Recently, Senator John McCain invited/challenged/double dog dared Senator Barack Obama to accompany him on a trip to Iraq. Obama, sensing a political trap (he’s apparently as wary of McCain as he is of Fox News, neither of whom are as trustworthy as his longtime former pastor, his buddy the former terrorist, his buddy the indicted political fixer, or the heads of terrorist states, all of whom he has no problems with seeing), has declined.
I think that is a mistake of Obama’s.
No, I don’t think it’s a political trap. And no, I don’t think that Obama would suddenly have a “road to Damascus” moment and see the progress being made in Iraq and pronounce it good, and renounce his previous statements.
But the simple facts of the matter are these:
One of these two men will, barring unforeseen circumstances, be the next president of the United States.
Both men have made their positions on Iraq major aspects of their campaign.
Both men say that one of the larger factors in their positions is their regard for the US troops on the ground in Iraq.
It would be a hell of a thing for those troops for the two candidates for president to go to Iraq, together, not campaigning, but simply looking to see how things are going and express a bit of solidarity and sympathy and respect for the men and women on the ground, charged with carrying out the most dangerous aspect of American foreign policy. One of these two men will be their next Commander In Chief, and it would go a long, long way towards establishing the mutual respect between the Chief Executive and the Armed Forces that bodes best for our nation.
We’ve seen the results of a president and a military not getting along. A lot of service members essentially “held their noses and bit their tongues” during the Clinton administration, and the stories of how much morale shot up when Ronald Reagan took office — and, more importantly, Jimmy Carter left. To have these two men set aside campaigning just long enough to go to Iraq and express just a little solidarity, a little respect, a little compassion for those who will be carrying out their orders — and possibly dying — in about nine months would go a long way towards a good relationship.
Of course, it’s not really necessary. There is almost no chance that the United States military would ever pull a coup d’etat and overthrow the civilian government — this is America, after all, and our military is thoroughly inculcated with respect for the chain of command and the almost-sacred status of civilian leadership of the armed forces. But it does make life a lot easier for both sides when there is mutual respect, and such a trip would put either man on a good footing for the office to which they aspire.
Especially Obama, who has nothing to compare with McCain — the son and grandson of admirals, retiring after 22 years as a navy Captain, including five years as a tortured prisoner of war.
Obama could use the trip to firm up his standing with the military, to demonstrate his respect for them and the duties they carry out. He could give them a hint of what their potential next Commander in Chief could be like.
Or he could denounce the suggestion by McCain as “politics” and blow the opportunity entirely.
Which would be merely the latest in a long string of what can charitably be called “rookie mistakes” that have been the hallmark of his campaign so far.