John McCain is worried about violence in Iraq, but not just for the obvious reason.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday he fears that al Qaeda or another extremist group might attempt spectacular attacks in Iraq to try to tilt the U.S. election against him.
McCain, at a town hall meeting in this Philadelphia suburb, was asked if he had concerns that anti-American militants in Iraq might ratchet up their activities in Iraq to try to increase casualties in September or October and tip the November election against him.
“Yes, I worry about it,” McCain said. “And I know they pay attention because of the intercepts we have of their communications.”
As Greg Sargent responded, “You know, I keep hearing from Republican pundits and operatives that the specter of terrorism inevitably bolsters the electoral prospects of Republicans. But here McCain says that Al Qaeda would amp up their attacks in Iraq to hurt him. Hard to keep track of this stuff sometimes.”
It is, indeed. I’d just add, however, that I suspect this is an effort to lay the groundwork for future campaign talking points.
McCain, I suspect, is not oblivious to current events, and is well aware that violence and casualty rates in Iraq are rising again. Having staked his claim to the presidency on the so-called “surge” policy, McCain’s already precarious political position gets worse as Iraq’s semblance of stability fades (along with the prospect of progress on political reconciliation).
So, McCain needs an insurance policy. If conditions on the ground in Iraq offer some optimism, he can tell voters, “See? I was right; all we need to do is stay the course and reap the rewards.” If conditions are deteriorating, he can tell voters, “See? I was right; our enemies are acting up to influence the U.S. elections. They’re afraid I’ll win and keep Bush’s policy going indefinitely, so they’re sending a message.”
Heads I win, tails you lose.