Thursday, July 24, 2008

McCain's Confusion May Be Voters Confusion

Chicago Tribune: If there is any fixed position in John McCain's policy agenda, it's that we must never, ever, set a timetable for leaving Iraq. He regularly flogs Barack Obama for proposing to withdraw by the summer of 2010. So it was a surprise to hear him say Monday, when asked if our troops might depart in the next two years, "Oh, I think they could be largely withdrawn, as I've said."

I guess that makes it unanimous. This week, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said he's amenable to bidding the U.S. goodbye on Obama's schedule. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown indicated his forces will also be heading home soon.

Despite creeping toward withdrawal himself, McCain continues to lambaste Obama for setting a timetable. But if the current policy is the stunning success depicted by McCain, it should be eminently practical to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis by the middle of 2010. If it is impossible to do that, more than seven years after the occupation began, how can McCain say the existing strategy is working?

The Arizona senator sounded frustrated this week, insisting that Obama was "completely wrong" in opposing the Bush administration's escalation of the war in January 2007. "The fact is, if we had done what Sen. Obama wanted to do, we would have lost," he declared. "And we would have faced a wider war. And we would have had greater problems in Afghanistan and the entire region."

And did anyone catch Jaywalking on Jay Leno last night? Some people don't even know who the vice president is or what Obama's first name is or McCain's last name, which brings us to this pleasant story about Americans dismal knowledge of government.

I guess we get what we deserve and this is why we got Bush -- twice. Unfortunately, the rest of us suffer for uniformed voters who go to the polls and vote for the guy they'd like to have a beer with or the guy they think will keep us No. 1, trouncing on other nations. That is, after all, very important to some voters. 
WaPo: So a bunch of academics decides to revisit one of the defining books of modern American politics, a 1960 tome on the electorate. They spend years comparing interviews with voting-age Americans from 2000 and 2004 to what Americans said during elections in the 1950s. The academics' question: How much has the American voter changed over the past 50 years?

Their conclusion -- that the voter is pretty much the same dismally ill-informed creature he was back then -- continues a decades-long debate about whether Americans are as clueless as they sound.
The question that political scientists have pondered for decades is: If a person can't name the staples of liberal ideology, or can't talk coherently about foreign affairs, or cares only about a few issues, or changes his opinion in response to information that he can't remember later, might he still be able to make thoughtful choices in the voting booth?

How much credit do we give our most precious resource, the American brain? Is it half-empty or half-full?