WASHINGTON -- Last Sunday, Sen. John McCain met in Washington with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari. After their closed-door session, the two men took questions from waiting reporters. The following day, Sen. Barack Obama told reporters that he, too, had found time for a conversation with Zebari. The way in which the two events apparently took place and how they were reported reflect the profound differences between McCain and Obama.
The McCain-Zebari Father's Day meeting at the candidate's presidential campaign headquarters in Virginia showed that the two men know and respect each other, share a common perspective on success in Iraq, and are thinking realistically about the future. Both officials fielded tough questions from reporters about American troop levels, security, economic recovery, and ongoing negotiations for a U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement. Zebari observed, "Thanks to the surge strategy and to the growth of Iraqi military security capabilities, Iraq has the lowest level of violence since the last four years." He added that we "have the right policies, we have the right personnel now, and we are working together, in fact, to realize a democratic Iraq, a stable and peaceful Iraq, and to be a partner to the United States." The face-to-face meeting and the foreign minister's statement were all but ignored by the mainstream media.
By contrast, all it took was a perfunctory phone call with Iraq's leading diplomat for Sen. Barack Obama to make headlines. According to Obama, he phoned the foreign minister Monday morning while on his way from his home to Chicago's Midway Airport. Later, when the Democrats' standard-bearer landed in Flint, Mich., he told his press gaggle about the conversation with Zebari and said, "I told him that I look forward to seeing him in Baghdad." Then he announced, "I'm interested in visiting Iraq and Afghanistan before the election." The report that Obama would be making a trip to both theaters in the war against radical Islam led news broadcasts and made it above the fold in newspapers across the country.
Set aside the casual nature of Obama's contact with the Iraqi foreign minister and the fact that the Illinois senator has spent less than two full days on the ground in Iraq since the campaign in Mesopotamia began in March 2003. And ignore McCain's eight trips to the region and his role in constructing the successful surge strategy. What's really remarkable is how the Obama-for-president campaign has downplayed the promised trip to the war zones. And as usual, the press has let him get away with it.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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