Speaking in Cleveland earlier today, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) defended President Bush, saying he should not be held responsible for the “Mission Accomplished” banner that was visible aboard the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln when Bush declared that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended” on May 1, 2003:
“Do I blame him for that specific banner? I can’t,” McCain said. “But I do say that statements are made, ‘a few dead-enders,’ ‘last throes,’ those are, as opposed to the banner, direct statements which were contradicted by the facts on the ground.”
McCain then said of the banner: “I thought it was wrong at the time.” But while the White House has actually acknowledged making an error, McCain himself used the term “mission accomplished” when talking about the Iraq war on at least two occasions in 2003:
– “Their morale could not be higher. This is a mission accomplished. They know how much influence Saddam Hussein had on the Iraqi people, how much more difficult it made to get their cooperation.” [This Week, ABC, 12/14/03]
– During an appearance on Fox News, host Neil Cavuto said, “many argue the conflict isn’t over.” McCain answered, “Well, then why was there a banner that said mission accomplished on the aircraft carrier? Look, the — I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long, difficult process, but the conflict — the major conflict is over, the regime change has been accomplished.” [FOX, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 6/11/03]
Because McCain is running for president while an unpopular war –- which he supports — is raging in Iraq, it seems he must both defend Bush on “mission accomplished” and, at same time, distance himself from it. But despite McCain’s similar rhetoric on the war “at the time,” Washington Post reporter Michael Abramowitz seemed happy to help McCain in his effort during a “Post Politics Hour” web chat today on washingtonpost.com:
ABRAMOWITZ: I think McCain will certainly be attacked over the war during the campaign but I doubt that he will be blamed for “Mission Accomplished” because he was always more sober than than the White House about progress in Iraq.
Here are some of McCain’s past assessments of the Iraq war that, according to Abramowitz, have been “more sober” than Bush’s:
– “I believe that this conflict is still going to be relatively short.” [NBC, 3/30/03]
–- “It’s clear that the end is very much in sight.” [ABC, 4/9/03]
–- “I think the situation on the ground is going to improve,” he says. “I do think that progress is being made in a lot of Iraq. Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course. If I thought we weren’t making progress, I’d be despondent.” [The Hill, 12/8/05]
Someday the media will realize that a McCain presidency will actually be a “third Bush term.”
On May 22, 2003, McCain proclaimed “massive victory” in Iraq.