Romney has no end date for Iraq
He would withdraw based on achievements.
By ANGIE DROBNIC HOLAN, Times Staff Writer
Published January 29, 2008
Campaigning across the state over the weekend, John McCain attacked Mitt Romney on Iraq, bringing one of McCain's signature issues back to the forefront of the campaign.
"Now, one of my opponents wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster," McCain said.
Later, in remarks to reporters, McCain linked Romney's position with that of Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Sen. Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Gov. Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher," McCain said.
Romney immediately disputed the accuracy of McCain's remarks.
"That's dishonest, to say that I have a specific date. That's simply wrong," Romney said. "That is not the case. I've never said that."
So did he?
As a source, the McCain campaign points to an interview Romney gave to Good Morning America in April. Interviewer Robin Roberts asked Romney, "Do you believe that there should be a timetable in withdrawing the troops?"
Romney responded: "Well, there's no question but that the president and Prime Minister (Nouri) al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone. You want to have a series of things you want to see accomplished in terms of the strength of the Iraqi military and the Iraqi police and the leadership of the Iraqi government."
Roberts asked: "So, private? You wouldn't do it publicly because - the president has said flat-out that he will veto anything the Congress passes about a timetable for troop withdrawals. As president, would you do the same?"
Romney said: "Well, could you, yeah - well, of course. Could you imagine the setting where during the Second World War we said to the Germans, gee, if we haven't reached the Rhine by this date, we'll go home, or if we haven't gotten this accomplished, we'll pull up and leave? You don't publish that to your enemy, or they just simply lie and wait until that time. So, of course, you have to work together to create timetables and milestones, but you don't do that with the opposition."
So is a withdrawal date a withdrawal date if you don't tell anyone about it?
On the Democratic side of the presidential campaign, where primary voters are generally opposed to the Iraq war, the candidates regularly discuss time lines for withdrawal. It's worth noting that Romney hasn't come close to talking about the kind of withdrawal parameters the Democrats have mentioned.
But he has said in debates that he does not envision a permanent U.S. presence in Iraq.
"If the surge is working, then we're going to be able to start bringing back our troop levels, slowly but surely, and play more of a support role over time," Romney said during a September debate. "Ultimately, down the road, I would anticipate that we're not going to have a permanent presence in Iraq."
McCain has said that while high casualty levels over the long term in Iraq are unacceptable to the U.S. public, troops should stay in Iraq as long as needed, comparing the situation with U.S. troops in Japan and Germany.
So McCain and Romney do seem to have genuine policy differences when it comes to withdrawal.
But McCain paraphrases Romney's statements in a way that leaves voters with the impression that Romney advocates a specific date for withdrawal from Iraq, which he does not. When Romney spoke about setting timetables for troop withdrawal, it was within the context of meeting benchmarks or goals for progress there.
Sorting out the truth in politics:
-Mitt Romney wants "to set a date for withdrawal" from Iraq. - John McCain, Saturday in Fort Myers
-McCain paraphrases Romney's statements in a way that leaves voters with the impression that Romney advocates a specific date for withdrawal from Iraq, which he does not. Romney spoke about timetables for withdrawal in the context of meeting benchmarks or goals for progress there.
For more rulings, go to politifact.com.