Echoing Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) Iraq speech last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) defended the Iraq escalation this morning on Fox News and said that Congress’ efforts to set a withdrawal timeline would do nothing to pressure the Iraqi government to reach a political reconciliation:
The day you set timelines and deadlines, you undo the ability to reconcile, you empower our enemy and give them a road map to defeat us.
But as the New York Times revealed, when McCain and Graham sat down for dinner with Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki during their recent visit to Baghdad, McCain conveniently used those very calls for withdrawal from Congress as a means to “motivate the Maliki government“:
“So how do you motivate the Maliki government? Well, one of the ways is go sit down and have dinner with him like Lindsey Graham and I did last week,” he said, alluding to his Republican colleague from South Carolina. He said that he and Mr. Graham had warned Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that the patience of the American public was running out. Many members of the Bush administration and other lawmakers have met with Mr. Maliki to make the same point.
“We’re telling you, there’s been votes in both houses of Congress which portend, unless the American people see measurable success, that we’re going to be out of here,” Mr. McCain said, recalling the message he had delivered to the Iraqi leader. “No matter whether I happen to agree with it or not.”
Today, on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) called out Graham and McCain for their double-talk in harshly attacking war critics publicly and then using their strategy behind closed-doors. Watch it:
This is not the first time war proponents have noted that calls for decreased troop presence have aided in their strategy with the Iraqi government. In February, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice used the “restiveness in Washington” as part of her diplomatic strategy to increase pressure on the Iraqi government. Last month, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he thought the “debate here on the Hill… [has] been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government.”
GRAHAM: My point is that it took us 13 years to write our constitution. Then we had our own civil war. Political reconciliation is moving forward. Did we tell the iraqis while we were there, Senator McCain and myself, they need to get on with it? Yes. Senator Levin understands political reconciliation is necessary to win in Iraq. He has a different way of getting there. The day you set timelines and deadlines, you undo the ability to reconcile, you empower our enemy and give them a road map to defeat us.
LEVIN: By the way, ironically, according to today’s New York Times, Senator McCcain was using our votes that he voted against, using our votes in Iraq at a dinner with Maliki to put pressure on Maliki to reach a political settlement. Senator McCain and I think Senator Graham was at that dinner, according to the New York Times, told Maliki that those votes portend a reduction in support of Americans for the Iraqis.
WALLACE: Senator Graham, is that true?
LEVIN: I’m glad he used that pressure.
GRAHAM: We — we have been putting pressure on the Maliki government every time I’ve been there. I’ve been there for six trips.