"Is Your Trip Necessary?"
That was the famous question asked on a poster distributed by the U.S. government during World War II. The government wanted citizens to curtail unnecessary travel in order to preserve precious resources needed for the war effort.
Today many Americans are asking themselves if their summer driving vacations are really necessary because of the high cost of fuel.
But I am wondering about a trip that has nothing to do with the cost of fuel. I am wondering about Barack Obama's planned trip to Iraq.
Is it necessary? Why? What is he going to learn from it?
Obama was goaded into the planned trip by John McCain, who, along with the Republican National Committee, has been keeping track of the number of days since Obama last visited Iraq. A clock on the RNC website counts the days, hours, minutes and seconds since Obama was last in Iraq. (As I write this, it has been more than 912 days.)
McCain has been to Iraq many times, and it hasn't changed his mind. He says that if he is elected president, he would eventually withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, but only "with victory and honor."
Even though such trips are of limited value how much do the highly protected, highly isolated VIPs actually get to see? Obama's campaign decided he should actually go there as long as he was going to keep talking about the place.
But the trip has already turned into a trap.
Because Obama is a logical guy, he said there was a logical reason for him to go to Iraq. He was going to talk to military people there, he said, and "continue to refine" his Iraq policy.
"I am going to do a thorough assessment when I'm there," he said at a news conference last week in Fargo, N.D. "When I go to Iraq and I have a chance to talk to some of the commanders on the ground, I'm sure I'll have more information and continue to refine my policy."
More information? To refine his policies? Oh, boy. What a reason to make a campaign trip!
Because Obama has already committed to removing all combat brigades from Iraq within 16 months of taking the oath of office, and because most Democrats are very much opposed to the war, his statements were seen as a blunder at best and a flip-flop at worst.
What Obama should have said is: "Though my mind is totally closed on the subject of Iraq, I have agreed to go there because it will be good publicity and the Republicans will have to shut up about how long it's been since I have been to Iraq."
Which he did not say. Instead, he got besieged with questions and had to have a second news conference, where he was forced to say pretty much the same thing.
"Let me be as clear as I can be," Obama said. "I intend to end this war. And I have seen no information that contradicts the notion that we can bring our troops out safely at a pace of one to two brigades a month, and again, that pace translates into having our combat troops out in 16 months' time."
A few days later, Obama said all the "confusion" over his Iraq statement was not his fault but rather the media's. "I was surprised by how finely calibrated every single word was measured," Obama said. "I was a little puzzled by the frenzy I set off."
Bad media. (Asking candidates to say precisely what they mean and mean precisely what they say is ruining this country, if you ask me.)
So let us get this straight once and for all and stop all this frenzy: Barack Obama is going to Iraq because he does not intend to change his mind about Iraq.
Which leaves me with just one little question: Is this trip necessary?