Thursday, October 02, 2008

Joe SixPack doesn't ride the Acela

One of the nice things about the internet is the rapid dissemination of information. The transcript of the Palin, Biden debate is already on the internet, available for inspection. One sub-theme of note is that both VP candidates are stressing their ties to the middle class. Biden noted:

Look, all you have to do is go down Union Street with me in Wilmington or go to Katie's Restaurant or walk into Home Depot with me where I spend a lot of time and you ask anybody in there whether or not the economic and foreign policy of this administration has made them better off in the last eight years. And then ask them whether there's a single major initiative that John McCain differs with the president on. On taxes, on Iraq, on Afghanistan, on the whole question of how to help education, on the dealing with health care.

Look, the people in my neighborhood, they get it. They get it. They know they've been getting the short end of the stick. So walk with me in my neighborhood, go back to my old neighborhood in Claymont, an old steel town or go up to Scranton with me. These people know the middle class has gotten the short end. The wealthy have done very well. Corporate America has been rewarded. It's time we change it. Barack Obama will change it.

IPBiz suspects one is far more likely to encounter Joe Biden on the Acela than in a Home Depot or in Scranton. One recalls that on "Meet the Press", Joe Biden made a point to tell Tom Brokaw "how poor" he was. On October 2, Biden noted: I'm much better off than almost all Americans now. I get a good salary with the United States Senate. I live in a beautiful house that's my total investment that I have. So I -- I am much better off now. Sort of like reminding "Frank" that he had a higher IQ...

One interesting point in the news coverage of the debate concerns Palin's mis-naming the commander of troops in Afghanistan. NBC even mentioned that McClellan was a general in the Civil War. In context, the item came up in the following way, wherein Biden made an assertion without naming the general, and Palin mis-named the general (McClellan instead of McKiernan):

Biden: With Afghanistan, facts matter, Gwen.

The fact is that our commanding general in Afghanistan said today that a surge -- the surge principles used in Iraq will not -- well, let me say this again now -- our commanding general in Afghanistan said the surge principle in Iraq will not work in Afghanistan, not Joe Biden, our commanding general in Afghanistan.

He said we need more troops. We need government-building. We need to spend more money on the infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Palin: Well, first, McClellan did not say definitively the surge principles would not work in Afghanistan. Certainly, accounting for different conditions in that different country and conditions are certainly different. We have NATO allies helping us for one and even the geographic differences are huge but the counterinsurgency principles could work in Afghanistan. McClellan didn't say anything opposite of that. The counterinsurgency strategy going into Afghanistan, clearing, holding, rebuilding, the civil society and the infrastructure can work in Afghanistan. And those leaders who are over there, who have also been advising George Bush on this have not said anything different but that.

On Wednesday, October 1, 2008, the International Herald-Tribune (AP) ran a story titled U.S. general urges troop surge in Afghanistan which contained text:

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday that he needed more troops and other aid "as quickly as possible" in a counterinsurgency battle that could get worse before it gets better.

The commander, General David McKiernan, said it would take more than adding troops to stabilize Afghanistan, including efforts to strengthen the government, improve the economy and build its military and police forces.

Speaking to Pentagon reporters, McKiernan, the head of NATO forces in Afghanistan, said there had been a significant increase in foreign fighters coming in from neighboring Pakistan this year, including Chechens, Uzbeks, Saudis and Europeans.

And he said he needed the more than 10,000 additional forces he has requested, in part, to increase his military campaigns in the south and east, where violence has escalated.

"The additional military capabilities that have been asked for are needed as quickly as possible," he said, adding that he was hoping to get units that would be able to both fight the insurgents and serve as trainers for the Afghan National Army and the police.

An NPR blog, more closely related in ideology to Biden than Palin, observed:

General David McKiernan, the US commander in Afghanistan this week said "Afghanistan is not Iraq. .. What I don't think is needed -- the word I don't use in Afghanistan is the word surge."

On the other hand, speaking today [Oct. 2], McKiernan said more troops should be rushed to Afghanistan "as quickly as possible." So while he doesn't believe in using the word surge because it resonates of Iraq, he does believe in rushing more troops to Afghanistan -- a surge by another name.

Biden got the day wrong. McKiernan did not make the comment attributed by Biden "today" [Oct. 2]. Further, Palin was more accurate about the underlying substance of McKiernan's remarks than was Biden. Biden, for all his foreign policy expertise, made no attempt to cite McKiernan by name; Palin did, but got it wrong (McClellan instead of McKiernan). Did Biden know his name? Like the question of "who had the higher IQ", Joe Biden or "Frank," we may never know.

See also a post by T.W. Farnam, which notes:

Ifill filled a short pause with “Senator?” Biden stared down at his lectern and began speaking very slowly, defending his earlier statement, “Well, um, our commanding general, did say that.” He went on to say that Barack Obama has long called for more money and more troops for Afghanistan.

Farnam cited a Washington Post article of October 2, 2008 which said:

The new top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said yesterday [ie, October 1] that more American troops are urgently required to combat a worsening insurgency, but he stated emphatically that no Iraq-style "surge" of forces will end the conflict there.


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