Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The problem with Obama and timetables

E.J. Dionne the other day was certainly correct in his summation of coming Republican strategy vs Barack Obama:

" The unsteady moment suggested that Obama has not figured out how to slip the trap John McCain's campaign is trying to set for him. As Michael Cooper and Jeff Zeleny shrewdly put it in the New York Times, Republicans want to place Obama "in the political equivalent of a double bind: painting him as impervious to the changing reality on the ground if he sticks to his plan, and as a flip-flopper if he alters it to reflect changing circumstances."

Of course, Dionne was suggesting that GOPers are being unfair; that they will damn Obama no matter what he does concerning Iraq.

But the real fundamental here is that Obama is the one who has gotten himself in trouble. How? Because he proposed a rigid timetable for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq. He says he'll do it in 16 months. But timetables are a bad idea. For one thing, they aid our enemies. Our terrorist opponents know that, in Iraq, should Obama become president, they need merely wait us out; that no matter what happens, we are committed to leave. It will encourage them to keep fighting; not to stop. And a timetable further suggests that no matter what our generals say, no matter what the facts are on the ground on Iraq, we'll leave. Obama of course is now trying to have it both ways, suggesting that of course he'll observe the facts and listen to our military personnel. But in that case, if it's possible we'll leave, then there is no 16-month timetable. Right? Well, but, Obama and his campaign insist that the timetable still lives!

Confused? So are those who insist on specific timetables. And that includes the government of Iraq; the Bush administration is right to try to resist its recent timetable demand, and to try to change the Maliki government's mind. (p.s.--so much for some of our liberal friends' contention that the government of Iraq was a puppet of the Bush administration.)