McCain exposed Romney's spine as Achilles heel in Florida

By gamecock Posted in Comments (32) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

Mitt Romney has failed to earn the trust of a majority of Republicans that he would not go wobbly during wartime when things get tough.

That is why McCain won Florida.

McCain was vilified by the most of the conservative press, as well as many in the MSM, for his primary election eve's eve attack against Romney accusing him of favoring a "timetable" for withdrawal early last year when the war was not going well and the leaders of new elected Democratic Party majority in both houses of Congress were trying to force President Bush to set a public date certain for withdrawal for Iraq.

Many even called McCain a liar. (more later below on that)

I remember the time well. I remember arguing in January of 2007 that President Bush would not go wobbly since he knew that the only way he could be stopped from fighting our enemies in Iraq would be a two-thirds super majority override of a defense appropriation budget veto. I remember that only a handful of liberal Republican House members and Senator Chuck Hagel(R-NE) explicitly agreed with the Democrats that we publicly set a date for surrender.

I knew the President had a spine.

I remember that Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham and many other Republicans called for sticking with the President and his new surge strategy and rejected timetables and defeat. I remember Fred Thompson praising President Bush and those that refused to settle for anything but total victory as he filled in for Paul Harvey on the radio.

McCain and Thompson had spines.

Regrettably, I also remember my disappointment in too many Republicans, including some of our then declared candidates for president, trying to have it both ways. Senators Brownback, Lugar, and others come to mind.

Another Republican also comes to mind. This republican was one that I had written many columns in support of, as I defended him against attacks by the media that his religious faith would prevent him from winning the White House.

I have been vindicated in my defense of Evangelicals as they gave this former governor a plurality of their votes in the Sunshine State.

What I remember most about this man back in early to mid-2007 though, was my disappointment at his equivocation on the war when things were tough. Violence was up in Iraq. The Democrats had just taken over Congress.

Democrats were calling for public timetables for withdrawal. Mitt Romney did not do that, but neither did he sound an unequivocal clarion call for victory. Instead, he...well, let's see the quote:

McCain, Romney, and Timetables

Here is the exchange in question, from ABC's "Good Morning America" on April 3, 2007:

MS. ROBERTS: Iraq. John McCain is there in Baghdad right now. You have also been very vocal in supporting the president and the troop surge. Yet, the American public has lost faith in this war. Do you believe that there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, there's no question but that — the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police, and the leadership of the Iraqi government.

MS. ROBERTS: So, private. You wouldn't do it publicly? Because the president has said flat out that he will veto anything the Congress passes about a timetable for troop withdrawals. As president, would you do the same?

MR. ROMNEY: Well, of course. Can you imagine a setting where during the Second World War we said to the Germans, gee, if we haven't reached the Rhine by this date, why, we'll go home, or if we haven't gotten this accomplished we'll pull up and leave? You don't publish that to your enemy, or they just simply lie in wait until that time. So, of course, you have to work together to create timetables and milestones, but you don't do that with the opposition.

Reading that, I think it's fair to conclude that Romney was saying he was in favor of Bush and Maliki setting a secret timetable for a U.S. troop withdrawal. (By the way, I didn't think that was a bad idea, on the grounds that the Iraqis needed to be pushed hard before they would get anything done.) Certainly people who were listening took it that way; at the time of Romney's statement, there was a fair amount of reaction, much of it from the left, to the effect that Romney was coming around to the idea of a timetable.

The left got the message, and so did gamecock. I was so disappointed by this at the time, that I stopped writing blogs for Mitt and looked around at Duncan Hunter, and then Fred Thompson.

Rich Lowry of NRO had a different take, but

I basically concluded what Robert Kagan did:

Robert Kagan on the McCain/Romney Surge Controversy

Hi Rich,

It is true, as you write, that “Romney wasn't as enthusiastic about [the surge] and in his body language, if nothing else seemed ready to distance himself from it if it failed.” But he went further than that. In June 2007, when there were already good signs that the surge was working, Romney told an interviewer, “I think we would hope to turn Iraq security over to their own military and their own security forces, and if presence in the region is important for us than we have other options that are nearby." (This is quoted by Dobbs in the Post) That may seem innocuous enough now. But you remember how things were at the time. That was the way both Democrats and Republican supporters of withdrawal described their plan in those days. The idea was to pull U.S. troops out of the fighting in Iraq, hand over the fight to the Iraqis, and station U.S. forces “nearby” or “over the horizon.” That was how advisers to Hillary Clinton described their preferred option. It was how people who supported the Baker-Hamilton commission report described their ideal option. They didn’t call for immediate and total abandonment of Iraq — and very few do so today. When people who favored withdrawal explained their plan, it was as Romney described it. The fact that he also talked about “timetables” in an earlier interview, albeit secret “timetables,” also puts him in what was then the withdrawal camp.

Everyone who was fighting for the surge in the early months of last year — and that was not a very large number of people back then—was desperately looking around Republican ranks for support. Most Republicans on the Hill were quiet. Most conservative commentators were not working up any enthusiasm, to say the least. And aside from McCain, the leading Republican presidential candidates at the time were being careful. It was clear that both Giuliani and Romney were tempted to let McCain take the issue and self-immolate. But of the two, I remember, Rudy was the one who decided to put himself most clearly on the side of the surge. He began speaking out on the need for more troops in his public appearances. The contrast with Romney is even more striking in this regard. As best I can recall, Giuliani never talked about timetables, withdrawal, or about stationing forces “nearby.” Among the three leading candidates, only Romney took that line.

I was all ready to endorse Mitt after Fred's SC defeat. But when McCain reminded me of the above, it gave me pause.

Can I trust Mitt to stay the course when all of Washington is against him?

I honestly don't know. I do know that when it comes to not losing wars, I can trust McCain. I don't trust McCain on many issues, or should I say I do trust McCain to do wrong on lots of issues, but when it comes to national security, if a President won't defend us, we won't be defended.

Rush, gamecock and Redstate stand an even chance of stopping McCain from doing some liberal things he is inclined to do, but we can't force a President to act in our defense overseas.

I am still open to being convinced that Mitt Romney has a Bush and McCain-like spine on this issue, but he better be about the business of convincing me and many others in Super Tuesday states of same starting in tonight's debate.

Mitt, don't accuse McCain of lying. You can't win a defamation suit given the mealy mouth language you used in April, and the exacting words McCain used last week.

Rather, look into the camera and tell us in no uncertain terms why you had no thoughts of surrender in April and why, why you have none now, and why enemies of the United States should fear you in the future.

We are the target of all the enemies of freedom. Osama bin Laden thought he saw a weak horse after the 90s. Not all enemies can be deterred, but many can, and many are today due to Bush's spine.

Mitt, show us your spine.

Mike Gamecock DeVine @ The Charlotte Observer
The HinzSight Report
The Minority Report
Huck is history in the Race 4 2008
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson

...prefer spines to whatever belief du jour there may be.

Don't count on it.

The Florida Latinos JUST DESTROYED ROMNEY by going for McCain in a landslide.

Yet another example of a GOP politician taking a hard line on immigration and getting smacked for it.

This issue is hurting us. Grover Norquist made a comment I read today saying we are losing the southwest to this issue which will turn the GOP into a almost a strictly regional party.

I may do a post on this later, but you are right. Romney lost Florida mainly because of his immigration stance and the Cuban American vote. This factor was bigger than the military side or even the reason my friend GC is saying. Spine shmine. Romney was hard on illegal immigration and a big part of the 6% of the vote was soft if not very squishy on immigration.

I disagree that America as a whole and the GOP will fail because of a hard stance on immigration. Why do you think McCain Kennedy failed?!? Even with McCain distancing himself from his legislation still believes in the Z Visas idea and thinks a wall is good enough. Hunter thought a wall was good enough. Sorry, how long do you think it takes to dig a tunnel? Give it time, give it time, the wall is the first step, but we have to do as Thompson explained. We don't ship all the illegals back, we ruin their opportunity for work here with enforcement and they'll go back on their own because the work is gone. Attrition is the answer to the 12 million.

But McCain won voters who cared about the economy. He won "somewhat conservatives" (barely). He won people who made up their mind a month ago.

And most surprising to me 41% of voters thought the Crist endorsement was "important" or "very important." I was hoping for 10-15%. That's an amazing number.

I think "very conservatives" are having a hard time controlling the whole party because "somewhat conservatives" are split and "moderates" support McCain. Crist, Martinez, and myself are probably "somewhat conservatives." That's been the swing group in the Romney-McCain battle. So Crist's endorsement may have been a 2-3 point bump for McCain.

I think "very conservatives" are too focused on Rush and writing off Republicans like Martinez, Crist, and Graham. These politicians have strong approval among Rs. Those are the people who vote in an R primary. McCain has unified moderates and somewhat conservatives to create a plurality.

Donate to the Rs in Close Senate Races through Slatecard

...voters who said illegal immigration was the “top” issue for them — 16 percent — went with Romney 43 percent while 25 percent went for McCain

So, the majority of this 25% of all Florida Republicans who say immigration is their top issue prove to be woefully uninformed and completely taken in by the almost patently obvious deception McCain is perpetrating on the issue.

That's just sick. Pt. Barnum would be proud of John McCain's ability to pursuade suckers today.

Better be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident security. --Edmund Burke

Blog: TMYN

Those 25% could have thought immigration was important and supported McCain's position. There are large numbers of Republicans who are not opposed to some sort of pathway. They are not mobilized, but they exist. I would say that McCain got many Latino votes precisely because of his position. My bet is Karl Rove would agree.

Proud Member of the Our Candidate is Less Stinky than Yours Party! (OCILSTY 08!)

I'm uncomfortable cheering on McCain like this, but since it seems inevitable he will be our nominee and it is vital that he beat Clinton or Obama, I will continue to "defend" him, this time on immigration. There are many others with much more information on the details of the McCain immigration plan. But, one thing I am sure of is the McCain immigration plan would be much better than the President Obama/Clinton, senate Democrat "comprehensive immigration reform". I would bet you that this "comprehensive immigration reform" would mean legalizing and registering to vote as many current illegals as possible as quickly as possible (for the 2010 and 2012 elections). The Obama/Clinton "comprehensive immigration reform" would result in US ballot boxes in Tijuana come 2010.

Please note that I said "the majority of that 25%" were woefully uninformed. There simply is no way that the majority of the 25% of those listing immigration as their top issue could have voted for McCain unless they let themselves be made fools.

The math just doesn't work.

There just cannot be a combination of enough Republican Hispanics on the weak enforcement side of the issue who also consider it to be their top issue or others who benefit from illegal alien labor to comprise more than a small slice of that 25%. I have no doubt that McCain got a lot of Hispanic votes in part because of his disdain for sane immigration policy, but I doubt that many would have listed it as their top issue.

Now, if McCain was running ads in spanish saying he was going to stick it to those who want to change the status quo toward the restrictive side (as he likely is), your point may have more truth. While I wouldn't put such gutter pandering past McCain, I have not heard that he actually used such tactics.

My point is that the information about Juan Hernandez, McCain's attacks on conservatives who opposed him, and his derisive responses about the "GD" wall obviously did not get through to a lot of Florida Republicans who would have acted differently had they known.

Better be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident security. --Edmund Burke

Blog: TMYN

Only 40% in the exit poll agreed with deportation. They went Romney. Those who supported a guest worker program or path to citizenship (60%) supported McCain.

What we have here is a failure to realize that not everyone is for hardline immigration policy. Most people want a secure border, but they differ on how to treat those in the country. So someone like McCain who supports a secure border a guest worker program appeal to many like myself.

It may also explain why McCain won 50% of the Hispanic R vote in FL.

Donate to the Rs in Close Senate Races through Slatecard

This sort of disingenuous claptrap gets old.

And if some MSM outlet actually did such a poll that shows McCain having success pandering with lies to an ethnocentrically motivated audience, it just goes to the point that we're unwise to enact policies of any sort that lead to single source mass-immigration. It can do nothing but exacerbate societal cleavages that require a bigger, stronger, more imposing government to manage.

So much for small government. So much for freedom. So much for conservatism. So much for the Republic.

Why do I bother. There's no point in discussing this with anyone so intellectually squishy that they'd haul out the deportation fallacy at this point.

Better be despised for too anxious apprehensions, than ruined by too confident security. --Edmund Burke

Blog: TMYN

During CNN's "Ballot Bowl" on Sunday morning they showed an interview with McCain. He was asked directly if he was saying that Mitt Romney's view on timetables was the same as Hillary's and he said "Yes." That is a lie. The other stuff you can try to stretch and pull to meet whatever you want to think he said but you can not deny that simple answer he gave was a lie. Unless of course, you want to try to convince us that Romney's stance on timetables was the same as Hillary's.

The more people try to defend this the worse it gets for me. I am disgusted with McCain about this. I already didn't like him but this flat out lie was the final straw.

**"The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." - John McCain"**

John McCain explained that Hillary was advocating a timeline to begin in 60 days, which meant a surrender. Romney's timeline was not so tied to a date certain.

He differentiated between Hillary's timeline and Romney's.

That was from Sunday's Meet the Press. Yours was supposedly from some Superbowl show, taken out of context?

Romney initially spoke of a timeline to ABC News' Robin Roberts, and it was reported as Romney suggesting a timeline when others sought to win the war.

Here, from ABC News, April 3, 2007: Romney Embraces Private Iraq 'Timetables'.

And here, from The Hill newspaper, April 4, 2007: Romney advocates non-public Iraq benchmarks ["timetables and milestones"].

My take at the time was that Romney's team had him betting on the wrong side and that they should keep him a little more quiet on this until he'd studied up on his foreign policy.

This was different than the MTP interview. CNN does this "ballot bowl" thing on Sunday where they just show various campaign stops - exciting huh. I watched a McCain stop, mixed in with some others. Then they cut into some sort of Q&A with McCain but it was reporters with some supporters around, maybe between stops. The question was direct - are you saying Mitt's use of timetables is the same as Hillary's and he said yes. That was a flat out lie.

**"The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should." - John McCain"**

I agree on every point here. I actually agreed with Romney's first comment, and find it surprising that McCain has a problem with a private timetable and felt it was a good idea to exploit Mitt's upfront honesty about the issue.

But it clearly cost Romney. And it worked off of the image that people like Jeff E. here seem to have of Romney. Frankly, I think Romney has a chance, but he needs to address these types of concerns about his character. He doesn't need to change his business approach at all, but he needs to sell his business approach with a political spin.

And I think Gamecock is being honest here, and any candidate should appreciate an honest discussion of how to improve, whether they agree or not. Hence I recommended it.

as a Day One Mitt supporter, when I found the McCain attack causing me to recall my own dismay at the (early 2007) time (though obviously McCain intentionally used the word "timetables" in a vague way so as to mislead) and causing me to put off my intended endorsement after Fred bowed out, I think many out there must have the same hesitation.

And this issue is paramount.

I still lean to Mitt, but I want him to convince me on this.

Mike Gamecock DeVine @ The Charlotte Observer

He needs this explained to him in language he can understand: Mitt, quick you have to pander to the defense conservatives!


Those who stuck their necks out in support of the surge strategy tend to recall those things. That said, I do believe McCain took it too far.

1. McCain, 2. Thompson, 3. Giuliani, 4. Romney

I appreciate Governor Romney's rhetoric on the war. I don't think that he lacks a backbone at all. I, for one, think it is over the top when John Mccain or Gov. Huckabee talk about following people to the "gates of hell."

"Indeed, as you probably saw over the weekend, this has been a particularly painful time for the United States just over the last several days. Thousands of American families continue to make the greatest sacrifice for security in Iraq. And for whatever mistakes America has made and the challenges which we now have before us, we must remain absolutely committed to making every effort for success there." Governor Mitt Romney's Remarks At The Seventh Annual Herzliya Conference, Tuesday, Jan 23, 2007

"Today, the attention of the nation is focused on Iraq. All Americans want our troops home as soon as possible. But walking away from Iraq, or dividing it in parts and then walking away would present grave risks to America. Iran could seize the Shia south, Al Qaeda could dominate the Sunni west, and the Kurds could destabilize the border with Turkey. A regional conflict could ensue, perhaps even requiring our return into far worse circumstances. The troop surge has a real chance of working, and early signs are encouraging. It is time for Congress to follow the lead of the commanders in the field and the Commander-in-Chief." Governor Mitt Romney's Remarks at the George Bush Presidential Library Center, Tuesday, Apr 10, 2007

"With regards to Iraq, there are a lot of people that say, let’s just get out. I want to get our troops home as soon as I possibly can. But at the same time I recognize, we don’t want to bring them out in such a precipitous way that we cause a circumstance that would require us to come back...That’s why it’s so essential for us at this critical time to support the al-Maliki effort to bring strength and stability to Baghdad, to Al Anbar. Hopefully, they’re good signs that we’re going to see increasing, and we’ll be able to bring our troops home safely."Republican Debate, May 3, 2007

"And it’s time, in my view, for the people of America to show a surge of support, including our leaders in Washington, for these families and for the troops. Let’s get behind them and give them everything we have: our prayers, our encouragement, our funds, anything to make sure this surge is successful because it counts for America." Republican Debate, August 5, 2007

Get Romney out early. Then take on Clinton

IMO this is poor analysis of Romney's statement. Obviously he was not as strong in supporting the surge as McCain when Iraq was looking pretty bleak, but thats irrelevant to this discussion. Had McCain simply limited his attack to that, it would have been legitimate; no one aside from the President has been as steadfast in support of the war as McCain. However, what McCain did is blatantly dishonest.

You can't jump to conclusions when analyzing someone's statements. You have to stay specific. Romney never says anything specific about a timetable for withdrawal. What Romney refers to is a "series of timetables and milestones" that should be discussed in private between the leaders of both countries. A "series of timetables and milestones" does not necessarily have anything to do with a timetable for withdrawal. On the contrary, a "series of timetables and milestones" is more likely to refer to timetables and milestones for progress, eventual troop draw down, turning over control of certain regions to Iraqi forces when appropriate, as well as expectations and all the different scenarios that different developments could lead to. Romney never says anything about withdrawal.

Furthermore--and this is key--its illogical to conclude that Romney was referring to a timetable for withdrawal because when he talks about "timetables and milestones", he states that these should be formed in cooperation with the Iraqis. Why is this illogical? The Iraqi president would never have worked together with Bush to form a specific timetable for withdrawal (other than one that result from our and McCain's expectations of victory). Premature withdrawal was what Maliki would have feared most at the time of Romney's comments. There is simply no way he would have sat down with Bush and discussed how American forces should withdraw in six months (or whatever) regardless to the level of progress in Iraq.

Should Romney's response ideally have been stronger? Of course. But Romney was essentially saying exactly the same thing as McCain, just not as strongly. McCain is either a liar or too stupid to serve in public office.

As for McCain being trustworthy on defense, it doesn't matter if you are a strong Commander in Chief if you won't allow your intelligence services to provide key intel via tough interrogation methods. (As president) McCain's military and defense experience and "spine" won't help if we miss key intel to stop an attack or capture terrorist leadership, etc.

Yes, and other than my last paragraph, thats what I addressed. IMO your analysis of Romney and those statements was weak, as I demonstrate in my analysis. You jumped to the popular MSM conclusion rather than examining what Romney actually said.

hearing Romney live in early 2007 and being disappointed with his answer. But I am satisfied tonight. So I lean to Mitt again.

Mike Gamecock DeVine @ The Charlotte Observer

It's not that people thought Mitt didn't have a spine. It is just that everyone knows that McCain definitely does have a spine. That's probably the one criticism that I have NEVER seen even the most ardent McCain hater try to make. It would be seen as absurd.

"If all men were just, there would be no need of valor."
- Agesilaus

Go ahead, make your jokes, Mr. Jokey... Joke-maker. But let me hit you with some knowledge. Quit now.

-White Goodman

"...look into the camera and tell us in no uncertain terms why you had no thoughts of surrender in April and why, why you have none now, and why enemies of the United States should fear you in the future."

He did it to my great satisfaction in the debate.

Mike Gamecock DeVine @ The Charlotte Observer

That I do not think McCain's original claim against Romney was a lie. The question Romney was asked was specifically about withdrawing the troops. I'm sorry but at best Romney was "hedging his bet" on Iraq. At worst, Romney was for cutting and running, only for doing it secretly.

However, McCain's subsequent claims that Romney's position was the same as Clinton's is a lie. Romney's position was different, and better, from hers. But Romney's position was more in line with Mark Pryor, the Democratic Senator from Arizona.

In fact, for good or bad, at the time in April 2007 nearly everyone was saying that Romney's position was the same as Mark Pryor's. Do a google search and I think some of you would be surprised.

Truthfully, this incident makes both McCain and Romney look bad. McCain does look like a liar (and somewhat bumbling because he doesn't bring up the question that Romney was asked, which would buttress his claim against him) and Romney looks equivocating and not as resolute on Iraq.

Like I said, I don't trust Romnney and I don't like McCain but one of those men will be our nominee and thus will have my support. Not enthisiastic support but suport nonetheless.

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