McCain Predicts His Iraq Position Could Cost Him the Election

He may be a 25-year veteran of Washington politics, and he may be a two-time leading GOP presidential candidate, but John McCain apparently still needs to work a bit on his "message discipline" problem.

John McCain said Monday that to win the White House he must convince a war-weary country that U.S. policy in Iraq is succeeding. If he can't, "then I lose. I lose," the Republican said.
He quickly backed off that remark.
"Let me not put it that stark," the likely GOP nominee told reporters on his campaign bus. "Let me just put it this way: Americans will judge my candidacy first and foremost on how they believe I can lead the county both from our economy and for national security. Obviously, Iraq will play a role in their judgment of my ability to handle national security."
"If I may, I'd like to retract 'I'll lose.' But I don't think there's any doubt that how they judge Iraq will have a direct relation to their judgment of me, my support of the surge," McCain added. "Clearly, I am tied to it to a large degree."
Clearly, he is tied to Iraq, which is possibly why he was right the first time.

On the rhetorical point, I find it fascinating that McCain, even now, just blurts out the first thing that comes into his head. No wonder he's gone through so many staffing changes; this is the kind of quality that drives political professionals batty. McCain has been on the campaign trail now for over a year -- and that's just this cycle -- answering questions about, among other things, Iraq. But he can't quite answer a question about what will happen if Americans reject his policy come November? As someone hoping McCain loses, it gives me hope that he has a habit of answering questions one way, and then wanting to give a different answer a few moments later.

On the substantive point, McCain's knee-jerk response might very well have been true. He's running on a platform that, for all intents and purposes, is "stay the course." He doesn't want to change the Bush-Cheney policy in Iraq at all; he believes eventually, it'll work. He not only has no interest in withdrawing, he envisions a scenario in which U.S. troops stay in Iraq for another 100 years.

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