McCain Tries To Distance Himself From A Debacle Of His Own Making
As some of you may have noted, I’ve been away for almost a week and a half as my wife and I relocated our daughter down to SoCal for college these last two weeks. I’ll have more to write on that later, and will resume regular blogging hopefully by Friday. But I wanted to stick my toe back in the water today in a small way by noting that John McCain saw a need yesterday to begin distancing himself from Bush on Iraq. Sure, McCain still refuses to admit that he is advocating a "stay the course" position that is opposed by over 60% of the public, and yes, McCain and Joe Lieberman want to be seen as the grown ups on Iraq while dismissing their opponents as amateurs. But isn’t it interesting that McCain has chosen now to begin distancing himself from Bush on Iraq by blaming the White House for selling the war as a cakewalk, when in fact McCain has been just as much a cheerleader for this war as Cheney? What has changed recently?
Well, first, as Chris Matthews noted yesterday, the GOP is tanking in the polls on Iraq right now, months before the midterms, sending McCain a message that his party may be in tatters by the time he arrives on a white horse to save it in 2007. Second, McCain has seen his good buddy Lieberman get a wake-up call for his similar support for the war. And lastly, as Matthews noted, perhaps McCain was nauseated by Bush’s in-your-face performance earlier in the week, acting in a cavalier way about the price that is being paid by our soldiers for Rummy and Cheney’s negligence. And as this cabal readies for another disaster in Iran, perhaps McCain is sending a message that he won’t be playing along as a loyal ball-licker this time, especially since it will be hard for McCain to clean up two messes in 2009 rather than one. Yet both McCain and Lieberman cannot escape blame for their role in foisting Iraq upon the country, and no amount of spin from McCain about displeasure with Bush over Iraq will hide the fact that both he and his buddy Joe have adopted Bush and Cheney's chapter-and-verse argument about why we need to stay in Iraq and further the mistake at the cost of more lives.
It is also quite possible that McCain can read the polls and notices that Americans no longer buy the central argument that Rove was running on this fall, which was that Iraq and the war on terror are the same. McCain wants to walk away from Iraq and change the subject. And there may be a big reason for that: McCain is positioning himself for the option of running independently of not only the Bush Administration, but from the GOP itself. You'll remember that the immediate whine from Lieberman when confronted with his loss was a fallacious claim that he was the victim of Democratic overpartisanship, and that what he represented was a more righteous politics of bipartisanship, as if Lieberman hadn't been paying attention to what brand of politics Bush and Rove have been practicing these last six years. There are some Democratic operatives inside the Beltway and many pundits who want to ignore the GOP's smashmouth politics and bask in the warm embrace of a McCain-Lieberman unity ticket in 2008, where the travesties of the last six years are cemented into place as the starting point for a bipartisanship without accountability. McCain and Lieberman are sending signals that an acceptance of the Iraq debacle would be a key point in a bipartisan platform of "forgive and forget" can't-we-all-now-get-along-after-we-have-destroyed-the-country new politics. And this separation from Bush of late may very well be McCain's first attempt at mounting that white horse he envisions for himself as he tries to escape his own accountability.