McCain Exaggerates Troop Drawdown

In a townhall, McCain falsely claims troops are down to pre-surge levels.

Yesterday at a townhall meeting in Wisconsin, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) claimed that troops in Iraq are already down to “pre-surge levels”:

So I can tell you that it is succeeding. I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr city are quiet and it’s long and it’s hard and it’s tough and there will be setbacks.
This assertion is wrong. There are now 155,000 troops in Iraq — far above the 130,000 before the surge.

But today on a conference call with reporters, the McCain campaign tried to dismiss this factually inaccurate statement. “So what?” said Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), a strong McCain supporter. “What does that amount to?” He added that McCain just “misspoke.” According to adviser Randy Scheunemann, McCain meant to say that troops will be eventually drawn down to pre-surge levels. From his response to the AP’s Liz Sidoti:

SIDOTI: Randy, I’m a little confused here. If the question is over the tense of the statement, why is he not wrong?

RANDY: If the question is, are we drawing down to pre-surge levels? The answer is, yes. If the question is, have we drawn down? The answer is, yes. Liz, I don’t know how to make it any clearer than that. […]

SIDOTI: He said, “We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.” And what you’re saying is, we will have drawn down to pre-surge levels by June — or, I’m sorry, by July. He was speaking in the present tense: “We have drawn down to pre-surge levels.”

RANDY: And if we want to talk about verb tenses, we can talk about verb tenses. Everybody knows — it’s been publicly announced since before April — Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker testified about it extensively. It is very well-known where we are in the surge force levels and that we are drawing down to pre-surge levels. That has not been fully completed yet, but will be completed within no more than 60 days.