- The Washington Times - Friday, August 29, 2008

Have you noticed the tag line in Barack Obama‘s latest television ad - the one where the senator suggests we “end the war responsibly?” This newly minted statement by the Obama campaign is ironic, since it is exactly what John McCain and his Republican colleagues have consistently argued.

For Mr. McCain, a “responsible end” means: “The best way to secure long-term peace and security is to establish a stable, prosperous, and democratic state in Iraq that poses no threat to its neighbors and contributes to the defeat of terrorists. When Iraqi forces can safeguard their own country, American troops can return home.”

Forget about timelines and time horizons for the moment and consider that this “responsible end” to the war is exactly what has been roundly ridiculed by Democrats, including Mr. Obama, who incessantly demands an immediate end to the war.

The phrase was reiterated by Michelle Obama in her speech to Democratic Party convention-goers Monday night. Buried amid the flowery prose of her everyday American girl story, Mrs. Obama said her husband is fighting for everyday folks and those who serve their country, “That is why he’s running - to end the war in Iraq responsibly,” she insisted. If you blinked (or sneezed), you could’ve missed it, but it was there. Sen. Hillary Clinton repeated it Tuesday night.

What is still missing and yet to be answered is: What is responsible? How does Mr. Obama now define that: In all actuality, it seems that it was irresponsible to repeatedly demand an immediate troop withdrawal since January 2007, while American lives were on the front lines, the territory unstable and a way out unsure. His own Web site still touts: “Barack Obama opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning.” In addition, Mr. Obama has been on record mocking Gen. David Petraeus, insisting the surge strategy would “never” work and refusing (until prompted by Mr. McCain) to get a firsthand look at progress on the ground. And now, Mr. Obama wants the public to accept his “judgment” on the “responsible” way to end the war?

We suspect the polls (which we’re sure Team Obama checks frequently) may have something to do with the new terminology. Although a vast majority of Americans do want “an end” to the war, an equally large margin want a “responsible end,” as opposed to an immediate pullout. Sound familiar? Democrats realized last year how popular their “pullout now” mantra was, thus giving up the fight without so much as an amendment to President Bush’s Iraq supplemental bill.

Mr. McCain has been consistent on Iraq from the beginning. In spelling out the way forward, he sums it up well: “I do not want to keep our troops in Iraq a minute longer than necessary to secure our interests there … And I believe we can achieve that goal, perhaps sooner than many imagine. But I do not believe that anyone should make promises as a candidate for president that they cannot keep if elected. To promise a withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, regardless of the calamitous consequences to the Iraqi people, our most vital interests, and the future of the Middle East, is the height of irresponsibility. It is a failure of leadership.”

Mr. Obama’s leadership has certainly evolved on this issue. We question how much public opinion and political expediency had to do with this evolution.

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