During the presidential debate there was an argument over whether Obama supported cutting funding for the troops in Iraq. I think the moment deserves a comment.
Check out starting around 1:30 into this video:
I’m not sure I have my finger on the pulse of the emotional import of the accusations of refusing to fund troops. The accusation as it is generally understood may imply some sort of anti-military animus or lack of patriotism. Some people who use this argument may mean to suggest that Obama wanted the troops to fight with insufficient pay or weapons. But of course that’s a misunderstanding of the funding tactic.
What cutting funds would have done is force Bush to withdraw the troops. Without funds, the troops cannot fight. McCain raised the point of Obama’s opposition to funds as part of a contention that Obama had not supported Bush’s determination to continue fighting in Iraq. Obama then argued that McCain was being misleading – he only voted against funding the war in Iraq because President Bush had refused to set a timetable for withdrawal. He tries to brush off the funding issue as just leverage for an alternative Democratic strategy.
Obama’s defense is simple obfuscation. Establishing a strict timetable is not simply a different “strategy” – it is tantamount to setting a date for surrender. It commits the US to giving up at a certain date. In other words, by voting against funds because of the timetable issue, Obama was trying to force US troops to leave now if they weren’t guaranteed to leave later. McCain’s critique, that Obama was opposing, not supporting, continued efforts in Iraq, was valid. Obama’s counter – that McCain was being misleading – was itself the misleading argument.