Back in early 2007, John McCain inextricably linked his chances of becoming the next president to the course of the Iraq war and the success of the surge in troops that he advocated and President Bush adopted. It was, to say the least, a politically risky decision. At the time, Iraq was a dead weight on all the GOP candidates. The war’s unpopularity alone seemed capable of ensuring a Democratic victory in 2008.
Eighteen months later, McCain’s prospects are still inextricably linked to Iraq and the surge. And if there’s a single issue his campaign wants to promote as proof of McCain’s judgment and his fitness to be commander-in-chief, it’s his advocacy of the surge. Here, in the Washington Times, is an extensive chronicle of McCain and the surge, complete with the revelation that he sent a three-page letter to Bush urging the president to back the surge after the 2006 mid-term elections.
The account is told entirely from the point of view of the McCain campaign and its allies. And it leaves out most of McCain’s fervent pre-invasion support for toppling Saddam and the lavish praise he heaped on Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in the first months of the war. There is no examination of those judgments — the ones the Obama camapign wants voters to remember most.
The war remains deeply unpopular. And yet McCain is making his support for it a centerpiece of his campaign. It’s a narrative we’ll be hearing about constantly from now through Nov. 4.