Earlier this week, speaking in Wisconsin, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) falsely claimed that troops in Iraq are down to “pre-surge levels.” “I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding,” he said of the surge. “We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.” In reality, there are now 155,000 troops in Iraq, far more than the 130,000 before the surge.
Today on ABC’s This Week, conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks said McCain’s misreading of the troop levels is an irrelevant issue, claiming it simply reflects the “stupidity of Blackberry politics.” Ultimately, McCain has been “right” about Iraq, he said:
BROOKS: Yeah, this is the stupidity of Blackberry politics. They get caught in this day to day. No one’s going to care what John McCain says about the fact levels. What they care is fundamentally who was right about Iraq. And there I think McCain has a pretty strong case. I mean, the Iraq war is going a lot better.
The troop levels comment wasn’t McCain’s only misreading of “the fact levels” in Iraq that day. In the same town hall, McCain said that the city of Mosul in Iraq is now “quiet,” just as a powerful suicide bomb erupted in the city.
Contrary to Brooks’s claim that “no one’s going to care” about McCain’s reading of troop levels in Iraq, the issue is critically important. As Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) noted, “If you don’t know the number of troops it’s very difficult to make a judgment on if they are over-extended.”
Brooks claimed that McCain has a “pretty strong case” that he has been “right” about Iraq. But McCain’s gaffes are the latest in a series of ignorant comments about Iraq that raise questions about a candidate who has staked his campaign on the war.