Panel on the Candidates and Iraq
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SEN. BARACK OBAMA, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: To achieve that success, I will give our military a new mission on my first day of office-- ending this war.
Let me be clear. We have to be as careful getting out of Iraq as we were careless getting in.
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HUME: Well careful or not, Barack Obama still says we're going to be out of there in 16 months regardless.
This position is now supported by a new ad--this from the famously rich and devoted group Moveon.org.
You may remember them from the Clinton years or when the famous "Petraeus Betray-us ad"-here is a little bit of the video from the ad. It is all about getting us out of Iraq, and it talks about Senator McCain and his view, and so on, but it is basically a "let's get out" ad.
"The Washington Post" has reacted somewhat sharply to Senator Obama's renewed commitment to get out of Iraq, an editorial today saying, quote,
"After hinting earlier this month he might refine his Iraq strategy after visiting the country and listening to commanders, Mr. Obama appears to have decided that sticking to his arbitrary 16-month timetable is more important than adjusting to the dramatic changes in Iraq," an editorial entitled "The Iron Timetable."
Some thoughts on this now from Bill Sammon, Senior White House Correspondent of "The Washington Examiner," Mort Kondracke, Executive Editor of "Roll Call," and the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer Fox News contributors all.
The polls, the ad, I guess, to the contrary, suggest that public opinion is now kind of evenly divided on this issue of whether there should be a timetable for getting out of Iraq. Where are we in all this, Bill?
BILL SAMMON, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER": I think Barack Obama's antiwar position was more politically advantageous when the war was going badly, frankly. Now that it's going well, I think the issue tends to redound to McCain's benefit.
You know, all campaigns are about the future. Barack Obama is trying to make this about the past--we shouldn't have gotten in this war to begin with.
McCain has successfully made this about what do we do about it now? He was for the surge. Obama was against the surge.
I think McCain has had some success in making this an argument about the surge. When that is the argument, I think McCain wins.
MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": Look, the polls showed that 43 percent of the whole country wants to either withdraw immediately or set a timetable. But 64 percent of Democrats do, and I think that's the reason that Obama is sticking to his position. And also, you know--
HUME: You think he is afraid that Democrats will vote for John McCain?
KONDRACKE: And he doesn't want them screaming at him, I think. I don't know how else to explain the move from that he would refine his position after talking to Petraeus, and so on, to no I'm going to stick with it regardless, because that is politically very stupid.
Now, what I would like to think--although how would you know?--is that when he says that we're going to get out as carefully as we got in carelessly, that he means it, and that after getting elected he would look at the situation and see that if we come out too hastily, that he would have a catastrophe on his hands, and he would say--
HUME: He'll flip-flop then?
KONDRACKE: He'll flip-flop the, yes.
Then the question is--you can't know based on what we have heard, and you can't depend on it. You have to listen to what the guy says and believe it. But I assume that he does not want his legacy to start by America losing a war on his watch.
CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I thought the move-on ad was really interesting. I think there is delicate minuet going on between Obama and his hard left.
It started yesterday when Obama makes this speech, and he insists on the fixed rigid withdrawal, which is his way to signal to his core left supporters that he may flip on other stuff-NAFTA, eavesdropping, et cetera.
But on the war he will hang tough, despite the fact that he wavered three hours two weeks earlier, in which he said that he would hold stability in Iraq as an important objective. He has abandoned stability. It is, as he says now, it's ending the war.
And the timing was really interesting. It was asked yesterday on the panel and by a lot of people in the media, why would he make this speech and commit himself before he goes to find the facts.
The reason is I think he panicked by the reaction of the left, and he wanted-by saying all of this before the trip, he wanted to assure the left that he's locked in.
Then you get the Move-on ad, which is a way to lock him in and to say, we get your signal. Now, we're signaling back by repeating your position of withdrawal, attacking McCain on it, that you are committed.
I think he's locked into this in a way that he will not be able to escape. And he could have easily have done that. Samantha Power, his advisor, had said in London about three months ago, before her firing over another issue, that the 16-month withdrawal timetable was meant as a best- case scenario, and they would adjust according to conditions.
He could have easily have slipped into that, but he panicked by the reaction on the left.
HUME: Do you think this could blow up in his face before the election?
KRAUTHAMMER: It won't destroy his candidacy, but I think it's going to leave him in a position where in the fall as conditions improve even more, he position is going to be less and less appealing to the general electorate.
KONDRACKE: I think it gives all kinds of ammunition to John McCain, both the statement that he's got his mind made up before he goes and talks to people, and even more so, all those quotes about, you know, the surge wouldn't work, it's going to be a catastrophe, and all that.
If that's put up against statements from retired military and Iraqis saying we could not have survived without the surge, I think he's in big trouble.
HUME: Do you agree?
SAMMON: I agree. I think that the entire premise of Obama's campaign is crumbling beneath his feet, and that is the antiwar premise.
Barack Obama continues to talk about that "The New Yorker" cover that depicts him as a Muslim. The all-stars weigh in on that when we come back.
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OBAMA: I have seen and heard worse.
I do think that, you know, in attempting to satirize something, they probably fueled some misconceptions about me instead.
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HUME: What is he talking about? What he is talking about is this. It is the cover of the current "New Yorker" magazine, which is a magazine totally in sympathy, or very much in sympathy with Barack Obama, and this cover showing Barack Obama in Muslim garb, his wife dressed up like Angela Davis with an AK-47 over her shoulder, and an American flag burning in the fireplace of the Oval Office with Usama bin Laden's portrait over the fireplace.
It was intended, say the editors, to be a satire of the right wing's portrayal of Obama. It does not seem to have particularly come off that way, as you just heard Obama himself in his mild way say.
It has, however, had legs like you wouldn't believe. We did very little with this story when it first broke the other night because we thought, well, they made a bad attempt at satire and it didn't work. And people have been talking about it, including Obama, ever since.
What about it, Charles?
KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I liked it. It worked for me. I particularly enjoyed the picture of Obama over the fireplace.
KRAUTHAMMER: "Usama," yes. I do that a lot. Maybe that's what everybody is concerned about, the confusion here.
Look, it's hard to do satire. I have tried it in columns, and I get a ton of people who think I'm actually serious. And particularly in this case, I think you're right. "The New Yorker" assumes that everybody knows that it's pro-Obama, cool and sophisticated and hip, and everybody will understand it's a satire, and people who don't, don't count.
Well, apparently a lot of people don't know that about "The New Yorker." They see the cover on the newsstand somewhere, and they get upset.
I think people ought to lighten up. I think with Obama--got that right--there is a huge reluctance to make jokes about him. Somebody wrote an interesting article about how on late night television you get McCain jokes--everybody else has a hook--McCain is old, Romney is a flip-flopper-
HUME: It's always the same joke about McCain, though, that he's old.
KRAUTHAMMER: It's the same joke. Clinton, everybody knows his hook.
But with Obama, you don't have a hook, and any attempt at humor often is rejected.
There was, about a week or so after he did the clinging to guns and religion, the comics attempted to riff on him, portraying him as a wine and cheese liberal faculty pipe smoking guy with a tweed jacket. That worked for about a day, and after that it either got no response or boos.
There is a hypersensitivity about Obama because of his race, and, also, the press is reluctant to attempt satire on him because the majority of them are in the tank for Obama and they don't want to hurt his chances.
SAMMON: I don't think people are actually not getting the satire. I think that's the height of condescension on the part of "The New Yorker" to say these unsophisticated rubes out in the Middle West don't get our or so clever satire.
People get it, but at the heart of every satire is usually a kernel of truth.
These are obviously falsehoods that are portrayed and depicted on this magazine cover-you know, Barack Obama is not a Muslim. Most people don't think he is a Muslim, but he did get photographed in a turban one time. His father and his stepfather was a Muslim.
So there are things in there that remind people, and that's why this thing resonates and has legs.
Michelle Obama obviously is not a terrorist. That's a monstrous lie. But it reminds people of, you know, she did say that America was a fundamentally mean country. She did say that she had never been proud of this country until her husband ran for president.
So those reminders do damage to Barack Obama, not that people literally believe these lies that are depicted on the magazine cover.
KONDRACKE: Look, I think that it's clear that this is so over the top. The idea that the American flag is burning in the fireplace and Usama bin Laden's picture is in the oval office. I mean, it's clearly satire.
But my junior high school journalism teacher, first journalism teacher I ever had, the sainted Mrs. Kent, said be very careful, kids, trying satire and parody. People will take you seriously. This is an example.