According to Thiessen, the Cairo speech did a disservice to "our military," specifically when Obama said, "Just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles -- 9/11 led us to act contrary to our principles." Ware disagreed with that contention. And what's interesting about Ware's responses throughout the debate is the way he identifies Thiessen's argument as an airy, ivory-tower piece of sophistry that bears no practical relationship to the world of actual military personnel stationed overseas. Moreover, he seemed to understand the practicality of delivering a speech to a Muslim audience, and he repeatedly disputed the notion that the troops need a requisite number of shout-outs in speeches to feel better about themselves.
WARE: I would argue that President Obama and Cairo was not giving a Republican candidate's stump speech on the campaign trail. I mean, one needs to be aware of one's audience.
Now, the Arab Muslim world has its own firsthand appreciation of the U.S. military and intelligence community and its sons who are in Guantanamo, for better or for worse. And Guantanamo exists in its own right. I don't think we need to defend the merits of that here.
Paying lip service to the troops who have been serving there honorably anyway, to the grunts who are in the field, bleeding and sweating, I don't think is going to play in a Muslim audience. I don't think that's what they were there to hear. I don't think the troops in the field or at Guantanamo need to be treated like such needy children, that they need someone to stroke their hand in every speech.
The difference, to my mind, is that you have one person talking about "the troops" as if they were abstract political ideas, and another person talking about them as if they were flesh and blood human beings.
Of course, this exchange, in which Thiessen hilariously draws an equivalence between himself and American combat forces, is also worth highlighting:
WARE: (INAUDIBLE) your article but the problem is you're not talking to a Veterans of Foreign Wars evening dinner. You're talking to the Arab or the Muslim world.
WARE: And to be honest, they don't feel terribly liberated by the U.S. military. Now, you and I might have views of that.
THIESSEN: Well, that's why the president has a responsibility to say something.
WARE: You and I may have our view of that. But when there's American tanks sitting in the Arab streets, when they see the killings in Afghanistan from our bombings, though they're not intended, that's not how they feel. When they see what happened in Abu Ghraib --
THIESSEN: The vast majority of Afghans support Americans --
WARE: You got to understand -- you got to understand, Marc, I mean, it might feel different in the ivory towers in the Capitol Hill and the Pentagon. But on the streets -- on the streets --
THIESSEN: Excuse me, I've been to Iraq and Afghanistan four times in each of those countries so I know what it's like in the Arab streets. I've been there.
WARE: Oh, I'm sorry. You spend how much time in Iraq?
THIESSEN: Oh, listen --
WARE: No, no, no, how much time, Marc? How much time, Marc?
THIESSEN: I've traveled -- oh, I know you lived there.
WARE: Right, I lived there for six years, right? I know the problem that President Obama is trying to address.
WARE: And I can tell you, I've spent more time in the trenches with your troops than I can guarantee you have. And I'm speaking for your soldiers.
THIESSEN: Michael, let me tell you something.
WARE: And I'm telling you, they don't need platitudes. They need a solution.
THIESSEN: I was under fire too. I was in the Pentagon in September 11, 2001 with our troops so don't tell me about being under fire with the troops.
Personally speaking, I found it amusing and heartening to see Ware react to the staged set-up of this presentation with such obvious disdain. Dig the hilarious look Ware gives as he's told about the rules governing the "opening statements," and stick around to the end, where he and host Campbell Brown have this exchange:
BROWN: I love it. Guys, thank you so much. It was a great debate, Marc and Michael.
WARE: Oh, I hardly use the word "great," Campbell.