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July 15, 2008

Polling Iraq
Posted by Michael Cohen

According to new numbers from the Washington Post/ABC poll Barack Obama and John McCain are basically tied on the issue of Iraq:

Despite broad, longstanding dissatisfaction with the war, just 50% of Americans prefer Obama's plan to withdraw most U.S. forces within 16 months of taking office. Essentially as many, 49%, side with McCain's position -- setting no timetable and letting events dictate when troops are withdrawn.

A couple of thoughts here. First, look at how the question was framed:

Obama has proposed a timetable to withdraw most U.S. forces from Iraq within 16 months of his taking office. McCain has opposed a specific timetable and said events should dictate when troops are withdrawn. Which approach do you prefer - a timetable or no timetable?

I'd be pretty pleased if I were Obama - "events should dictate" sounds pretty good; if you don't also know that John McCain wants to keep troops in Iraq for 100 years. Considering the improved security situation in Iraq, I'm not so sure I wouldn't go along with McCain's position (if, of course, that was actually his position).

Second, if Obama is tied with McCain on Election Day, Michelle and Barack can start measuring the drapes in the Oval Office. On every other major political issue (with the possible exception of terrorism) Obama has the advantage. Considering the Democrat's usual liability on national security issues -- and John McCain's almost single-handled focus on Iraq -- a tie sounds like a win to me.

But then there was this: a quote from the ever reliable Michael O'Hanlon who continues his try out to be John McCain's national security advisor:

Michael E. O'Hanlon, a Democratic defense analyst at the Brookings Institution who has been an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq, said he could not believe that Obama would put such a definitive timeline into print before a trip to Iraq, where he is to consult with Iraqi leaders and U.S. commanders.

"To say you're going to get out on a certain schedule -- regardless of what the Iraqis do, regardless of what our enemies do, regardless of what is happening on the ground -- is the height of absurdity," said O'Hanlon, who described himself as "livid." "I'm not going to go to the next level of invective and say he shouldn't be president. I'll leave that to someone else."

Huh? Hasn't Barack Obama pretty much been backing a 16-month timeline since he began running for President. Why in God's name is Michael O'Hanlon surprised by this? But here's the really bizarre part - O'Hanlon expresses surprise that Obama would consider getting out on a certain schedule "regardless of what the Iraqis do." But what about the fact that Iraqi leaders are now pushing for the US to put in place a timetable for withdrawal:

Iraqi political leaders "are all telling us the same thing . . . Iraqis want to know that foreign troops are not going to be here forever."

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his political allies have come under intense domestic pressure to reject any perceived infringement on Iraqi sovereignty. Maliki, who last week publicly insisted on a withdrawal timeline, wants to frame the agreement as outlining the terms for "Americans leaving Iraq" rather than the conditions under which they will stay, said the U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because U.S.-Iraqi negotiations are ongoing.

I wonder if the fact that John McCain doesn't seem to be listening to the Iraqis makes O'Hanlon equally "livid."


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Could it be that people don't believe Obama's rhetoric on FISA? I mean, public financing. No, it was 2nd Amendment. No, I mean, public financing. Oh, I meant to say 'Iraq'.

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