Thursday, August 24, 2006

McCain Starting To Back Away From Bush On Iraq

Although John McCain will never have to explain his way out of the Iraq conundrum like his fellow Senator John Kerry has had to do, this week he began to distance himself from the Bush administration's pre-war and post-war declarations on how the war would unfold.

"I think one of the biggest mistakes we made was underestimating the size of the task and the sacrifices that would be required," McCain said on NBC's Meet The Press. "Stuff happens, mission accomplished, last throes, a few dead-enders. I'm just more familiar with those statements than anyone else because it grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be."

McCain, obviously, will be declaring his candidacy soon for the Presidency, and like every candidate, he will have to explain to the American public what he will do to get our men and women out of Iraq, with victory and dignity. Like Kerry and Hillary Clinton, McCain supported the decision to go into Iraq, but unlike those two, he has not stated that his vote on war authorization would have been different if he knew then what he knows now about WMD in that country. However, it is unlikely that he and his advisors don't see the increasingly pessimistic polling data that show US citizens beginning to reach a level of weariness over Iraq, Afghanistan and the threat of terror, and that means it's time to start getting into the right political stance. Translation: don't blame the war or the warriors, blame the architects.

"I think it's been well documented now that we didn't have enough (troop strength) there from the beginning, that we allowed the looting, that we did not have control, particularly, of areas, such as in the Sunni Triangle, which led to us paying a very heavy price," said McCain. "We make mistakes in every war, and serious mistakes were made here. The question is, are we going to be able to bring the situation under control now? I still believe we can."

McCain is in a strong position here. He can't be accused of flip-flopping, like Kerry has been, because he's not changing his initial position on the war, but like a majority segment of the public, he still feels some level of success is not only possible but necessary. Otherwise, what will the sacrifice of close to 3000 American troops have meant? "I want to emphasize that we cannot lose this. It will cause chaos in Iraq and in the region, and I still believe that we, we must prevail," said McCain.

The main question that remains is exactly what does prevailing look like? When will we be able to say that our military objectives have been met? Do we really believe that whenever we start to pull out, Iraq, and the region, will be more stable then it was prior to our arrival? Do we really think that the Iraqi military will be sufficiently trained so that, as President Bush loves to say, our troops will be able to stand down as their troops stand up?

"I think they're standing up much better than they were in the past," said McCain. "The question is, is can they do the job completely, and the answer is no. When American troops are with them, they perform far better than by themselves. There are Iraqi battalions which are excellent, there are some that are poor."

There are politicians on both sides of the aisle that want a specific timetable for withdrawal and there are politicians that want us to stay the course. Even the President showed signs of being discouraged at the progress of the war at his press conference this week. "Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated," said Bush. "Rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. This is -- but war is not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times and they're difficult times and they're straining the psyche of our country."

It's that kind of frustration from the Commander in Chief that worries the American public and starts politicians running for the hills looking for cover. Election day will give politicians a better idea what type of cover they need, but right now, John McCain sees the current administration as a liability and he's not going to be shy about pointing fingers.

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