QUESTION: Iraq. John McCain is there in Baghdad right now. You have also been very vocal in supporting the president and the troop surge. Yet, the American public has lost faith in this war. Do you believe that there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, there’s no question but that — the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn’t be for public pronouncement. You don’t want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you’re going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, and the leadership of the Iraqi government.
QUESTION: So, private. You wouldn’t do it publicly? Because the president has said flat out that he will veto anything the Congress passes about a timetable for troop withdrawals. As president, would you do the same?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, of course. Can you imagine a setting where during the Second World War we said to the Germans, gee, if we haven’t reached the Rhine by this date, why, we’ll go home, or if we haven’t gotten this accomplished we’ll pull up and leave? You don’t publish that to your enemy, or they just simply lie in wait until that time. So, of course, you have to work together to create timetables and milestones, but you don’t do that with the opposition.
The whole point of this line of attack is to lump Romney in with the Democrats as quitters; the fact that he’s vowing here to veto any Democratic timetables puts the lie to it. Question for Maverick, then: What’s the problem with Bush and Maliki making up a schedule of things they’d like to see happen by certain dates, provided that a missed deadline doesn’t automatically trigger withdrawal? The objection to Democratic-style “tripwire” timetables is that they contemplate pulling out before our goals are achieved. Nowhere does Romney recommend that. He does allude to eventual withdrawal, but so what? Unless McCain’s suggesting that we should stay in Iraq forever even if we’re not needed, as some sort of lobotomized test of resolve, then what’s the harm in looking ahead to getting out? Accomplish the mission, then leave. Wake me when Romney says something that omits the first part of that statement.
Three clips for you, then. First and most boringly, McCain himself repeating this bogus charge on MTP this morning, replete with impressive index card. Does crack interviewer Tim Russert press him on a transparent distortion of Romney’s argument? Did he press him about Juan Hernandez? [Update: I’m having trouble getting the McCain clip to play. If you are too, click here and then click the little McCain thumbnail in the right sidebar. That seems to solve the problem.]
And here’s the stalking horse, clinging to life so that he can perform one last “good” deed by kneecapping Romney on Super Tuesday. You’ve never heard McCain be dishonest, Huck? Consult with your immigration guru on that.
Exit question: Remember Romney’s heavy-handed hints last year about pulling out and heading home in defeat if the benchmarks he proposed weren’t met? No? That’s because it wasn’t Romney.
U.S. Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said on Saturday he was preparing a resolution setting a series of targets for the Iraqi government as a “last chance” effort to reverse U.S. failure…
“I cannot guarantee success but I can guarantee the consequences of failure,” said McCain, an outspoken member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who supports President George W. Bush’s plan to sent 21,500 troops to Iraq. “This is our last chance in many respects.”…
It would take three to six months after the deployment of the new troops, which is possible in May, to know whether the Iraqi government was making progress in meeting the benchmarks, McCain said.
“It’s taken us four years to get into this debacle and it’s going to take some time to get us out,” he said.