By all means, Ron Johnson, let’s talk about Iraq

It’s difficult to come up with suitable responses to Republicans’ criticism of President Obama’s handling of Iraq. Difficult, because the GOP’s messaging is so clumsy and beyond Machiavellian at this point one can only assume they’ve created a prototype dumb-down ray designed to be 100 times more powerful than Fox News and are testing it out now for the first time.

Really, I haven’t had my intelligence insulted this thoroughly since Elisabeth Hasselbeck sparred with Honey Boo Boo over Keynesian fiscal policy on The View.*

Indeed, the next time Dick Cheney shows up on TV, I half expect a flock of diseased ravens to fly out of his Nazgul cloak and devour the brains of anyone within a 500-square-mile radius with an IQ over 65.

What else but black magic do you think might have convinced the ex-VP that he was going to get away with this gem, from a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed?

Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.

Cue uninterrupted two-minute, 37-second spit-take.

The president he’s talking about, of course, is Obama. And the country Obama is supposedly wrong about? Iraq.

Let that soak in now.

No, really let it soak in.

I’ll wait.


How does one even begin to respond?

Seriously, Dick Cheney lecturing Obama on Iraq is like Tara Reid pulling Cate Blanchett aside on a movie set to give her acting tips. Let’s all hop in our Wayback Machines to 2002, when the Bush administration was (dishonestly, in my opinion) manufacturing a casus belli for the war in Iraq. The record clearly shows that Barack Obama was right about the war and that Cheney was wrong. Full stop.

Well, now our brilliant senior senator, Ron Johnson, is getting in on the act.

Recently on The Devil’s Advocates radio show on the Mic. 92.1, Johnson said this:

This is a strategic blunder and we’re sowing the seeds of exactly what President Obama did. This is a tragedy. I don’t know what we could do at this point in time. It looks like Iraq is lost. I mean, it’s degrading at such a rapid pace here I’m not sure there’s anything you can do at this point in time, but it never should have happened.

Later, in an interview on MSNBC, he offered this opinion:

This is just a tragedy. This is really snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory. … Whether you agree with going into Iraq or not, President Obama came into office and Iraq was largely stable. His job should have been to maintain that stability, and his strategic blunder was not agreeing to a status of force arrangement where we could have provided that stability.

Then, asked about whether the responsibility really lies with the Maliki regime, which the Bush administration backed in the wake of Saddam’s ouster, Johnson said the following:

I think Maliki has been disastrous for Iraq. He would have been less of a disaster had we maintained a status of force. … We could have forced him to include the Sunnis, include the Kurds.

Johnson later argued that we should have left a stabilizing force behind, like we did in Germany, Korea, et al. But, according to the senator, “President Obama chose not to do that. He bugged out. He left.”

Finally, when asked whether the original strategic blunder was perhaps going into Iraq in the first place, Johnson sputtered, hemmed, and hawed and then doubled down on his criticism of Obama, basically repeating his lament about opportunities lost.

No mention of Bush. No mention of Cheney. No acknowledgement of the enormous dung pile his party stepped in and then tracked through the house for five years before noticing that maybe something didn’t smell quite right.




Of course, Johnson’s talking points hardly stand up to scrutiny. Left out of his analysis is the fact that George W. Bush also failed to negotiate a long-term Status of Forces Agreement.

As David Corn pointed out at

President Barack Obama did not leave a residual force of American troops in Iraq after he withdrew US troops because Maliki would not sign a Status of Forces Agreement protecting US soldiers. Though Bush also did not negotiate a long-term SOFA, prominent Republicans, including Senator John McCain and Mitt Romney, have slammed Obama for failing to obtain such an agreement. But Fareed Zakaria reports that a senior Iraqi politician told him, “Maliki cannot allow American troops to stay on. Iran has made very clear to Maliki that its No. 1 demand is that there be no American troops remaining in Iraq. And Maliki owes them.”

What has happened in Iraq is a tragedy, all right. But trying to pin it on Obama is nothing short of comedy. In one of the greatest demonstrations of hubris in U.S. history, Bush, Cheney, et al., sold the American people a bill of goods. And we’re still paying for it. The honorable senator would be well advised to place blame where it actually lies.

*I don’t know for a fact that this ever actually happened, but I can’t imagine it didn’t — at least in one of the trillions upon trillions of parallel universes predicted by the many-worlds theory of quantum mechanics, which posits that all possibilities must eventually come to pass given the infinite scope of the multiverse. Of course, this same theory predicts that in one of these universes, it’s certain and inevitable that people who are marginally more intelligent than beets actually buy Republicans’ latest spin on Iraq — as hard to imagine as that might be.

Scott Walker’s very bad week

As much as Gov. Walker wants the John Doe II mess to go away, it’s looking more and more like it will dog him until the November election, which is good news for Democrat Mary Burke.

The latest headline from the Wisconsin State Journal declares, “John Doe prosecutors accuse Scott Walker of running ‘criminal scheme’ during recalls.”

Stay tuned.

Perhaps more troubling for Walker, however, are the latest figures from the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages, which show that Wisconsin dropped to 37th in the nation in the rate of private-sector job creation, registering 1.2% growth between December 2012 and December 2013.

The administration will surely tout the decrease in the unemployment rate (to 5.7%) and our 15th ranking in weekly wage growth (1.1%), but the fact remains we’re still well behind the pack when it comes to job creation — and have been for the bulk of Walker’s tenure.

A major focus of the Walker campaign will almost certainly be Wisconsin’s economic recovery since Gov. Doyle left office, but left out will be (I’m seeing a pattern here) any mention of George W. Bush’s role in Doyle’s troubles. The real question we need to ask is whether Walker is rising high above the nation’s economic tides or sinking below the surface. Once again, the latest QCEW numbers provide a clear answer.

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