When conservatives began pushing the comparison between the war in Iraq and the Affordable Care Act, I thought it might be some kind of perverse attempt at humor. Alas, they were serious -- National Journal ran this odd piece this week.
In fact, the legacy of the Iraq war to Republicans during the Bush administration offers a useful reference to how the implementation of Obama's health care law could play out politically for his party. [...]
In both examples, the presidential sales pitch ended up being overhyped, with promises made that couldn't realistically be achieved.
The Bush administration lied, manipulated intelligence, and created a public appetite for an unnecessary invasion. On the other hand, the public demand for reforming our dysfunctional health care system existed before President Obama was even elected, and the Obama administration built on that demand with honest assessments.
The Bush administration launched a war that cost thousands of lives. The Obama administration passed a health care law that will save lives.
The Bush administration's invasion of Iraq was paid for entirely through deficit financing, asking future generations to pick up the tab. The Affordable Care Act is fully paid for and dramatically reduces the deficit in coming years.
The Iraq war is seen by the public as a terrible disaster. The Affordable Care Act isn't popular, but it's filled with provisions that enjoy broad public support.
The war dragged down the reputation of the United States around the globe. Health care reform made the United States look smarter and more compassionate in the eyes of the world.
With Saddam Hussein deposed from Baghdad and Iraqis increasingly voicing gratitude to intervening American troops, the earliest and fiercest advocates of the war claimed vindication today.
Chief among them was Ken Adelman, a former arms control director in the Reagan administration, who predicted in February of last year that American forces would enjoy ''a cakewalk'' in Iraq.
It goes from there, featuring several hundred words of triumphalism, with Adelman boasting about President Bush's leadership. ''I hope it emboldens leaders to drastic, not measured, approaches," he said. "That's the only way to make a difference in the world.'' Bill Kristol is quoted in the same piece saying, ''This is the most significant military action since Vietnam. 'This is a little bit of a Vietnam in reverse, I would argue.''
Then there was this from former cabinet secretary and best-selling compiler Bill Bennett, who said the invasion of Iraq "will go down as one of the great military efforts of all time."
[Bennett] said the military success would not, for some critics, provide a justification for the war. He predicted that the challenges would resume before the guns are silent.
''The argument will proceed,'' he said. Skeptics in Europe and within academic circles in this country, he said, will say, ''Sure, you have big bombs, but what about cultural sensitivities and tolerance and understanding?''
''The cognitive dissonance continues,'' he said. ''Our own intellectuals don't get it.''
Chuck Hagel was not at all supportive of the 2007 Bush/Cheney troop "surge" in Iraq, and at his confirmation hearing this morning, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) seemed to characterize it as a make-or-break issue for the former senator's confirmation.
For those who can't watch clips online, McCain noted Hagel criticizing the surge policy at the time as the "most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam." McCain demanded to know "Were you correct in your assessment?" When Hagel deferred to "the judgment of history," McCain continued to hammer away, demanding, "I want to know if you were right or wrong."
Watching the exchange, it might seem as if Hagel is being evasive, or at least defensive, about a misstep on his record. But the larger context is important.
For McCain, the surge worked, ergo, anyone who questioned the policy is necessarily a fool who lacks credibility on foreign policy, national security, and the use of military power. In reality, conditions in Iraq may have improved in 2008 and 2009, but there were a variety of factors -- including the Sunni Awakening, which pre-dated the surge, and a ceasefire announced by Shiite militia leader Muqtada Sadr -- that contributed to the decline in violence. To argue that "surge = success" demonstrates a lack of depth.
But more important in this instance is McCain pretending to have credibility. "I want to know if you were right or wrong"? That's not a bad question, necessarily, but I'd love to hear McCain himself try to answer it.
This guy wants to launch a fight over who was correct about the war in Iraq? Seriously?
I'm reminded of this amazing Frank Rich piece from 2009.
What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.
McCain now seems eager to have a conversation about who has credibility on Bush-era wars, even with the benefit of hindsight. It's one of the more profound examples in recent memory of a politician lacking in self-awareness.
Indeed, as of this morning, McCain actually seems to believe it's worse to get the surge question wrong than to get the entire war wrong.
"I want to know if you were right or wrong," McCain said. You first, senator.
It wasn't terribly surprising when Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) lashed out at Colin Powell yesterday, after the retired four-star general and former Secretary of State announced his support for President Obama. McCain, by all accounts, remains deeply bitter about Powell's 2008 Obama endorsement, and the senator has a history of holding petty grudges.
But while McCain's initial outbursts were just kind of sad, his follow-up complaints today are increasingly bizarre.
Speaking to National Review's Robert Costa on Friday, he said, "Colin Powell, interestingly enough, said that Obama got us out of Iraq. But it was Colin Powell, with his testimony before the U.N. Security Council, that got us into Iraq."
McCain blasted Powell on Fox News Radio's "Kilmeade & Friends" Thursday for endorsing Obama for reelection. "Well, I'm just saddened because, you know, I used to be a great admirer of Colin Powell," he said. "We were friends. I think one of the sad aspects of his career is going to the United Nations Security Council and telling them things about Iraq that were absolutely false."
Look, there's absolutely no doubt that Powell's U.N. presentation was the low point of his professional career. The Bush/Cheney administration used him, and sent him to present the world with a bogus case for an unnecessary war. The consequences were nothing short of tragic on a historic scale.
For Democratic and/or progressive critics of Powell to reference this horrific mistake makes sense. For John McCain to reference this to condemn Powell is bonkers.
On Capitol Hill, the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had no greater cheerleader than the senior senator from Arizona.
As a friend reminded me this afternoon, when Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) issued an extraordinary warning on the chamber floor before the war began, it was McCain who boasted, "When the people of Iraq are liberated, we will again have written another chapter in the glorious history of the United States of America."
Powell helped get us into Iraq and delivered a notorious presentation to the United Nations Security Council, but doesn't McCain consider that worthy of praise?
Powell now regrets both the conflict and his role in it. Until McCain can say the same, he isn't the one with credibility on the subject.
We thought you and Ms. Maddow would enjoy these photos of this veteran at Tucson's Welcome Home Veterans Parade. Although using a walker, he stood and saluted each time the Stars and Stripes passed by.
"When the lady who was in it was looking me in the eye and saying, 'You need to think this through,' she said, 'I am the product of a rape' and she said 'my life has worth,'" Perry said. "It was a powerful moment for me."
One wonders whether a President Perry's policy platform could be tracked by his Netflix queue.
One person who seems clear on whether this is a good -- no, great -- idea is Rick Perry. This morning, NBC campaign reporter Carrie Dann reported the following from the Machine Shed Restaurant in Urbandale, Iowa, where the Texas governor spoke at a breakfast:
New critique of Obama from Perry: Not offering returning soldiers "a simple parade" in their honor #decision2012
"It really disturbs me that nearly after nine years of war in Iraq that this president wouldn’t welcome home our many heroes with a simple parade in their honor," Perry said at a campaign stop in Iowa. "Maybe it’s because this war is unpopular with the Democrats. I don’t know. But Mr. President, our soldiers come first. And it comes before party politics. We need to welcome our soldiers home. Give them that parade. Give them that pat on the back. Tell them thank you for the freedom that we have."
Thus Governor Perry becomes the first 2012 candidate to go on record pushing a ticker-tape parade for Iraq vets (while getting in a dig at President Obama, natch). It'll be interesting to see whether other Republican hopefuls -- and the White House -- now chime in as well.
You can find last night's TRMS segment after the jump.
Rachel Maddow examines the idea of holding a ticker tape parade for returning Iraq War veterans and whether doing so would be inappropriate given the continuing war in Afghanistan.
As President Obama has stuck to the timeline for ending the Iraq War this year, Republican leaders have voiced as a chief complaint that the war has somehow not been long enough and that America should leave tens of thousands of troops in place.
Last night on the show, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, talked about what's going on in his own Republican Party.
WILKERSON: The only way I can explain it, Rachel, is their hatred of President Obama. And I say that with some circumspection.
They want to defeat this man. They want to bring this man out of the White House. They want to embarrass this man. They want to put this man through every kind of turmoil they can possibly put him through politically.
So, they will take almost any stand even -- and this is what really grates on me as a Republican -- even if it is not in the interest of this country, they will take a stand and have repeatedly taken stands that oppose the president simply because they oppose the president.
It's not America. It`s not the United States. It's not our best interests. It's certainly not our national security interests. It's getting rid of this president.
That is political opportunism and political blindness of the first order. And it may cause me to leave this party eventually, I must say that.
MADDOW: Is there -- do you see any hope within the Republican Party for a new vision, a conservative realistic not reactionary foreign policy emerging? Is anybody leading on that?
WILKERSON: I see Ron Paul. I see Walt Jones from North Carolina. I see a few others who speak sanely and soberly.
But as far as the leadership goes, whether it's domestic policy, tax reform, taxing the wealthiest in this country, which incidentally Dwight Eisenhower did for eight years at the rate of 90 percent, an arch-Republican, if you will. Any issue you want to pick, my Republicans seem to be intent on suicide.
No wonder Colonel Wilkerson trended on Twitter last night. Screengrab's after the jump.
Tonight on the show, we'll bring you an exclusive interview with Vice President Joe Biden. For now, a couple of bits.
President Obama once famously called the war in Iraq a "dumb war." Rachel asked Mr. Biden if we've learned anything. From the transcript:
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: I think one of the lessons we've learned is you can go into an-- America is so powerful, has such an incredible military capability, that you can go to-- into any dictatorship and you can try to impose ... democracy, but it's gonna take you a trillion dollars and a decade, and you're gonna have to make a judgment whether or not you had better spent your time and effort doing something else to make the world safer than that.
And this exchange about Afghanistan, which U.S. forces aren't scheduled to leave until the end of 2014:
MADDOW: Is it possible that that war could end sooner than the American people are already expecting, at this point. Could that be wound down, as well?
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: It has the potential to be wound down. It's in direct proportion to how wound up the-- Afghan military is, how good they are, how quickly they come online, and how much responsibility the Afghan Government in Kabul is able to exert, politically, in the-- in-- within Afghanistan. For example, the president said that we were gonna withdraw, quote, "the surge," 33,000 forces by the end of this summer. And he said we would continue to keep a pace, that pace. We're not gonna slow this down.
We'll have much more on the show tonight, and the video clips soon and the clips are after the jump.
Vice President Biden on Iraq:
Vice President Joe Biden tells Rachel Maddow what he thinks America learned from the war in Iraq.
And on Afghanistan:
Vice President Joe Biden tells Rachel Maddow that President Obama won't slow the planned withdrawal of troops.
[A]fter nearly nine years, America's war in Iraq will be over.
The president ran in part against the war, and now he's ending it. Mr. Obama first announced this plan back in February 2009, when he said combat would end in August 2010 and the final troops would leave this year. NBC's Courtney Kube forwards Pentagon stats showing that the U.S. has been withdrawing about 520 people a day.
Tonight President Obama is expected to announce the first withdrawals of the 30,000 troops he sent for a surge in Afghanistan -- reportedly 10,000 this year, with more to come home after that. We'll be covering the speech live starting at 8 p.m. Eastern. For now, this chart from Think Progress on what's left after all the surge troops go home.
Think Progress is drawing on this report (pdf) from the Congressional Research Service in March. The CRS chart of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is after the jump, by way of A block producer Mike Yarvitz.
Three weeks ago -- fresh off of his re-election battle -- Arizona Republican Senator John McCain turned up (surprise!) on NBC's "Meet the Press." That weekend, the talk in Washington had turned to the future in Afghanistan. And in arguing about the way forward in year 10 of that war, Senator McCain held up the U.S. experience in Iraq as the model that needed to be followed:
DAVID GREGORY: You just heard David Axelrod say any withdrawal will be conditions-based. Is that not enough to satisfy you?
SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I'd like to see the president say that it's only condition-based. According to Mr. Woodward's book, his problem is the political -- the left -- the base of the Democrat Party. You don't fight and conduct wars that way. You win, and then you leave. And that's what we've done in Iraq.
"You win, and then you leave." For the record, this is apparently what "winning" looks like. Courtesy of Reuters, the report from December 7, 2010, in Iraq:
FACTBOX-Security developments in Iraq, Dec 7
Dec 7 (Reuters) - Following are security developments in Iraq as of 1830 GMT on Tuesday.
.. ABU GHRAIB - Armed men opened fire on a police checkpoint, killing one policeman, in Abu Ghraib, on the western outskirts of Baghdad, police said.
.. ABU GHRAIB - A roadside bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed two soldiers when it went off on the outskirts of Abu Ghraib, police said.
.. MOSUL - A security guard and two teachers were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near the entrance of a private school in Mosul, 390 km (240 miles) north of Baghdad, a source from the provincial police operations room said.
.. TAL AFAR - One person was killed and three others wounded when a bomb hidden inside a computer exploded at a repair shop in Tal Afar, about 420 km (260 miles) northwest of Baghdad, police said.
.. BAGHDAD - Two mortar rounds landed in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone government and diplomatic enclave, a source in the Interior Ministry said.
BAGHDAD - Two civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb went off in the southern Baghdad district of Doura, police said.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb exploded near a car carrying three agents of the interior ministry's intelligence department, wounding all three, in central Baghdad, an interior ministry source said.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol went off and wounded three policemen in the Saidiya district of southern Baghdad, an interior ministry source said.
BAGHDAD - Gunmen shot dead Sameer Esmail, a manager with the Baghdad municipal government, and wounded his driver in the Amiriya district of western Baghdad, an interior ministry source said.
BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb went off and wounded four civilians in central Baghdad, an interior ministry source said.
With the midterms behind us and President Obama's next talk on Afghanistan just ahead, Republicans find themselves hamstrung by 48 words. They're found on page 355 of President Bush's new memoir, Decision Points, and they concern a September 2006 conversation he had with Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).
Mitch has a sharp political nose, and he smelled trouble.
"Mr. President," he said, "your unpopularity is going to cost us control of the Congress."
. . .
"Well, Mitch," I said. "What do you want me to do about it?"
"Mr. President," he said, "bring some troops home from Iraq."
We'll have much more about this on the show tonight at 9 Eastern. Help us welcome the new workweek and the lame-duck Congress, too. Fun.