Obviously, a political gimmick is what a political gimmick is, but there’s really something very strange about the conceit that flying to Iraq and taking a guided tour courtesy of the U.S. military is the best way to learn about the country. I went to Spain for a week once, saw the central parts of Madrid and took some day trips to noteworthy towns that were easily accessible by train, but to answer even very basic question about Spain like “how wealthy is this country?” or “how many immigrants live here?” you need to look up the data not wander around. The McCain approach leads to a lot of incidents like this, “McCain’s claim that Mosul is “quiet” was disproved earlier today in grim fashion. Three suicide bombings — two in Mosul and another in a surrounding town — left 30 Iraqis dead and more than two dozen injured, according to press reports.”
Of course we can expect to hear more about this and about related things like McCain using General Petraeus in fundraising appeals, since turning MNF-Iraq into an extension of the McCain is a pretty appealing tactic. Active duty officers will try to avoid getting dragged into the political fray, but the Bush administration has repeatedly shown that it can be done easily enough, and active duty generals are hard surrogates for Obama to push back against.