I’ve been following the controversy that has ensued after McCain accused Romney of supporting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, which was an obvious attempt to convince Florida Republican primary voters that Romney isn’t any different from the Democrats when it comes to Iraq. I have to say, it’s quite disturbing how easily McCain can shift into Clinton-sleaze mode when he feels pressure from Romney. Anyone who reads the entire transcript of Romney’s comments can see that he wasn’t advocating anything remotely similar to what the white flag waving Democrats were. Here are Romney’s actual comments:
QUESTION: Iraq. John McCain is there in Baghdad right now. You have also been very vocal in supporting the president and the troop surge. Yet, the American public has lost faith in this war. Do you believe that there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, there’s no question but that — the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, and the leadership of the Iraqi government.
QUESTION: So, private. You wouldn’t do it publicly? Because the president has said flat out that he will veto anything the Congress passes about a timetable for troop withdrawals. As president, would you do the same?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, of course. Can you imagine a setting where during the Second World War we said to the Germans, gee, if we haven’t reached the Rhine by this date, why, we’ll go home, or if we haven’t gotten this accomplished we’ll pull up and leave? You don’t publish that to your enemy, or they just simply lie in wait until that time. So, of course, you have to work together to create timetables and milestones, but you don’t do that with the opposition.
I don’t see anything unreasonable in his statements. Of course you have goals that are dependent upon how things are going on the ground. It’s called a war plan. But you do not under any circumstances let the enemy know what your plans are. John McCain is trying to tell us that Romney’s statements are in line with those from Democrats like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who demanded over and over again for a public date of withdrawal and even attempted to tie war funding to one. McCain’s tactic is shamelessly dishonest, and the chorus of those who also think so is growing:
[T]hat doesn’t justify the rank dishonesty of his attack on Romney over the weekend. It’s so shamelessly unfair, it’s the kind of thing you’d expect of Bill Clinton attacking Barack Obama. Clearly, McCain wants to change the topic from the economy. And since he’s suffering from his “straight-talk” about his relative lack of knowledge of and interest in the economy, he’s trying to compensate with the opposite of straight talk–blatant distortions–about Romney’s record.
Bill Bennett (Via Kathryn Jean Lopez):
Bennett’s been a McCain defender, certainly more than other conservative radio-talk-show hosts. On CNN, he just called today’s Iraq hit on Romney “below the belt” and said “honor has been McCain’s watchword” — he should admit that was wrong to do.
This is a fundamentally dishonest attack. One of the reasons why some Republicans who have opposed McCain over issues like the BCRA and immigration have tried to keep a civil tongue in discussing McCain is because of the respect he has earned as a stalwart on the war. He deserves that respect; he has been an indispensable voice for the effort and has the right to hold himself up as that. However, he should be showing that respect to others who have supported the war and the troops.
McCain has promised to take a new, respectful tone with Democrats. If he wants to impress us in the primaries, maybe he should try that with Republicans.