is a sign of not realism but complicity. That is what alarms.