Following Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s declaration of support for a 16-month withdrawal timeline from Iraq, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been struggling to respond. He spent most of this week railing against any “artificial timetable” for withdrawal from Iraq, vaguely insisting that the U.S. will withdraw only “with victory”:
“[Obama showed] ‘a remarkable failure to understand the facts on the ground’ by continuing to call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq on a fixed timetable.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/24/08]
“An artificial timetable based on political expediency would have led to disaster and could still turn success into defeat,” Mr. McCain said. [New York Times, 7/19/08]
McCAIN: So the fact is that we have succeeded. We are winning. They’ll come home with honor. And it won’t be just at a set timetable. [CBS interview, 7/22/08]
But in an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer today, McCain seemed to endorse the idea of a timetable. When asked if Maliki would “persist” in requesting a 16-month withdrawal timetable from Iraq, McCain responded, “He won’t. … I know him.” McCain then praised Maliki’s 16-month timetable:
BLITZER: So why do you think he said that 16 months is basically a pretty good timetable?
McCAIN: He said it’s a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground. I think it’s a pretty good timetable, as we should — or horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground.
Indeed, as McCain told former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney during a presidential debate in January: “Timetables was the buzzword for those that wanted to get out.”