Thursday, July 24, 2008 Larry Elder Obama's Trip: Some Questions Katie, Brian and Charles Should Ask Q: Before your trip to Iraq, you said that you intend to give the military a "new mission" -- all of the combat troops withdrawn within 16 months. Why bother traveling to Iraq and consulting with commanders on the ground, if you've already decided on a new mission? Q: In 2004, you called it unwise to announce a timetable. By 2008, however, you announce a 16-month timetable. Only a few days ago, your top campaign strategist stated that you were "not wedded" to that timetable. The next day, you reiterated your 16-month timetable, but added it's important not to "undo" our gains. Isn't this confusing? Q: On Iran, you criticized Bush for leaving all options on the table up to and including a "military option." And during the campaign season, you criticized Sen. Clinton for voting to call the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terror organization. But you later said that, as to Iran, all military options are on the table, and said that you consider the Revolutionary Guard a terror organization. Did the facts change or the politics change? Q: You announced support for a two-state solution between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. The next day, you reversed course, leaving the disposition of Jerusalem a matter to be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Can you clarify? Q: You said you would sit down, without preconditions, with leaders like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran and Kim Jong Il of North Korea. You later agreed to hold such talks only under prearranged conditions. You further stated that such talks would occur only when and if you choose to hold them. Again, please clarify. Q: You point to Kennedy's 1961 summit with Khrushchev, held without preconditions. But Kennedy's secretary of State, Dean Rusk, advised against the meeting, and Kennedy later declared the talks a disaster. Many historians say that Khrushchev sized up Kennedy as a novice, which emboldened Khrushchev in building the Berlin Wall and in putting missiles in Cuba. Is it wise to hold up the Kennedy/Khrushchev summit as a model? Q: The Canadians recently agreed to accept 550 tons of yellowcake from Iraq. The Associated Press called it the remaining portion of Saddam Hussein's "nuclear program." David Kay, the weapons hunter, found no stockpiles of WMD, but maintained that Saddam Hussein possessed the intent and capacity to restart his chemical and biological program following the lifting of sanctions. Was President Bush, therefore, correct in saying that Saddam posed a "grave and gathering threat"? Q: Before you joined the Senate, you said that you opposed this war. But you later said that you understood how and why your Senate colleagues voted for the war, that they were "privy" to national security information you did not have. You also said the vote must have been "difficult." Your nomination opponents Dodd, Biden, Edwards and Clinton -- all in the Senate at the time -- voted for the war. How can you be so certain that had you been in the Senate, you would have voted against the war? Q: Some argue that if the United States does not attack Iran before they get a nuclear weapon, Israel will. Do you believe this is true? If so, what will the U.S. do, especially since many will blame the U.S. anyway? Q: In stating your intention to end the Iraq war, you say it costs $10 billion per month. But you, as does John McCain, intend to leave a "residual force." Can you give us the size of that force, and provide a cost estimate? Q: Since the surge, 15 of the 18 benchmarks have been met. The Sunnis, who boycotted Parliament, have now rejoined it. Polls show Iraqis more optimistic about their country's future than Americans are about ours. At the provincial level, oil revenues are being shared, and Iraq's oil production is at a postwar high. But for the surge, wouldn't things in Iraq now be substantially worse? Q: You opposed the Iraq war and the surge. If you had gotten your way, wouldn't al-Maliki and other members of the Iraqi government, with whom you have met, be in exile, in jail or dead? Q: New York Times reporter John Burns estimates that under Saddam Hussein -- through war and terror -- up to a million Iraqis may have died. Is the world better off without Saddam Hussein? Q: We have not been hit on American soil in the seven years since 9/11. In the last five years, no major American facility in the entire world has sustained a terror attack. Does President Bush deserve any credit for this? Q: Estimates for the monetary cost of 9/11 range from $600 billion to $1 trillion. Is it not possible, just possible, that Bush's actions -- including beefing up Homeland Security, the Patriot Act, increased surveillance, and especially the war in Iraq -- have prevented another 9/11?