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McCain camp responds to Maliki's withdrawal timetable quote

John McCain's Republican presidential campaign was forced to respond this afternoon to initial press reports that in an interview with a German magazine Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki had essentially endorsed theRepublican presidential nominee to be Senator John McCain on one of his numerous visits to Iraq 16-month Iraq pullout timetable of Democrat Barack Obama.

Not that Maliki is inserting himself into American politics, you understand.

It was all part of what seemed a rapidly shifting scene in foreign affairs in recent days. Basically, on Friday White House officials said President Bush and Maliki had talked by secure videophone the previous day and agreed on "a general time line for meeting aspirational goals."

Our collegial blogger James Gerstenzang over at the soaring new Countdown to Crawford blog has that full story here. But generally....

...the translation from that intentionally inarticulate English is that after long refusing to set a pullout date for U.S. troops because they claimed it would signal a surrender date that Al Qaeda forces could simply wait for, Bush administration officials are now using the surge's progress to talk vaguely about when more U.S. troops can leave.

They may also have known what was coming today: publication in Der Spiegel magazine of an interview with Maliki in which he refers to Obama's oft-cited, once-fudged and then re-stated 16-month timetable to begin upon the freshman senator's inauguration.

The Iraqi prime minister is quoted as saying, "That, we think, would be the right timeframe for withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes." He then adds naively: "Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement."

Again, Countdown has that full story here.

The political fear for the McCain camp is that in its energetic focus on the Obama political field trip and the 16-month timetable, the media and voters will miss another similarity, Maliki's reference to taking into account actual military conditions on the ground.

That's a crucial difference between Obama, who emphasized the immediate withdrawal part to his party's left during the primary process, and McCain, who's stressed pulling out based on the military situation and commander's counsel.

Randy Scheunemann--left--director of foreign policy and national security for presumptive Republican nominee Senator John McCain of Arizona confer on a flight departing from Reagan National Airport May 2008

So this afternoon the McCain campaign called attention to a new video documenting the shifts in Obama's Iraq withdrawal position and issued a statement by foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann that said in full:

"The difference between John McCain and Barack Obama is that Barack Obama advocates an unconditional withdrawal that ignores the facts on the ground and the advice of our top military commanders. John McCain believes withdrawal must be based on conditions on the ground. 

"Prime Minister Maliki has repeatedly affirmed the same view, and did so again today. Timing is not as important as whether we leave with victory and honor, which is of no apparent concern to Barack Obama.

"The fundamental truth remains that Senator McCain was right about the surge and Senator Obama was wrong. We would not be in the position to discuss a responsible withdrawal today if Sen. Obama's (anti-surge) views had prevailed."

The next likely opportunities for news now are two television appearances Sunday morning, Obama on CBS' "Face the Nation" with Bob Schieffer and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on CNN's "Late Edition" with the Wolfman.

-- Andrew Malcolm

Photo credit: AP; Jeff Chiu / AP.

Comments () | Archives (20)

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Take the troops out or leave the troops in, unfortunately in the long run, nothing will prevent Iraq from becoming the next Lebonon. We broke it, and we'll just have to live with the results.

The Iraqis like Barack Obama's plan and the Bush White House agrees with the Iraqis that Barack Obama's plan is the best. Let Barack start fixing America now and avert any chance of this "cluster" continuing any longer than necessary. The Bush administration already followed Barack Obama's advice to engage in talks with Iran which McCain believes is "naive". Seriously, at this point it should be game over: let's cut the campaign crap and wasteful spending it will entail and put someone smart and capable in the White House now.

Great start for Obamas important trip, showing the difference in he and McCain and having Maliki agree with him.

peace is still a good thing right. so lets talk then, then USA, let the country thats been around way longer than the US get thier act straight, and we(USA) PLAY THE REST FROM STATE SIDE.

But voters didn't notice
His followers were jerks
who put a real wrench in his works
and said the media was to blame
when his campaign finally put out the flame!

This is more oxymoronic than usual, McCain. You'll note that when Obama refined his Iraq position, he said exactly what you said he hasn't. And say, wasn't it you, Senator McCain, that said in 2004 that if Iraqi leaders said we should leave, that we should leave, no questions asked?

I just love that power elite line "... leave with honor and victory". It's victory they want as in control. They have had no honor since the day Bush announced a plan to invade Iraq. Yes I am calling it an invasion. This country was (nor is it) defended by putting troops in Iraq. That is why it's not honorable. Yep it's broken. But it will fix it self. History tells us that. Vietnam healed itself. Humans all over the globe govern themselves - both well and poorly, with evil and with compassion. It is not America's place to define the terms of other nations. Acting to respect the autonomy of other nations is the honorable thing to do. We should be here protecting our own nation. America will not fall if we leave Iraq tomorrow. She will only be stronger

You guys are a hoot. The 16 month withdrawal maybe possible because of the surge and the great job the military has done the past few years. Barry O's 16 month time line would have happened with or without military and political success. Now it is possible WITH military and political success..and victory...not surrender Barry O style.

BTW Barry O's feelings years ago about the war was driven by his desire to get elected in his very liberal area, not by any master intellect about foreign relations.

I am sure everyone noticed in the pictures from Obama's visit that mostly black soldiers came to see him. Although a small percent of the force, they were by far the majority at Obama's visits. The other soldiers know what is up with Obama and stayed away. Of course the Onamafest media will never report this. I am sure the campaign will handle the matter just like they did with the Muslim women. LOL

Uniter? Sure bet

Gotta love the McCain spin. Especially, how they conveniently don't mention, that Maliki said the reason that Bush/McCain don't like the *timeline,* is because they think it means they lost, when it actually doesn't.
Maliki is dead-on, as Obama is... Maliki having Iraqi interests in mind, and Obama having American interests in mind.
Bush/McCain only have their own interests in mind, willing to sacrifice American lives in the process.

Also, Andrew, please stop with the abject LIE, that Obama fudged on his Iraqi plan. He has been consistent for years. Look up the word *refine.* In case you're unaware, refine does NOT mean reDEfine. ReDEfine would be fudging, while refine means honing his plan.
Thinking Leaders tend to hone their plans/policies, as time progresses, unlike Bush/McCain, who cannot see beyond black & white.
Pay attention to Senator Obama, you may learn something about Foreign Affairs, as Bush/McCain seems to be doing, judging by their flips this week (on Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan).
And lastly, in our form of Constitutional Government, the Generals don't set policies, or mission. It's the civilian leadership that does. It's the Generals who carry out the mission. You've really guzzled that Kool-Aid, dear boy, by believing the Bush/McCain spin.

Reuters is already reporting that the Press has misquoted Maliki, and that he never agreed with Obama.

Neville Chamberlain gave us "peace in our time"

Obma is giving us "Withdrawal in our time"

Think about it.

VJ Machiavelli

FOX HEADLINE NEWS: Iraq Prime Minister Does Not Back Obama Pullout Plan"

So now we have conflicting stories on the same day. However Fox News is the most current.

While Obama is trying to sell us on this being a "substantive" trip others see it different. German Chancellor Angel Merkel has this view, "reminding everyone that this was principally a political, not a diplomatic, visit by a man who is not yet president." Newsweek, July 18, 2008

Iraq is simply one area in foreign policy where Obama is lost. Even with 300 advisers telling what is happening in the world, and tellng him how to respond, he simply can't get it right.

BO has changed his positions so many times, most people do have whiplash to go along with the rest of the emptiness in their heads. On media extravaganza by this empty suit, and I guess he's a foreign polcy expert. What an idiot. You liberals now want to take credit for a war you claim we should have never been in. BO opposed the surge, and now because of it is able to eat breakfast and shoot basketball WITH OUR TROOPS! He has called Americans stupid and unlearned, when he cannot do the same (speak languages) maybe we shoulld all learn the Qu ran in our spare time also???? He is disgusting and as an AA I work everyday to not let this OREO become president. GOD HELP US IF HE DOES!!!!

Der Spiegel stands by their story:,1518,566852,00.html

You can read the transcription of the whole interview yourself. Don't be too surprised when they release a tape of the interview.

You should note that the so-called retraction was issued from Centcom instead of from the Iraqi government! Centcom's so-called Iraqi Spokesperson has appeared on the same podium next to Dana Perino in DC and beside CentCom communications staff in the Green Zone.

Also, the so-called retraction does not state what parts of the interview were mistranslated! Did they get every word wrong?

Its the Malcolm spin that worries me.

"Obama's oft-cited, once-fudged and then re-stated 16-month timetable to begin upon the freshman senator's inauguration."

Obama has always talked in terms of listening to the input of commanders on the ground.

Why does the LA Times allow Laura Bush's speechwriter to spin its news?

Here is Maliki's answer, as initially reported by Der Spiegel:

"As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. US presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months. Assuming that positive developments continue, this is about the same time period that corresponds to our wishes."

Der Spiegel has, without explanation, rewritten the answer to eliminate any reference to the need for positive developments to continue:

"As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."

No explanation is given for the rewrite, and now Maliki's office is disputing the accuracy of the rewritten translation. Meanwhile, a story by Mr. Malcolm's colleagues at the LAT pronounces: "Iraq Prime Minister Maliki embraces Obama withdrawal plan." No hint in that story that Maliki's office disputes Der Spiegel's translation.

When this newspaper does report that dispute (I assume it will), I boldly predict that the story will ignore the fact that Der Spiegel has rewritten the quote, proving that Maliki was misquoted in at least one of the versions.

LOL! Yeah, right.

Maliki is a dead man walking as soon as US troops are out of there. I wouldn't even give him 30 days.

The surge worked because the sunnis came over to our side and rooted out al queda. in other words, we negotiated with our enemy to kill a more dangerous enemy. that kinda gets lost in the mix with all the sand everyone is throwing in the air.
Hate Barack all you want but the thing he has in common with Bill clinton that makes him successful is that he is smarter than the republicans.

we understand that maliki was not inserting himself into american politics. demonstrated by the fact that he did not fail to say so.
he was merely stating his views. he might easily have chosen to refer to RON PAUL's consistent stance on the withdrawal, who was mocked and ridiculed for his consistent positions in the debates, and by most of the media. if maliki chose to refer to obama's proposal, it would have been because he is aware of the alternatives imposed on the people in america, and would of course also be aware of mccain's bomb-bomb-iran tirades, and 100-year-war promises. who might be surprised if he was less than thrilled by that prospect?


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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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