Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Making McCain be Specific

If you were conducting a job interview for a very important position, and a candidate told you that, in a prior job, he had “devised and implemented a strategy that enabled his old employer to achieve victory over the competition,” would you say “Thank you” and immediately give him the job?

Or would you ask him to describe the strategy and explain how “victory” was defined and how it was achieved?

In his recent NYT op-ed, Barack Obama closed with the following:
In this campaign, there are honest differences over Iraq, and we should discuss them with the thoroughness they deserve.
Shortly thereafter, John McCain submitted a rebuttal to the NYT, claiming credit for the “surge” strategy and intimating that “victory” will eventually result if his, rather than Obama’s, approach is followed; to which the editor responded, like any thorough interviewer, by asking McCain to elaborate with specifics:
The Obama piece worked for me because it offered new information; while Senator Obama discussed Senator McCain, he also went into detail about his own plans....It would be terrific to have an article from Senator McCain that mirrors Senator Obama's piece. To that end, the article would have to articulate, in concrete terms, how Senator McCain defines victory in Iraq.
Exactly! This should be the response every time McCain starts spouting vague promises about “understanding strategy,” “knowing conditions on the ground,” “knowing how to win wars,” etc.

He should be politely, but firmly, asked to elaborate with specifics! When he says “It’s complicated” or “I can get you the details later” he should get the same follow-up questions one would get in an effective job interview:

“Can you describe two ways that the surge strategy is complicated, and how you intend to overcome those complications to achieve victory?”

“Would you list a few of the specific details that you know will support your approach to achieving victory, and describe the conditions in which we will know your goals have been met?

Kudos to the NYT for expecting both candidates to discuss the war with the thoroughness it deserves! If the rest of the mainstream media insist on avoiding hard questions that require specific answers, I think Obama and his campaign surrogates need to keep asking them, day after day, until McCain answers them directly, or until voters realize that McCain is someone they wouldn’t hire to work at McDonalds, let alone to be president!

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