Sen. John McCain leaves the Senate chamber, March 5, 2014.
J. Scott Applewhite/Getty

‘I’m sorry about your confusion’

Updated
As matters of foreign policy and national security reclaim center stage, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has struggled badly, offering assessments that have been contradictory, incoherent, and occasionally both. The Republican senator has been far more invested in appearing in front of cameras than getting his facts straight.
 
Morning Joe, 6/13/14, 7:54 AM ET

McCain: Fire Obama national security team

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., joins Morning Joe to discuss the latest developments in Iraq and what President Obama is getting wrong in his response.
This morning, McCain appeared on msnbc to once again blame the United States for deteriorating conditions in Iraq. He 
insisted, “The fact is, we had the conflict won. The surge had succeeded. And then, the decision was made by the Obama administration to not have a residual force in Iraq.”
 
When Sam Stein pressed the senator on his definition of “victory,” the senator responded, “I’m sorry about your confusion, but anyone who was there can tell you we had the conflict won.”
 
If we’d already won the war, why does McCain believe we needed to keep U.S. military forces fighting in Iraq indefinitely? He didn’t say. If withdrawing was a mistake, why didn’t McCain condemn Bush/Cheney for signing the Status of Forces Agreement in 2008? He didn’t say. If Iraq didn’t want a residual force in Iraq, how were we supposed to override the decision? He didn’t say.
 
McCain also took the opportunity to urge President Obama to fire his entire national security team. (Yes, the man who believed Sarah Palin should be one heartbeat from the presidency is now comfortable giving others personnel advice.)
 
All of this coincides with a new Politico piece with a jaw-dropping headline: “GOP on Iraq: We told you so.” It ran alongside a McCain photo.
 
What we’re left with is a fairly ridiculous dynamic. A discredited senator is strutting like a peacock, convinced of his own credibility despite horrific and deadly failures. Even now, John McCain is certain that he’s been right all along and only a fool would ignore his sound advice.
 
Let’s take a moment to appreciate just how spectacularly wrong he is.
 
Our pals at “All in with Chris Hayes” did a nice job last night pulling together some of the evidence documenting how wrong McCain has been about U.S. policy in Iraq.
Of course, this is a small sampling. I’m also reminded of this Frank Rich piece from 2009.

[McCain] made every wrong judgment call that could be made after 9/11. It’s not just that he echoed the Bush administration’s constant innuendos that Iraq collaborated with Al Qaeda’s attack on America. Or that he hyped the faulty W.M.D. evidence to the hysterical extreme of fingering Iraq for the anthrax attacks in Washington. Or that he promised we would win the Iraq war “easily.” Or that he predicted that the Sunnis and the Shiites would “probably get along” in post-Saddam Iraq because there was “not a history of clashes” between them.

What’s more mortifying still is that McCain was just as wrong about Afghanistan and Pakistan. He routinely minimized or dismissed the growing threats in both countries over the past six years, lest they draw American resources away from his pet crusade in Iraq.

Two years after 9/11 he was claiming that we could “in the long term” somehow “muddle through” in Afghanistan. (He now has the chutzpah to accuse President Obama of wanting to “muddle through” there.) Even after the insurgency accelerated in Afghanistan in 2005, McCain was still bragging about the “remarkable success” of that prematurely abandoned war. In 2007, some 15 months after the Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf signed a phony “truce” ceding territory on the Afghanistan border to terrorists, McCain gave Musharraf a thumb’s up. As a presidential candidate in the summer of 2008, McCain cared so little about Afghanistan it didn’t even merit a mention among the national security planks on his campaign Web site.

He takes no responsibility for any of this.

Let’s also not forget this Maddow Show segment from November 2012, in which Rachel explained, “Even if you’re just in Congress, even if you’re just the opposition, you need to know what you’re talking about. You need to have a basic level of competence. And doing what John McCain says is not a reasonable substitution for basic competence on this subject. Pick somebody else.”
 
The last few days have had a through-the-looking-glass quality. Those who helped create a nightmare scenario in Iraq are lecturing us – obnoxiously, without shame or humility – about what to do in Iraq. Because memories are short, and the Beltway is wired to assume discredited conservatives know what they’re talking about when it comes to foreign policy and national security, few stop to say, “Wait, this debate is headed in a blisteringly stupid direction.”
 
But if we pause to appreciate recent history, and we hold onto the belief that accountability still means something,  then we will remember whose judgment still has value – and whose doesn’t.
 

Foreign Policy, Iraq and John McCain

'I'm sorry about your confusion'

Updated