After his photo-op went terrible wrong in Baghdad, McCain the straight talker is now blaming Gen. Petraeus for making him take a military escort into the marketplace where Lindsay Graham bought a few rugs. (The now infamous Baghdad Stroll.) By the way, Russert forgot to point out that the same market place was targeted as soon as he left and McCain was like, "Mr. Faiyad, who?"
MR. RUSSERT: But, Senator, you had an armed escort...
SEN. McCAIN: I had an armed escort because, because that's what General Petraeus thought we ought to have.---I didn't call for the kind of, quote, protection that was around me...
McCain just dissed the man that he and the administration are hailing as the savior of Iraq.
...And I'll be glad to go back to that market with or without military protection and, and humvees, etc.
I say we take him up on his pledge. Let's ask his campaign team when he'll be going back to Iraq without protection and see if he can purchase a few more items, but hopefully spend a little more money this time. I'd hate to see him do it in reality, but if he's going to put it on the table, be my guest,...(full transcript via MSNBC below the fold)
MR. RUSSERT: ...you said, "I believe we've achieved significant goals"; 2005, we view it as, as "hopeful," we're making "progress"; 2006, we're on the "right track," "I want to emphasize again" the "good things happening"; we're "showing signs of success" in 2007. It's upbeat, upbeat, upbeat.
SEN. McCAIN: I think...
MR. RUSSERT: And yet the reality is quite different than that kind of optimistic message.
SEN. McCAIN: You know, Tim, I think it would be fair also to put the statements that I made when I came back from Iraq that said it was a failed policy, that we had to have more troops on the ground, that we were not carrying out the right kind of effort at training and equipping the Iraqis, that the Iraqi government wasn't--so it might be fair to flash some of those statements up, including the long speech I gave, after I came back from Iraq, to the Council on Foreign Relations, where I said if we pursue this failed policy, we will fail in Iraq. So I think that that might balance it out a bit. Do I think we had, we had made some progress? Yes. And do I think that we have had some significant setbacks? Yes. We-- both is--are the case.
MR. RUSSERT: You made a lot of news back in April when you went to Iraq. You went on a radio show and said never--had a news conference, "never been able to go out in the city as I was today." And then later these photographs were released, where we saw--(clears throat) excuse me--John McCain in the marketplace, surrounded, wearing a flack jacket. The next day the papers said that, "A day after members of an American congressional delegation led by Senator John McCain pointed to their brief visit" in "Baghdad's central Market as evidence that the new security plan for the city was working, the merchants were incredulous about" "Americans' conclusions. `What are they talking about?'" "the owner of an electrical supply shop said. `The security procedures were abnormal.' The delegation arrived at the market" "more than 100 soldiers in armored humvees--the equivalent of an entire company," "attack helicopters circled overhead, a senior" "military official in Baghdad said. The soldiers redirected traffic from the area" "restricted access to the American." "The congressmen wore bulletproof vests" through the hour-long visit. `They paralyzed the market when they came,'" "`This was only for the media.'"
SEN. McCAIN: Well, I don't...
MR. RUSSERT: Wasn't that...
SEN. McCAIN: ...I don't know who Mr. Faiyad is, and I'm sorry that I didn't see him. I talked with many, many of the merchants. We stayed there for more, more than an hour. That same place was not a functioning market a short time before. A bomb had gone off in that area and killed many, many people. There, there was a group of people that I talked to, as I traveled--walked around that, that shopping area for over an hour who said, "I'm glad to see you. Things are better." They--some--a guy came and complained about a sniper that, that they'd had problems with, and the police chief we talked to about that.
My point is the neighborhoods are safer. They are not safe. That's why we have to continue what we're doing. We have a new strategy that, that can succeed. I was glad to walk through that market. I will go walk through a market as often as I can. It was not allowed to go through a market a short time before that.
MR. RUSSERT: But, senator, you had an armed escort.
SEN. McCAIN: I had an armed escort because, because that's what General Petraeus thought we ought to have. I was glad to go outside of Baghdad and have over an hour opportunity to talk to the people that I talked to. Now, they are very different from the people that, that you are quoting here and others. They said, "I'm glad to see you. Things are better here. We have, we have seen improvement." That's what I was told, and that's what the other two members of Congress were told when we were there. You can find a lot of difference of opinion if you want to, but I believe that it's important for me to go out and meet those people if I can and be around them. I didn't call for the kind of, quote, "protection" that was around me. But I am not afraid, and I'm glad to go any place that I can to talk to the people of Iraq and tell them of my commitment to see that they have a free, democratic government where they don't have to face the bombs going off and the suicide bombers and the--and can start leading normal lives. And I'll do that every chance I get.
MR. RUSSERT: But the military felt you needed that protection, and the number of suicide bombers has gone up since the surge began.
SEN. McCAIN: The military--the suicide bombers have gone up because they know that this is probably the most effective way publicitywise. It's not the most effective way if you're talking about winning a conflict. Suicide bombers are the most difficult of any to counter, people who are willing to take their own lives in order to take others'. You can ask the Israelis; I think they'll tell you that. They have literally sealed their borders, and yet suicide bombers get across. And again, is this long and hard and difficult? Is that market safe? No, but it's safer than it was before. And that, in my view, is the key to whether we will succeed or fail or not. And I'll be glad to go back to that market with or without military protection and, and humvees, etc. But the fact is, I walked through narrow streets. I didn't have people all around me. I don't know what, what--where they get their information, but I was glad to walk around and talk to people and have contact with them and tell them that I, as an American, will do everything I can to let them lead the normal lives which are God-given rights to everybody on earth.