Posted by Joe Klein |
John McCain said this in Rochester, New Hampshire:
This is a clear choice that the American people have. I had the courage and the judgment to say I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.
This is the ninth presidential campaign I've covered. I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. It smacks of desperation. It renews questions about whether McCain has the right temperament for the presidency. How sad.
Scurrility Update: Readers should note that I said that I can't remember a more scurrilous statement by a major party candidate. Smart politicians leave the scurrilous stuff to their aides; in fact, a McCain spokesman expressed these words almost exactly on July 14. There is a reason why politicians who want to be President don't say these sort of things: It isn't presidential. A President exists in the straitjacket of literality. His words mean something. So John McCain has to literally believe that Barack Obama would "rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign." I can't imagine that he does. He popped off, out of frustration.
The reality is that neither Barack Obama nor Nouri al-Maliki nor most anybody else believes that the Iraq war can be "lost" at this point. The reality is that no matter who is elected President, we are looking at a residual U.S. force of 30-50,000 by 2011 (a year ahead of the previous schedule). The reality is that McCain should be proud that he helped salvage a disastrous situation by pushing the counterinsurgency plan. It's something to run on. But, at this point, McCain must sense that it's not a winning hand. Obama, the poker player, has drawn to an inside straight: the Iraqis favor his plan over McCain's long-term bases. That must be galling. But it's no excuse to pop off the way McCain did. It was, shockingly, unpresidential.