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John McCain: 'Not too important' when troops leave Iraq

If politics were a baseball game, then John McCain just lobbed a pitch that he may wish he could have back.

In a TV interview this morning on NBC's "Today" show, McCain was asked whether he could estimate when U.S. troops could leave post-surge Iraq. "No, but that's not too important," McCain said. "What's important is casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That's all fine. American casualties, and the ability to withdraw. We will be able to withdraw. ... But the key to it is we don't want any more Americans in harm's way."

Democratic leaders lined up to take swings, conveniently ignoring the backing context McCain offered that he is more concerned with casualties than length of deployment.

Harry Reid, Senate majority leader: "McCain’s statement today that withdrawing troops doesn’t matter is a crystal-clear indicator that he just doesn’t get the grave national-security consequences of staying the courJohn_mccain_file_photo_said_on_todase -– Osama bin Laden is freely plotting attacks, our efforts in Afghanistan are undermanned, and our military readiness has been dangerously diminished. We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war."

Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: "I think many of our brave soldiers and their families would disagree that it's 'not too important' when they come home. Knowing when our troops can come home from Iraq is vitally important, because the costs of staying with 140,000 or more troops are getting steeper every day. ... It is long past time to refocus our foreign policy on the many challenges we face, not just Iraq. Like President Bush, Sen. McCain cannot tell the American people when, or even if, Iraqis will come together politically -- which was [the] purpose of the surge in the first place. He can't tell us when, or even if, we will draw down below pre-surge levels. He can't tell us when, or even if, Iraq will be able to stand on its own two feet. He can't tell us when, or even if, this war will end."

Rahm Emanuel, House Democratic Caucus chair: "Once again, John McCain has displayed a fundamental misunderstanding about the situation in Iraq, our strained military, and American troops and their families. ... With each passing day, the more John McCain talks about Iraq, the more the American people are reminded of how much we need change in Washington -- not more of the same from Sen. McCain."

-- Scott Martelle

Photo: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (13)

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His context is clear, and the media (this article's little jab about "ignoring backing context") needs to stop trying to help him explain away what he said and meant.

Once again, McCain trying to revise his statements, saying that length of deployment isn't AS important as casualties. But we all heard what he ACTUALLY said: When troops come home isn't TOO important.

John McCain is the wealthy son of an admiral, who grew up with a personal chauffeur and has lived most of his adult life as a multi-millionaire. So its understandable that the needs and struggles of working military families would be something he dismisses as "not too important." From a policy point of view, it is appalling that he doesn't see how length of deployment in Iraq is eroding our military strength and agility, either.

The challenge for the media is: Are you going to help him retract and cover up his true meaning, or are you going to expose it?

You've identified another opportunity for the opposition to knowlingly misrepresent a candidate's remarks. The current example of this form of defamation is whenever Obama or his surrogates repeat, without context, the 100 year remark made earlier by McCain. I hope TOTT, the LA Times and other major media will play watchdog for both sides and call out intentional misrepresentation where it occurs. In politics, politicians and campaigns too often count on their supporters being too busy to know context. Major media has an obligation to provide it.

When McCain tries to compare an extended deployment in Iraq with the long-term installations in Germany, Japan and S. Korea, he ignores the fact that the latter are accompanied tours, meaning that spouses and children can accompany the active-duty member. This is an entirely different proposition in Iraq, where the possibility of accompanied tours is decades into the future, if ever they will be possible.

McCain is wrapped up in his own private war, his opinions belonging to the "if we'd wanted you to have a wife, we'd have issued you one" era. He clearly has no comprehension of the modern military and absolutely no regard for military families.

Gail: The context is clear, the meaning is clear. No one is willfully misinterpreting - either here or with the "100 Years Remark." Rather, we are pointing out that McCain's views represent not just flawed and dangerous military policy and a false historical equation with Germany and Japan, but they are consistently callous and indifferent to the lives of military men and women.

Republican attack dogs and McCain apologists cowed the media into believing that "100 Years" was taken out of context. It wasn't. Will the media make the same mistake again?

Whether we leave tomorrow or stay a hundred years in the end Maliki and Co. will be more allied with Iran than the USA, just as they've always been. A lot of these guys used to live in Tehren in exile. Iraq's second biggest business is Iranian religious tourism.

If you want a government independent of Iran Sadr is your best bet. Even though he hates Americans he has said he'd be happy to hire our oil field service firms to pump Iraqi oil.

And what's with the desperation to force US military bases down Iraqi throats? We already have bases in Afghanistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Turkey, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and elsewhere. Why keep pushing for bases in Iraq when it gets our soldiers blown up and gives Bin Laden talking points in his recruiting videos?

LA TIMES: Not ONE person in this country seems to have realized that John McCain just told every Mother, Father, Son, or Daughter, that it is UN-IMPORTANT how long their loved one stays AWAY FROM THEM!!!!!!!

That is what's do darn AWFUL about what he said. I now realize that if NOBODY in this country is smart enough to realize that, then we certainly need a SMART, BRILLIANT person like Barack Obama, to SAVE this nation!!!!!!!!!!!!

"It's not too important how long we keep troops in Iraq,"???
What John McSame (as Bush) doesn't realize is important is that our country cannot afford to keep spending 10-12 billion dollars a month on a war we should have never gotten ourselves into while our economy and our country is crumbling. How long are we going to spend our money and the lives of our soldiers for the security of the Iraqi's when they have already had plenty of time to step up to the plate and take care of their own problems? We were dragged into this war by Bush, Cheney and Co., not to free the world of Sadam Hessein ,but in order to make many friends of the administration a lot of money. And they have succeeded, while our country is going broke.
A large portion of our citizenry is so dumbed down that they continue to believe the administration and their pundits for the reasons which they started and continue this conflict. And many will believe John McSame and vote for him in the general election. Wake up Americans!! Our schools are falling apart, state school budgets are declining, our national debt is beyond belief and our future generations will inherit it, most of our manufacturing jobs are gone over seas, and unemployment is climbing at a faster rate than we have seen in most of our lifetimes. And we can afford to continue this war?
Both Party's are hopelessly corrupt. Register as an Independent and scare the hell out of the Rebups and Dems! What a choice we have this fall. I will be force to vote Obama because I can't vote for another four years of this same crap. God help this country. We are headed for severe trouble unless our politicians wake up and do what is right for this country instead of what is right for their Party, Corporate America, and the Industrial Military Complex.

I admire and respect the millions of men and women who have served and now serve in this country's armed forces. They have/are helping make America great.

However, if Sen. Joseph Lieberman thinks that I can't question Sen. John McCain's stance on this war because I don't have military experience under my belt, well, he's got another thing coming.

Well with over 16 billions dollars gone missing since the war in Iraq why would they leave ?

Unfortunately, many Americans have become numb to the idea of having troops stationed all over Creation. Some people hear this nonsense and think, “oh, you mean like having troops in Japan and Germany? That hasn’t been so bad.” The follow up question should have been, “yes, but Senator, why DO we still have troops in Germany and Japan 60 YEARS after WWII?!”

The premise itself needs to be questioned, but never is.

One of these countries does not belong. One of these countries it not like the others. Can you figure it out?

Germany, South Korea, Iraq, Japan

Mac obviously can't!

I wonder if the parents and wives of the troops in Iraq would agree that is "not too important" they are able to come home?

blah, blah, blah, your beloved Barry, Reid, Pelosi aren't bringing them home any time soon either, at least McCain's honest about it. Whatcha gonna say then? Still be blaming Bush? Don't let them lie to you to get your vote.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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