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Posted by on Jul 24, 2008 in Politics, War | 6 comments

Obama Claims Credit for the Wrong Thing; Meanwhile, McCain Demonstrates Once More that Experience Doesn’t Always Matter

Obama’s getting called out for embellishing because of a misstatement to the Israeli Prime Minister. 

Responding to an Israeli reporter’s question Wednesday on his commitment to protect the Jewish state, Barack Obama pointed to a bill “we passed” in the U.S. Senate Banking Committee that tightens sanctions and authorizes divestment from Iran. “My committee,” he called it. It’s a minor matter, but in the interests of even-handedness, I shall discuss it before I rip into McCain for the much graver inaccuracies/misrepresentations regarding the surge.

Except that he isn’t a member of the Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

Jonathan Martin: ‘With Fannie and Freddie and everything else related to the mortgage crisis, I’m not sure he’d why want to be on the Banking Committee.’  No kidding. Here’s the campaign’s response:

An Obama spokesman tells CNN “it was his bill, not his committee,” referring to the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act that the Illinois senator sponsored and introduced in May 2007. The measure was then referred to the Banking Committee, and passed a vote of 19-2 on July 17.

The Bill was co-authored by Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby (here and here).  But it included provisions that Obama authored.  ‘The Obama provisions clarify that state and local governments can divest from companies that invest $20 million or more in Iran’s energy sector and provide safe harbor for private fund managers who divest from such companies. The Committee approved the measure by a vote of 19 to 2.’  Here’s Obama’s bill.   See free-market-lovin’ QandO, which compares his with the Dodd-Shelby one.

Obama doubtless misspoke because he was tired.

In a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday, Obama told the former Israeli Prime Minister, “I could fall asleep now standing up,” after Netanyahu asked him how his whirlwind trip to the Middle East and Europe is going. (CNN)

Obama’s been guilty in the past about this sort of thing, and (it has been alleged) inclined to exaggerate his experience. He needs to make sure to avoid even the appearance of doing this ever again.  He is who he is.

Since I criticized McCain for some of  the surge misstatements (which he is now reframing), Obama’s got to take his bit of stick too. 

Hand me that wooden spoon. Whap whap whap!  There.  Don’t do it again!

Now pass me down my shillelagh.

Of course, there are misstatements and there are misstatements.  McCain first called out Obama for a ‘false depiction’ of the surge, then got the chronology all backwards, and is now saying that the surge isn’t just the surge, but the counterinsurgency strategy that predated it.

The Arizona senator told reporters Wednesday afternoon that when he refers to the surge, it encompasses not just the January 2007 increase in troop levels but also the counter-insurgency that started in Iraq’s Al Anbar province months prior.

“A surge is really a counter-insurgency strategy, and it’s made up of a number of components,” McCain said. “This counter-insurgency was initiated to some degree by Colonel McFarland in Anbar province, relatively on his own.”

Hilzoy takes this rationalization apart at Obsidian WingsJohn Cole sums it up:

Using these rules, why don’t we just retroactively define anything positive as the surge and credit the McMaverick. Got a raise at work? Thank the surge and John McCain. Hit the lottery- John McCain can tell you how it is related to the surge.

Which exaggeration or embellishment is a more serious reflection on the candidate’s qualifications?  I say McCain’s.  Quoting Shaun again:

McCain’s goof-ups occur with such regularity and they often involve the one area that he claims superiority, that I really have to wonder whether the guy is a few infantrymen short of a full platoon.

Then there’s this: Perceptions count as much or more than realities in the campaign world, and with every passing week McCain seems to act less and less presidential and more like an angry grandfather who lashes out when the grandchildren question his authority.


Because McCain’s much-touted experience doesn’t count for anything if he didn’t learn anything from it or can’t even keep his facts straight. Let’s not lose sight of the real point—to quote a colleague, his foreign policy cred is going down the latrine.


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