Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has long held that he was the “greatest critic” of Donald Rumsfeld’s strategy in Iraq. Now, as he moves into the general election, he is also trying to distance himself from the unpopular president.
When asked yesterday how he is offering a different path forward in Iraq than Bush, McCain dodged the question, instead saying he had “no confidence” in Bush until the President implemented the surge in 2007:
I’m offering them the record of having objected strenuously to a failed strategy for nearly four years. That I argued against and fought against and said that the secretary of defense of my own party, and my own president, I had no confidence in. That’s how far I went in advocating the new strategy that is succeeding.
McCain’s statement stretches the truth. As late as August 2006, McCain declared that he did have “confidence” in Bush’s leadership in Iraq:
Q: Do you, do you have confidence in the president and his national security team to lead the war at this stage?
McCAIN: I do. I do. I have confidence in the President and I believe that he is well aware of the severity of the situation. [Meet The Press, 8/20/06]
McCain told reporters yesterday he “objected strenuously to a failed strategy for nearly four years.” If this were the case, why would he also praise Bush’s “stay the course” message over that time?
— “I was heartened to hear the President say that we cannot cut and run in Iraq.” [Press Release, 11/5/03]
— “I’m confident we’re on the right course.” [ABC News, 3/7/04]
— “And what the president did tonight is the most important thing. He laid out an articulate vision for victory in Iraq and why we need to stay the course.” [Fox, 6/28/05]
McCain can try as much as he wants to distance himself from Bush on Iraq, but as the President observed just weeks ago, “he’s not going to change when it comes to taking on the enemy.”