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Monday, September 10, 2007

Rules of the Jungle 1: Have a Take

From last week's New Hampshire Republican Debate:

MR. GOLER: Governor Romney, you have suggested that U.S. troops in Iraq move to a support phase after the surge, which pretty much has to end in the spring, and a standby phase after that in Kuwait and Qatar. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems even Hillary Clinton is willing to commit troops to Iraq longer than that, sir.

MR. ROMNEY: I don’t have a time frame that I’ve announced. What I’ve indicated is that -- is very consistent with what the president is speaking about and what we’re hearing from Iraq right now. And that is that the surge is apparently working. We’re going to get a full report on that from General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker very soon. But the Center for Strategic and International Studies and Brookings have come back with positive reports. If the surge is working, then we’re going to be able to start bringing back our troop levels, slowly but surely, and play more of a support role over time. Ultimately, down the road, I would anticipate that we’re not going to have a permanent presence in Iraq. And we’ll be in a standby mode in surrounding nations. But we’ve -- when we consider moving to a support role and bringing, at some stage, our troop levels back, we’re going to be doing that from a position of strength, because the surge has worked. There’s no question: It’s essential for America to show that we are committed to success in Iraq. Our men and women are the bravest and most patriotic in the world, that are over there fighting. We deserve to give them the kind of support they need to make this mission successful. (Applause.)

...

MR. WALLACE: Do you see the support phase in 2008?

MR. ROMNEY: I think you’re going to begin to see, if the surge is working, and I think we’re going to get that report very soon, that we’re going to begin to slowly but surely pull back to a support role. But the timetable for that, I hope, will be as soon as possible. We all hope for that; we all hope for that. But the question of timetable will depend upon how successful the surge is. And the key is we don’t start pulling back troops. We don’t go into a support mode until we are successful with the surge and we are providing the security and the stability that we anticipate for this country. Chris.
Thanks to a late friend of mine, I listen to Jim Rome's sports talk radio program (aka The Jungle) from time to time. To successfully participate on the program, as determined by the host, there are some rules, one of which we may want to consider for this next election round:
Have a take. Do not suck.

Crude as it is, it does seem reasonable that anyone who is running for president and opens his mouth on anything (yes, anything), ought to have a solid position (the take), have at least one good supporting point, and put together a reasonable argument (not sucking).

Now the snip above is fairly standard debate fare, and you could sort through it to find a reasonable take, but I'd prefer a take like this from someone with Romney's position (note this is not necessarily my take):

I've said it before, I'm not going to talk about timetables for withdrawal from Iraq. It's the wrong way to look at it. We will base our actions on the facts of what is happening on the ground. Not on what somebody's spin machine says is happening. Not on what we wish were happening. Curent indications are positive, and General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker report next week. Keep in mind, these are checkpoints; important, yes, but still only checkpoints. We never stop measuring, we never stop adjusting, and we never stop working until we accomplish what we set out to achieve. That's what it means to have benchmarks--not arbitrary timetables.
To compare, here is John McCain's actual response:

SEN. MCCAIN: Governor, the surge is working. The surge is working, sir. It is working.

MR. ROMNEY: That’s just what I said.

SEN. MCCAIN: No, not apparently -- it’s working.

It’s working because we’ve got a great general. We’ve got a good strategy. Anbar province: Things have improved. The Maliki government is not doing the things we want it to do. The police are not functioning the way we want them to do.

But we are succeeding, and the great debate is not whether it’s apparently working or not. The great debate is going to take place on the floor of the United States Senate, the middle of this month. And it’s going to be whether we set a date for withdrawal, which will be a date for surrender, or whether we will let this surge continue and succeed.

And I can assure you, it’s more than apparent. It is working, and we have to rally the American people.

The people of New Hampshire are saddened and frustrated and angry over our failures in Iraq. I share their anger, their frustration and their failure, and I want them home, too, but I want them home for the right reasons. I want our troops home with honor, otherwise we will face catastrophe and genocide in the region.
It's not ideal, but separate the content of the original debate responses for the moment. Whose bandwagon would you rather pull? Like it, or not, signs of our times include the 24/7 news "cycle" and major political announcements on Oprah and The Tonight Show. The ability (and desire) to have a timely decent take is increasingly important, as the president has shown too many times.

And until I see someone cut through it consistently, I won't be trying to pull anyone's. Ron Paul's clarity is the closest, but I think he proceeds from too many false assumptions. 'Tis wha' 'tis.

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