McCain exposed Romney's spine as Achilles heel in Florida
By gamecock Posted in Archived — 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:
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:
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.