Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"We're fucked"; or, what Maliki's endorsement of Obama's Iraq plan means for McCain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

As you must know by now, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki has publicly endorsed Obama's plan for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.

How is that playing in Republican circles? Er, not well...

Allahpundit at Hot Air: "So discombobulated is Team Maverick that they seem to be spinning in two different directions (while partially redeeming themselves by the pointed use of the term 'inartful' to describe Maliki’s comments). Even so, McCain starts off well here by turning the discussion to Obama's judgment about the surge..."

Paul Mirengoff at Powerline: "This is sort of a teapot tempest, I think. It's easy to understand why Maliki wants to be seen as pressing for the departure of U.S. troops, now that things are going well. Further, it's entirely reasonable for the Bush administration to be talking to Iraq's government about a plan for withdrawing American troops. In fact, it would be rather absurd, given the progress now being made, not to do so.

Andy McCarthy at NRO's The Corner: "As I've mentioned before, Maliki, of the Shiite Dawa Party which opposed the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq in the first place, has long-standing ties to Iran and Syria -- and has expressed support for Hezbollah. The only thing that surprises me about this story is that anyone is surprised."

So here's what's happening. Republicans are:

-- Criticizing Maliki for being "inartful" (after first reporting that the translation of Maliki in German magazine Der Spiegel was inaccurate, and hence that Maliki was misinterpreted, even though the translator works for Maliki -- although Maliki did step back somewhat from his comments, seemingly at the urging of the White House);

-- Attacking Maliki directly;

-- Agreeing with Maliki (but not Obama), while arguing that U.S. military success in Iraq means that withdrawal is now desirable, or at least should be discussed seriously; and/or, of course,

-- Criticizing McCain (and his campaign); and

-- Attacking Obama.

Predictable responses, all of them.

But what do Republicans really think? Maybe this (from Ambinder):

Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, "We're fucked."

Such candor is rare, and I think this "strategist" has it mostly right. Maliki's endorsement of Obama's withdrawal plan, including a timetable, is a terrible development for McCain, one Republicans are trying to spin into attacks on Maliki and Obama, and into their ongoing defence of the Iraq War and Occupation.

They may or may not be fucked, but there is no denying that, so far, Obama's trip is going extremely well. There has been much pushing and shoving in response to Maliki's endorsement, one of the highlights of the campaign so far, but that's only because Republicans from the White House to the McCain campaign to the punditocracy and the blogosphere know just how significant it is.

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