June 10, 2008

After over a year of campaigning, you’d think John McCain would have a sense about how to talk about the war in Iraq. His support for the president’s policy, and his deeply held desire to stay the course, is, after all, his signature campaign issue.

And yet, McCain still doesn’t get it.

To be sure, McCain has made comments like these before, most notably in response to questions about his stated willingness to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years. He frequently emphasizes his belief that as long as Americans are not being killed or seriously injured in Iraq, he doesn’t much care when we leave.

But he’s usually not this clumsy and politically tone deaf. Bringing the troops home is “not too important”? For thousands of Americans in uniform and their families, nothing is more important.

In fact, everything about McCain’s bizarre worldview is misguided. First, as recently as Monday, McCain reiterated his support for an indefinite war in Iraq. Coupled with this morning’s remarks, McCain believes the U.S. presence in Iraq has no end in sight, and bringing the troops home is “not too important.”

Second, his repeated comparisons to Germany, Japan, and Korea are not just foolish, they’re bordering on absurd. The more McCain makes the argument, the dumber it sounds. (Indeed, McCain himself has said his own comparison doesn’t apply well to Iraq.)

And third, there’s the pesky detail of the growing number of Iraqi officials who used to support a long-term U.S. security presence, but who are now ready to see Americans leave.

Officials in Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s ruling coalition are questioning whether Iraq needs a U.S. military presence even as the two countries press forward with high-pressure negotiations to determine how long American forces will remain. […]

A Western official who works closely with the Iraqi government said the wave of offensives had encouraged Maliki’s advisors to dismiss U.S. demands as not worth the price.

“When faced with the question, ‘Do we need the Americans?’ they are inclined to say, ‘No, what do we need them for? We can do just fine,’ ” said the official, who was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Haider al-Abadi, a parliament member from Maliki’s Dawa party, told the WaPo, “Maybe the Iraqi government will say: ‘Hey, the security situation is better. We don’t need any more troops in Iraq.’”

And yet, there’s John McCain, absolutely convinced that the withdrawal of U.S. troops is “not too important.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement shortly after this morning’s interview: “McCain’s statement today that withdrawing troops doesn’t matter is a crystal clear indicator that he just doesn’t get the grave national-security consequences of staying the course – Osama bin Laden is freely plotting attacks, our efforts in Afghanistan are undermanned, and our military readiness has been dangerously diminished. We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war.”

Expect other Dems to weigh in with similar criticism throughout the day. For that matter, expect to hear more about McCain’s latest comments for the next five months.

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