The "100 Years" War

A campaign blog.
April 1 2008 2:25 PM

The "100 Years" War

You know when you say something, and the moment you say it, you know it was a bad idea? Democrats are trying to make John McCain’s " Make it 100 years " quote sound like that kind of moment—a gaffe of enormous proportions that he will never live down.

Barack Obama pushed this argument during a press conference yesterday, jousting with a reporter who pointed out that Obama planned to keep troops in Iraq to protect the embassy. "That’s very different from saying that we’re gonna have a permanent occupation in Iraq," Obama responded. "And it’s certainly different from saying that we would have a high level of combat troops inside Iraq for a decade or two decades or as John McCain said, perhaps 100 years."


Obama didn’t dispute that McCain’s "100 years" reference was analogous to a long-term presence in South Korea—a fact that has made news . But he still disagreed that the United States would want to keep that many troops in Iraq for that long. (The U.S. still has 25,000 troops stationed in South Korea.)

To clear things up, here's video of Obama's initial "100 years" quote. And here’s what McCain said on Face the Nation , in his big-budget sequel to the "100 years" quote:

The point is, it’s [about] American casualties. We got to get Americans off the front lines, have Iraqis as part of the strategy to take over more and more of the responsibilities, and then I don’t think Americans are concerned if we’re there for 100 years or 1,000 years or 10,000 years. What they care about is the sacrifice of our most precious treasure, and that’s American blood.

In context, McCain’s statements seem clear: He doesn’t want the war to continue for 100 years. But he’s willing to keep a few brigades there as long as they’re not getting killed. Granted, he won’t say under what circumstances he would be willing to pull out of Iraq—a major hole in his analysis. But for Obama and others to paint McCain’s stance as a war without end doesn’t quite hold up. Plus, it gives McCain yet another chance to paint Obama as a neophyte .

Still, the opportunity to fudge the "100 years" quote is almost too good to pass up. It’s one of those statements the nuances of which ultimately don’t matter—like Al Gore saying he invented the Internet or John Kerry’s joke about failing students getting "stuck in Iraq." Whether or not Obama decides to seize on it, other Democrats no doubt will.

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.


Justice Ginsburg’s Crucial Dissent in the Texas Voter ID Case

Even When They Go to College, the Poor Sometimes Stay Poor

Here’s Just How Far a Southern Woman May Have to Drive to Get an Abortion

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?


Sprawl, Decadence, and Environmental Ruin in Nevada

Space: The Next Generation

An All-Female Mission to Mars

As a NASA guinea pig, I verified that women would be cheaper to launch than men.

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 3:53 PM Smash and Grab Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?
Continuously Operating
Oct. 20 2014 3:40 PM Keeping It in the Family Why are so many of the world’s oldest companies in Japan?
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 5:03 PM Marcel the Shell Is Back and as Endearing as Ever
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.