(Tip of the p3 hat to Carla and Roy, both of whom are more optimistic, or more thick skinned--than I when it comes to watching the Sunday talking head shows.)
Rep. (and former Vice Admiral of the Navy) Joe Sestak was on Meet the Press this morning, along with such usual conservative suspects as Richard Perle (proving that being shown wrong repeatedly on the most open and global of stages imaginable doesn't mean you won't be treated as newsworthy) and Tom DeLay (proving that touring to promote an unread book can momentarily resuscitate even the most irrelevant of careers).
(Honestly--why would anyone put Perle or DeLay on the air in March 2007 without a trombone soundtrack going "WAH-wah-wah"? But I digress.)
The subject: Iraq.
The conservatives' talking points: Surrender! Defeat! Dishonor!
The deft ass-kicking handed to them by Sestak: Well, where to begin?
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Sestak, has the war been worth the price we've paid?
REP. JOE SESTAK (D-PA): Tim, I was on the ground in Afghanistan two months after the war began, over Christmastime, for a very short period of time. I saw what had to be done. I then brought my aircraft carrier battle group back for the retaliatory strikes in that country. I went back to Afghanistan on the ground 18 months later and saw what hadn't been done. As the general said to me, "Joe, we've got our finger in the dike," because we had diverted our resources and our attention to Iraq, a tragic misadventure. Civil affairs forces, Special Ops forces went to Iraq. This war was never a clear nor present danger. And Afghanistan is a poster child for how our security is hurting around the world as it becomes prey to terrorists and Taliban take over the southern province.
Second, how we went about this war. In that carrier battle group, I had--I had 30 ships. Only 10 were United States ships. We were on the Indian Ocean doing our retaliatory strikes when we were told to go into the Persian Gulf to begin potentially the running start to the war. Most of those ships, I had Japanese admirals, I had Australian ships, I had British ships, Italian-Greek ships. Except for the British and the Australians, they were the only ones who went with us. We went into that war having left behind that coalition of the willing that helped us in Afghanistan. We went into that war with less than 10 percent of the troops, non U.S. We went to Bosnia and to the first Desert Storm with over 50 percent U.S. Wrong war. That's hurting our security. Second, we went about it the wrong way.
MR. RUSSERT: What about to Mr. Perle's point, if you get out precipitously, you will say to the terrorists all around the world, the United States will not stay and fight, the United States can be defeated on the war on terror?
REP. SESTAK: No. I disagree, with all due respect. The central front of terror is not in Baghdad. Osama bin Laden has not moved there. The central front, as this bill that is in the House is about to come forth, is in Afghanistan, including Southeast Asia. We have to remain in that region and be strong in our bases in Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, on our carrier battle groups there and our amphibious readiness groups. And we have to then take the time and the effort to go where terrorism is, even as Secretary of Defense Gates said, "Those who are causing the violence are almost exclusively those who live in and are citizens of Iraq." No. We brought this terrorism there. What we need to do-- they are such a little--the main elements we now need to focus elsewhere in this world, and that's why a different strategy that can give us success in Iraq is exactly what's embedded in the House bill.
FMR. REP. DeLAY: But that--I, I got to tell you, Tim, it, it--from their perspective, they are saying it's not a central front, but if you listen to the terrorists and you look at what the terrorists themselves are saying, they claim that Iraq is the central front on the--on the war on terror. We are fighting them, we are going after them where we can find them. Some say that the terrorists are coming to us because we're in Iraq. Wouldn't it be better--isn't it better to fight them there than over here or spread out all over the world? They're coming to fight us there. We are killing--and if you put up the chart of how many terrorists we are killing and how many terrorists we are capturing and how much information we are getting in this war, it, it, it would be a legitimate comparison.
And the biggest question here is, sort of what Richard said, what these two gentlemen fail to understand is the question of then what. Then what? The admiral says, "I want to fight them all over the world." Yeah, we're--we are fighting them all over the world now. It's not--we--we've got people all over the world, in Indonesia, even in Europe and other places, in Africa and others, that we are--we are fighting these terrorists. But the point is, is that it is a central front in a larger war. It's not segregated by Afghanistan, Iraq, Indonesia. It's a new kind of war that we are fighting. And, yes, we're learning how to fight that war. But to pull out and just surrender because it's tough and it's hard is, is not going to support the national security of this country.
REP. SESTAK: But if I might, just on this one point, the issue here is is our strategy working. No. There's been no dent in the violence. In fact, this surge is merely doubling down on a bad military bet.
Or there's this moment:
MR. PERLE: Well, I think it is certainly true that setting a date certain would alter the leverage. Unfortunately, it would alter it in favor of the terrorists. If they know that we're going to leave on a date certain, they will adjust their strategies to take full advantage of that. You have a military career. If you knew the enemy, your enemy was going to retire from the field, wouldn't it affect your strategy, your planning? Of course it will. What a date certain will do is guarantee the defeat to the United States' effort in Iraq. Guarantee it!
REP. SESTAK: Yes, but, Richard, the point here is we're not fighting the terrorists there. Secretary Gates and others have said they're such a small little element that are insurgents from outside. Second, the United States should not just do what terrorists say and follow what they say they're going to do. Take the initiative. Go to where the adversary is--Afghanistan and Southeast Asia and other places. Right now, our Army at home is broken. Not one unit can deploy to a contingency.
MR. PERLE: The shift...
REP. SESTAK: This is hurting our security.
MR. PERLE: The shift in strategy is, what, about 30 days old? You're not going to give it a chance.
REP. SESTAK: We did.
And remember: These are just the network transcripts. You don't get to see Richard Perle sputter with impotent rage in a network transcript. Check out the whole performance here (the Iraq segment begins at around the 16:30 mark.)
(Sen. Chuck Schumer, who's up first on Gonzales and the US Attorney firings, is good too.)
Update: As usual, for the impatient or the high-speed challenged, Crooks and Liars are the go-to guys for the video clip you want: