McCain Denies Botching Anbar Timeline *

...or: McCain digs his hole deeper.

During a presser in the cheese aisle of a supermarket, John McCain denied messing up the Anbar Awakening time line and argued that the "surge" really doesn't mean what everyone (including himself) used to think it meant.

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Transcript via hilzoy:

McCain: "First of all, a surge is really a counterinsurgency strategy, and it's made up of a number of components. And this counterinsurgency was initiated to some degree by Colonel McFarland in Anbar province relatively on his own. When I visited with him in December of 2006, he had already initiated that strategy in Ramadi by going in and clearing and holding in certain places. That is a counterinsurgency. And he told me at that time that he believed that that strategy, which is, quote, the surge, part of the surge, would be successful. So then, of course, it was very clear that we needed additional troops in order to carry out this counterinsurgency."

So now McCain is redefining what the word "surge" actually means -- the one thing I thought liberals and conservatives agreed on.

That the McCain campaign feels the need to fight back so hard (and laughably) against this is quite telling. They tried to issue a flippant clarification Monday night when the initial gaffe occurred, but that obviously proved insufficient. I think they realize that this one cut especially deep.

Think about it: By screwing up the time line, McCain not only undermined his foreign policy "expertise," making himself look foolish and confused in the process, he completely undermined the rationale for the surge in the first place. For years war opponents have argued that the United States' only role should be to help the Iraqis fight for their own country. The Anbar Awakening was that fight. The Sunni sheiks rose up and, with the help of US forces, started routing al Qaeda -- all before the surge was even announced.

In other words, this gaffe is especially damaging because it proves quite poignantly that the surge is not the success McCain and Republicans are tying to make it out to be. Do you hear that? It's the sound of McCain's only hopes of winning the presidency swirling down the drain.


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Hilzoy adds:

McCain is arguing as follows: find some X, of which what we normally think of as the surge is a part. Define all of X as "the surge". Argue that since X is responsible for some development Y, a development which preceded what we normally think of as the surge, "the surge", understood to mean X, is responsible for Y. This is a delightful argument, and it yields all kinds of fun results.

See what fun scenarios you can come up with!

* Typo corrected.

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