There is no mistaking the anguish of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Sitting in his Senate office, he is uncharacteristically subdued, his voice at times almost inaudible.
Although the Bush administration this week finally embraced his long-standing call to send more troops to Iraq, McCain believes the way it has handled the war "will go down as one of the worst" mistakes in the history of the American military.
"One of the most frustrating things that's ever happened in my political life," he said, "is watching this train wreck."
McCain, an all but announced presidential candidate, offered those assessments toward the end of a lengthy interview Thursday night. No politician in the United States is more clearly identified with President Bush's new policy, and no politician has more to lose if it fails. Democratic opponents have already coined a name for the troop "surge": the McCain Doctrine.
Personally, I think the blogosphere deserves credit for that framing. Actually it was this little tidbit in the article that stuck in my throat:
His advisers dismiss suggestions that McCain has shrewdly left himself room to argue that Bush's plan for more troops was not substantial or sustained enough to ensure success. They, like the possible candidate, see the perils of his position -- but potential benefits as well.
"At the core of the issue is who he is, and that's what generates his popularity," said Rick Davis, one of McCain's top political advisers. "It's that he puts principle ahead of politics, that he tells it like he sees it regardless of the political ramifications."