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McCain Following in DeLay's Footsteps

I used to have a soft spot for John McCain. I disagreed with him on many of his policy positions, but felt that he was always straightforward, always told the truth, and always owned up to the facts no matter where they might lead. If he had won the 2000 Republican nomination, I might even have voted for him over Al Gore (whom I deeply underappreciated at the time).

Now, though, he seems like just another politician, saying whatever he has to say to get elected. After seeing Tom DeLay lie about his own words when presented with evidence of them... well, make what you will of this exchange on CNN, found in this entry at Think Progress (found via Crooks and Liars):

CNN’S JOHN ROBERTS: I wanted to talk to you about the situation in Iraq. Yesterday in an interview with Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room. I want to play this back for you. You had this to say about the situation there.

[McCAIN CLIP]: General Petraeus goes out there almost every day in an unarmed humvee. I think you oughta catch up. You are giving the old line of three months ago. I understand it. We certainly don’t get it through the filter of some of the media.

ROBERTS: Senator, did you mean to say that, that General Petraeus goes out every day in an unarmed humvee?

SEN. JOHN McCAIN (R-AZ): I mean that there are neighborhoods safe in Iraq and he does go out into Baghdad and the fact is there has been significant progress and people are stuck in a time warp of three months ago. Of course, it’s still dangerous. Of course it’s still very dangerous. We only have two of the five brigades there and we are already seeing significant progress.

ROBERTS: Because I checked with General Petraeus’s people overnight and they said he never goes out in anything less than an up-armored humvee. You also told Bill Bennett on his radio program on Monday. You said there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhood today yet retired General Barry McCaffrey said no Iraqi government official, coalition soldier, diplomat reporter could walk the streets of Baghdad without heavily armed protection. We’ve got two different stories here. Who’s right?

McCAIN: Well, I’m not saying they could go without protection. The President goes around America with protection. So, certainly I didn’t say that.

The sad thing here is that in attempting to look informed and correct, McCain makes himself look uninformed and incorrect. In attempting to make himself look strong, he makes himself look weak.

Imagine that he had replied by saying, "I was wrong about General Petraeus' vehicle, John. I was misinformed about that, and I'm sorry. And I didn't mean to say that you or I could walk around Baghdad without protection -- of course we couldn't. It's a dangerous situation, which is why we need our troops there. Without them, the conflict in Iraq will metastasize into something far more threatening to the region, the world, and of course the US. So of course we would need protection. But could we walk around given that protection? Yes, and I think that's an improvement from six months ago."

Not that I agree with that position, but it would have been honest given his viewpoint, it would have been consistent with his views on the war, and it would have made him look strong -- strong enough to admit his own mistakes.

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