Monday, July 7, 2008

"When I go to Iraq..."

We are shocked, shocked to find that there is politics going on in Obama's campaign. If you can image such a thing, it seems that the junior senator from Chicago is now mouthing words indicating that he is toying with the idea of thinking about the suggestion that perhaps he might consider the possibility of reformulating his hitherto firm and unalterable stand regarding certain elements of his general policy with regard to a position that could have some bearing on such issues as the alacrity or its lack of implementing and enforcing and executing in a felicitous manner a timeline for the removal and redeployment of that particular contingent of the armed forces currently committed to maintaining a visible projection of US force and prestige in that geopolitical region of the globe commonly designated as the Middle East, with specific reference to the nation state of Iraq. His former, unnuanced position was that all combat troops would be out within sixteen months of his taking office.

Obama won the leftist Democifist race by toting the defeatist barge, laden as it is with only cotton candy, pace Churchill. Out in sixteen months, hell or highwater. As Politico reports, the "original Obama plan, still on his website, promises: 'Obama will immediately begin to remove our troops from Iraq. He will remove one to two combat brigades each month and have all of our combat brigades out of Iraq within 16 months.'" In his written plan for Iraq, Obama assures us that "The best way to protect our security and to pressure Iraq's leaders to resolve their civil war is to begin immediately to remove our combat troops. Not in six months or one year — now."

Very clear. Such integrity. And poor Hillary, undone by her own steadfast integrity in this singularity. She wouldn't flip. And because he was catering to the left, Obama didn't have to -- the young man had no voting record to defend. Now that he has effectively secured the nomination, he needs to waltz himself back toward the center of the dance floor, and seem, you know, sort of middle-of-the-road. That's all the overture. Here's the oratorio.

According to Politico, "a top Obama adviser had said that the senator is not 'wedded' to a specific timeline." Not wedded to it; it only sounded that way. A good thing, too, since he is already wedded to Michelle, and for all that he's gung ho for gay marriage, this bigamy thing is just too much for him. He does after all have experience with bigamy, seeing as how that's the very reason he was the son of a single mother. A low blow, you think? Only if he has ever made a pretense of upholding the institution of marriage. Judge that matter for yourself.

"Obama told reporters in Fargo, N.D., that he is 'going to do a thorough assessment.'" Yes. An "assessment" -- a word with such a very different nuance than that unwieldy cudgel of a word he avoided using, re-assessment -- no matter that it might actually have been more descriptively accurate. "When I go to Iraq," says Obama, "and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and will continue to refine my policies."

When his spin doctors became enervated ... no, wait ... when they became energized by the radioactive blogger response, Obama raced to the nearest microphone and assured us -- or would it be re-assured? -- that his "position has not changed. I have not equivocated on that position. I am not searching for maneuvering room with respect to that position. ...I will always listen to the advice of commanders on the ground, but that ultimately, I'm the person who is making the strategic decisions."

Because, you see, we needed to be assured that he would always listen to the advice of commanders on the ground. We were afraid that he wouldn't do that. We were afraid that he would stick like a stubborn groom by the side of his bride. Now we are assured that such is not the case. I think that's what we are assured. But maybe it's that he will not stick to his timeline bride. But in any event, we know that he will be the one making the strategic decisions. That in itself is a relief, if we were afraid that someone else would be making the strategic decisions during his administration. So I'm glad that's all cleared up.

As for his nuanced pivoting on Iraq, it leads us to confront that hoary old bugaboo from the long-ago '04 election season, namely, the term flip-flop. It was used recently for McCain's changed opinion on off-shore drilling. So? Let's do it again, that very basic tactic, of defining our terms. A flip-flop is not just some change of opinion. Flip-flops are bad, unless it's about gymnastics. A change of position could be good or bad. The deciding factor is in the outcome. Was someone wrong before, and now is right? Such a change is a good thing. Change to a correct position is a very good thing. It means many things to many people. We want more of that. See? When circumstances change dramatically, old positions may need to be updated. Gas prices have doubled in a few months. Big change. Time for some new thinking. Easy.

A flip-flop isn't a mere reversal of position. It's a reversal of a substantive position, for purely political, cynical, personal advantage. It has nothing to do with nuance. It has to do with forsaking a semblance of integrity for shallow and painfully obvious expedience. And the rubes won't even notice. It is not to be confused for that honest reassessment required by the appearance of new and radical changes in real-world circumstances.

Even firm promises should be abandoned, when fulfilling them would betray the purpose they were meant to assure. Our own integrity should take the blows, rather than the welfare of those we must protect. We'll look like fools? -- like weaklings? -- like hacks, liars, hypocrites? Better that appearance, than its reality, if we put our own egos first, over the higher good that politicians are supposed to guard.

Wisdom agrees with reality. Wisdom is about finding the right course of action. Wisdom is careful in the promises it makes, and it is honest about admitting its errors. Wisdom starts to look a lot like humility, after a while. So let's round ourselves up to the beginning again. Either Obama is willing to change his promise for premature withdrawal -- and what horror might be conceived from such an illegitimate contraceptive -- or he will be true to his troth of unending fidelity to the defeatist left. Who knows? All we can know is that his oratory continues to proclaim our defeat, in flagrant contradiction to the actual changed reality on the ground. It's all so confusing, then, these motifs of flops and changes and integrity and wisdom and nuance and marriage. I've lost track.

What I can keep my eye on, though, is that simple single truth, that the job of a leader isn't to look and sound good, but to bring about the best, the wisest outcome for the nation. It's not about speeches and spin and positions and postures. I'm so sick of what other people think integrity is. They should maybe think about defining the term. Like they should define assessment, and defeat, and marriage, and that host of other indefinite and mutable concepts that we bandy about when we argue with idiots. But any consequent new understanding might require a change of position. And that would be baaaaaaad.

"When I go to Iraq..." There was something about that phrase that just resonated. A Broadway musical? If ever I should leave you...? No, that's not it. It must be this (and isn't it oddly how my mind works): "when you were young, you would gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go." I don't know why I see a connection. How odd.


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