McCain memo is riddled with inaccuracies

McCain's campaign claims to have debunked "three prevailing myths about Obama's foreign policy," but it's the McCain camp that isn't connected to reality.

Published July 25, 2008 4:24PM (EDT)

On Friday, John McCain's campaign put out a memo that purports to debunk that "three prevailing myths about Barack Obama's foreign policy ... [that] work to Obama's benefit, are indeed propagated by his campaign at times, but have no real basis in fact." The memo, written by Randy Scheunemann, a senior advisor to McCain, is separated into three sections, each with its own "myth" and countervailing "fact." But it's the memo itself that's full of myths -- actually, as a colleague quipped to me, the memo would have been much more accurate if the "myth" and "fact" headers had been reversed.

Take the first section, which begins with this "myth": "Barack Obama Claims People Have Adopted His Unconditional Timetable for Withdrawal From Iraq." Under "fact," Scheunemann writes:

John McCain, our military commanders and the Iraqi government agree that our troops should come home based upon conditions on the ground -- not the unconditional timetable Barack Obama supports. Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain believes our troops should come home with honor and victory. Barack Obama's support for an unconditional timetable has led to an "open disagreement" with our military commanders. Even Iraqi leaders believe our troops should leave depending upon conditions on the ground. The only one advocating an arbitrary, unconditional timetable is Barack Obama. Everyone but Barack Obama agrees that a withdrawal dictated purely by politics invites chaos and the possibility that our troops would have to return.

Set aside for its pure silliness the implication that Obama wants American troops to come home in dishonor and defeat. There's also the implication that Obama wants to withdraw all troops from Iraq, something that's clearly not true. Nor has Obama advocated an "arbitrary, unconditional" timetable. After laying out his plan for withdrawal in his recent Op-Ed in the New York Times, Obama wrote, "In carrying out this strategy, we would inevitably need to make tactical adjustments. As I have often said, I would consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government to ensure that our troops were redeployed safely, and our interests protected." And former Obama advisor Samantha Power has previously made clear that Obama's plan is a "best-case scenario" subject to change based on conditions on the ground.

Then there's Scheunemann's contention that "even Iraqi leaders believe our troops should leave depending upon conditions on the ground." McCain himself says he has heard that in private meetings he has held with Iraqis. But that's certainly not what Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said in public statements recently.

The second part of Scheunemann's memo is no better. The "myth" Scheunemann claims to explode is, "Barack Obama Claims the United States Has Adopted His Policy of Unconditional, Presidential-Level Meetings With Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad."

Ahmadinejad makes a great boogeyman for the McCain campaign to exploit. But as I've written in this space before, and as Time's Joe Klein has repeatedly done a superlative job of explaining, there's no real reason to believe that the Iranian leader Obama would meet with would be Ahmadinejad. In May, Klein wrote:

I promised to check into whether Obama had ever said that he would negotiate -- specifically, by name -- with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Indeed, according to the crack Time Magazine research department and the Obama campaign, he never has. He did say that he would negotiate with the Iranian leadership -- but, on matters of foreign policy and Iran's nuclear program, the guy in charge is the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. As of today, John McCain was still accusing Obama of wanting to negotiate with Ahmadinejad. Why doesn't the McCain campaign and other assorted Republicans ever accuse Obama of wanting to negotiate with Khamenei? Well, because Khamenei isn't quite the flagrant anti-Semite Ahmadinejad is.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

2008 Elections Barack Obama Iran Iraq John Mccain R-ariz. Middle East