The last week in politics was centered on General David Petraeus, commander of the US forces in Iraq, and Iraqi Ambassador Ryan Crockers testimony in front of Congress on Wednesday and Thursday. Their testimony recounted the year long surge and both men attempted to sell continuing American involvement in Iraq.
The first day of hearings was in front of the Senate, which luckily enabled every major Presidential candidate to conduct questioning. As the most senior member of the Senate out of those in Presidential contention, John McCain began. As a staunch supporter of American intervention, he quickly set the tone of his discussion by praising the surge and calling it a reason for hope and optimism:
But today it is possible to talk with real hope and optimism about the future of Iraq and the outcome of our efforts there. For while the job of bringing security to Iraq is not finished, as the recent fighting in Basra and elsewhere vividly demonstrated, we're no longer staring into the abyss of defeat and we can now look ahead to the genuine prospect of success.
But the praising all but ceased as the Democratic challengers replaced McCain and hit Petraeus and Crocker with unflinching criticism of the White Houses foreign policy. Senator Clinton began her opening statement with the statement, Its time to begin the orderly process of removing our troops. From there she focused her questioning, like Obama later did, on what would determine success on Iraq:
And there clearly are limits to the blood and treasure that we can expend in an effort. Well, were halfway through the year and as many of us predicted and as you yourself stated, we still do not see sufficient progress. What conditions would have to exist for you to recommend to the President that the current strategy is not working and it seems apparent that you have a conditions-based analysis, as you set forth in your testimony, but the conditions are unclear, they certainly lack specificity, and the decision points with respect to these conditions are also vague.
Petraeus answer was honest in its lack of clarity:
With respect to the conditions Senator what we have is a number of factors that we will consider by area as we look at where we can make recommendations for further reductions beyond the reduction of the surge forces that will be complete in July. These factors are fairly clear Having said that, I have to say that again its not a mathematical exercise, theres not an equation in which you have coefficients in front of each of these factors; its not as mechanical as that.
Obama continued on this line, but refined his search by looking at our situation through the prism of our supposed enemy, Al-Qaida, and our implicit nemesis, Iran. The exchange that followed was one of the most telling of the day:
Obama: We don't anticipate that there's never going to be some individual or group of individuals in Iraq that might have sympathies toward Al Qaida. Our goal is not to hunt down and eliminate every single trace, but rather to create a manageable situation where they're not posing a threat to Iraq or using it as a base to launch attacks outside of Iraq. Is that accurate?
Petraeus: That is exactly right.
Obama: OK, let me shift to Iran Just as it's fair to say that we're not going to completely eliminate all traces of Al Qaida in Iraq, but we want to create a manageable situation, it's also true to say that we're not going to eliminate all influence of Iran in Iraq, correct? That's not our goal. That can't be our definition of success, that Iran has no influence in Iraq.
It was good to see that the Democrats had a unified front in regards to the war, and I think that the candidates (with assistance from both anti-war Democrats and Republicans) presented and highlighted the greatest flaw in the White Houses Iraq policy, namely that their goal is unrealistic. Wars, by definition, have to have pragmatic goals. Like chess, the game is over when the King is trapped and so a war has to have a particular endgame. Without it all you have is perpetual war for perpetual peace, and Americans seem to have had their fill of that.
Of course, the Democratic challengers only teamed up for a quick second before they returned to knocking the spit out of one another. This time Hillary attacked Obama for comments he made at a fundraiser in California:
"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them," Obama said. "And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not."
"And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Clinton responded saying that Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them She then followed that up by getting her Beerfest on at a bar in Indiana where she downed a mug of beer and a shot of Crown Royal. Obama retorted in his trademark passive-aggressive manner:
Now it may be that I chose my words badly. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. But when I hear my opponents, both of whom have spent decades in Washington, saying I'm out of touch, it's time to cut through their rhetoric and look at the reality.
After all, you've heard this kind of rhetoric before. Around election time, the candidates can't do enough for you. They'll promise you anything, give you a long list of proposals and even come around, with TV crews in tow, to throw back a shot and a beer.
But if those same candidates are taking millions of dollars in contributions from the PACs and lobbyists, ask yourself, who are they going to be toasting once the election is over?
While Obamas bitter comments could come back to haunt him in PA (the polls are usually on a three day cycle), her pander to the working-class makes you wonder how, after weve discovered that the Clintons are multi-millionaires and that they continue to employ a union-busting lobbyist, Hillary can paint herself as a champion of the working class. Perhaps shes been chugging more than PBR.
Things to look for in the coming week: There will be some blowback to the Obama camp from his bitter comments, and Clinton will regain her ten-point lead. McCain will get some grief as his pro-war, pro-Bush stance will get tangled up in the increasing war crimes charges getting leveled against the current administration. Iraq will become more heated as Prime Minister Maliki will call on Al-Sadr to disarm.
PS: Id be remiss if I didnt add my evidence to Illseeds list of alien activity in America. If you dont know what Im talking about then do yourself a favor and read his expose. After that check out some of the bile that this alien was spitting last week.