Mr. McCain has entered a pivotal period in what he now sardonically describes as his “lean and mean” campaign, faced with unexpected opportunities but also huge obstacles, two months after many of his supporters had all but written off his campaign, riven with debt and staff dissension. At stop after stop, he has seized on General Petraeus’s report as a validation not only of the so-called surge strategy in Iraq but also of his argument, made long before the White House came to the same conclusion, that victory in Iraq required many more troops there.McCain's long been my favorite for the presidency in 2008, but I've been one of those GOP supporters who've bowed to reality and begun to weigh the alternatives.
But even as he lashes his presidential campaign that much tighter to the war in Iraq, Mr. McCain is seeking to decouple his fortunes from those of Mr. Bush, in the latest chapter of a 10-year relationship that has been at times tortured, at times cordial, at times symbiotic.
So it is that Mr. McCain sprinkles his speeches not with references to Mr. Bush but to General Petraeus, a shift that not only mirrors the White House strategy of putting the military out front but also symbolically encapsulates a recognition of what many Republicans consider to have been a fundamental mistake of Mr. McCain in his candidacy: trying to present himself as Mr. Bush’s anointed successor and ideological heir.
The situation demands that Mr. McCain maintain a balance between continuing to embrace a defining characteristic of Mr. Bush’s presidency, his dogged insistence on fighting on in Iraq, even as he distances himself from the administration. He lauds General Petraeus, portraying him as a hero to cheering crowds — “thank God America is blessed with that kind of leadership,” he said in Sioux City — but also excoriates Donald H. Rumsfeld, the former defense secretary, for the way he led the war.
The goal seems to be to acknowledge both public distress over the war and concerns even among Republicans about the White House’s competence without directly assailing Mr. Bush himself, a step that could still alienate the most loyal of the party’s voters, those who tend to turn out in primaries....At the very least, the confluence of two campaigns — one by Mr. Bush and his supporters to rally public support for the war, and the other by Mr. McCain to effectively jump-start his candidacy — has won Mr. McCain a burst of new attention in the early primary states.
Thus, I'm pleased McCain's doing much better. I've noted on occasion that I'm pretty much a single-issue voter on the war. Few candidates can claim the credibility and legitimacy on Iraq as can McCain. I think he'd make a fine president, and questions regarding McCain's age and health don't bother me.
For one of the more powerful statements on the goodness of our cause in Iraq, please read or re-read McCain's speech at the New School University, May 2006.