CBS’ Bob Schieffer talked with Roger Simon about a New York Times report that the Bush administration may be considering additional troop withdrawals before the American election in November.
SCHIEFFER: Joining us now with a campaign quick check, Roger Simon, the chief political columnist of Politico and our old friend. Roger, what do you make of this? Suddenly we’re talking about drawing out more troops out of Iraq and before the November election. Now you just heard Ed Gillespie say this has kind of always been in the works. I suppose, well, that is right. But suddenly they’re starting to talk about it. What do you make of it?
SIMON: It may be an October surprise in July. I think anything that signals that the war in Iraq is genuinely winding down would be good news for John McCain. He has always said he wants to leave Iraq too but he wants to leave it with victory and honor. If a drawdown of troops is seen to be militarily justified because we’re winning because the the surge is working and not a political trickery because Republicans need it for the fall elections, I think that is likely to be effective. As you accurately pointed out, this may be a shifting of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan but even that, fighting in Afghanistan is just less politically charged than fighting in Iraq. Afghanistan is the country from where the 9/11 attacks were launched, where there is a clear linkage with our military operations there in fighting terrorism, a linkage which never really existed in Iraq. It is a more acceptable war, if you will, to the American people.
SCHIEFFER: Do you find it somewhat ironic that now it is the Iraqis who are saying they want a timetable?
SIMON: I think all countries that find themselves with large numbers of U.S. forces on the ground have difficulty. No government wants to be seen to be propped up by foreign troops. This is the difficulty of the Maliki government. As we’ve seen in country after country, if you’re not a popular government, if you don’t really have the support of the people. There are not enough American troops in the world to keep you in power. And America no longer has the kind of stomach for that kind of adventurism. I am sure Maliki has to promise his people that there has to be an end sometime to American troops and frankly America wants Iraqi troops to step up and defend their own country.
This video is from CBS’s Face the Nation, broadcast July 13, 2008.