Tuesday, March 18, 2008

McCain's Iraq Problem

Do we believe that John McCain is the candidate best qualified to end the Iraqi conflict as quickly and responsibly as possible? Yes.

Do we believe that ending the Iraqi conflict as quickly and responsibly as possible is one of the most important tasks facing the next President? Yes.

Do we think that the American "surge" in Iraq has worked on the security side? And do we think that American troops should remain in large number in Iraq until the Iraqi government has worked out the bulk of its political problems? Yes and we broke it, we bought it.

Do we believe that most truly undecided voters in most swing states feel about the same way about Iraq that we do? Yes. Kicking and screaming. But yes.

That's not John McCain's problem with Iraq.

John McCain's problem with Iraq is that as American casualties come down and most of the spectacular suicide attacks are stopped, the war is disappearing as an issue that undecideds will vote on.

That doesn't make the situation "right". It doesn't mean that people aren't still dying. It doesn't mean that the war is not still of huge importance. It simply means that the American public is starting to tune the conflict out.

Voters have limited bandwidth (everyone does), and right now their concern about the war is being replaced by their concerns about the economy/energy prices/health care.

Success in Iraq (and we know many will shudder at the term "success" after 4+ years of arrogant blundering) has political consequences back home (just as the arrogant blundering did).

McCain is fond of saying that he would rather "win a war and lose an election" than "lose a war and win an election". And we have zero doubt that there is no one happier than he (for all the right reasons) that America is finally making some good progress in Iraq.

But that doesn't mean that we wouldn't like to hear Senator McCain talk a lot more about his very good plans to balance the budget, bring more transparency to the federal government, tackle global warming and help fix the health care mess.

Because that's what people are starting to talk about around America's kitchen tables.

h/t Master Sgt. Andy Dunaway/U.S. Air Force for the pic