Ron Radosh

Joe Klein "Grills" Obama

In the November issue of Commentary, Peter Wehner, former Director of the Office of Strategic Services in the Bush White House, does a brilliant job dissecting how members of the MSM and liberal politicians have been wrong about the surge in Iraq.  Of particular interest is Wehner’s discussion of Barack Obama’s views, from his early opposition to his post-surge reluctance to admit that the strategy had worked. When it was first announced, Obama predicted that it would increase sectarian violence, and his running mate Joe Biden said that it was a “tragic mistake.”

In November of 2007, two months after General David Patraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker had testified in Washington, Obama denied the accuracy of their report to Congress, and argued that “not only have we not seen improvements, but we’re actually worsening, potentially a situation there.” When the two men returned to the Hill in April, reporting that security in Iraq was “significantly better than it was 15 months ago,” Obama still claimed  that “the same factors that led me to oppose the surge still hold true.” Finally, while acknowledging that the surge had “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams,” he told ABC TV reporter Terry Moran that knowing what he now knew, he would still not have supported it.

Senator Obama’s contradictory assertions should raise questions if he is ready to be Commander-in-chief .  As Mr. Wehner writes, not only did Obama and others deny American progress, “they actively promoted an alternative policy of withdrawal and retreat that would have made an American defeat, and a jihadist and Iranian victory, inevitable.”

This is certainly a harsh judgment. But as to whether or not Senator Obama has learned anything, one can turn to Joe Klein’s article and interview with Obama in the current issue of Time, which announces on its front cover “Exclusive: Joe Klein Grills Obama.”  (Any “grilling” of Obama has gone only in the magazine editor’s head) When Obama met with General Petraeus in Iraq, Klein reports, the General pulled out all the stops and made the “strongest possible case against” a timetable for a 16 month withdrawal.”  Klein observed that Obama could have thanked Petraeus and promised to take his views under advisement, or he could have told him what he really thought.   Klein was thrilled that Obama, who the reporter thinks has been too cautious, “chose to speak his mind.”

According to Klein, Obama ended his meeting with Petraeus by “laying down his marker: if elected President, he would be in charge. Unlike George W. Bush, who had given Petraeus complete authority over the war-an unprecedented abdication of presidential responsibility (and unlike John McCain, whose hero worship of Petraeus bordered on the unseemly)-Obama would insist on a rigorous chain of command.”

It does not seem to occur to Joe Klein that perhaps President Bush found Petraeus’ argument and path to be correct, and gave it his full approval. For that, our nation should be thankful. It also does not seem to occur to Klein that McCain too understands why it was right to accept Petraeaus’ counsel, and is not a case of “hero worship.” These two comments reflect only on Joe Klein’s very bad judgment and reveals how his hostility to the McCain campaign and anger at George W. Bush interferes with his own ability to think rationally.

What if Obama and Petraeus had been discussing the case for the surge, rather than the issue of a timetable for withdrawal? Rather than listen to the General’s advice, would he have stuck to his own ill considered opposition to the surge, and vetoed the General’s suggestions?

To be fair, in Obama’s actual answer to Klein, he says that Petraeus “cares about facts and cares about the reality on the ground” and does not come at his policy from “an ideological predisposition.” That, he tells Klein, is “one of the reasons why he’s been successful in moving the ball forward in Iraq.” If this is so why does not Barack Obama say bluntly that he was wrong, and that Petraeus was right?  And would he be willing to listen to Petraeus’ advice in the future?

In the hard choices facing the next President in dealing with the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, Barack Obama’s contradictory musings and inexperience are grounds for concern.