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April 13, 2007, 7:55 A.M.

The Mind of McCain Last month John McCain visited a market in Baghdad. Following his visit, which we learned later included a taping session for a CBS 60 Minutes program back home, he declared Baghdad safe and the war well in hand. Of course, McCain was accompanied on his little stroll through the bazaar by about 100 troops and three Blackhawk helicopters, and the entire area was sealed off in order to provide an illusion of security.

Yesterday the major news organizations reported that there was a suicide bomb attack on the Iraqi Parliament that killed 8 people and injured 23. Three of those killed while eating their lunch were members of parliament. A bridge over the Tigris River which connected Baghdad neighborhoods was blown up by a truck bomb. These are just a few high profile examples of the attacks and bombings that are taking place every day all across Iraq.

In addition, Muqtada al Sadr has called for attacks on Americans, and there have been an extraordinarily large number of US soldiers killed this year, with the total growing at an alarming rate so far this month. So what is John McCain thinking?

Obviously, he is not thinking, he is running for president. I simply can’t understand why it’s not acceptable for presidential candidates like McCain to change their minds. I always though that was a good thing under the right circumstances. The hallmark of a truly great mind is its ability to change.

Why then is it so rare for a candidate to look at something like, say, the vote to give Bush the power to invade Iraq, and admit that their position was wrong? Ordinary people make mistakes all the time. Some mistakes are big and some are small, but most people don’t choose to “stay the course” once they realize that they have made a mistake. The same should be true in government. Being able to reevaluate one’s position in light of new or developing information is a sign of strength, not of weakness.

It is hard for me to believe that a smart guy like John McCain does not know how bad things are in Iraq. So why the charade? The only answer I can come up with is pandering to an ill-informed and closed minded right wing constituency that McCain sees as necessary if he is to have any chance of grabbing the brass ring. That is a real shame, especially for a guy who has so much experience, talent and potential.

It’s not just McCain. Hillary Clinton also seems to be afraid to say “I made a mistake” and I think the resulting doubletalk is hurting her as well. As she slips in the polls more and more people are saying that they don’t trust her. This should not be surprising because people are looking for answers to hard questions about why 3,296 American soldiers have died since the invasion of Iraq, and why the place is so unstable and unsafe despite McCain’s charade and the false bravado of our government.

Some current candidates voted in favor of the war. Certainly they were lied to, as were the rest of us, and we are learning that people across the country are changing their minds about the war. Candidates need to be able to do the same or they shouldn’t be candidates.


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