Marc Ambinder has the best analysis of the devastating impact of Nouri al-Maliki’s statements to McCain’s arguments about Iraq:
This could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq’s Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there’s no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot: what’s left to argue? to argue against Maliki would be to predicate that Iraqi sovereignty at this point means nothing. Obviously, our national interests aren’t equivalent to Iraq’s, but… Malik isn’t listening to the generals on the ground…but the “hasn’t been to Iraq” line doesn’t work here.
Team McCain follows up with this statement:
“His domestic politics require him to be for us getting out,” said a senior McCain campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The military says ‘conditions based’ and Maliki said ‘conditions based’ yesterday in the joint statement with Bush. Regardless, voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.”
Even granting the premise that Maliki’s statements are purely about Iraqi domestic politics, all this amounts to is the fact that Barack Obama’s plan for Iraq is, according to both the Maliki government and the McCain campaign’s analysis, the only way forward that’s politically viable in Iraq. Meanwhile of course the US military has more credibility with the American people than does the Iraqi government, but given the particulars of this case it’s just a no brainer that if the Iraqi government doesn’t want us to stay we have to leave. McCain even said so himself before conceding the point became damaging to his campaign.