McCain And The Surge. Bush And Homeland Security.

Ironically, one of the reasons George Bush’s approval rating is so low is that he has done such a fantastic job of protecting America from terrorist attacks since 9/11.

After 9/11, if you had told people that Bush would prevent another major terrorist attack against the US for nearly seven years and would have an approval rating under 30%, they’d have thought it was crazy.

However, because Bush has done such an incredible job, most people have gotten complacent. They’ve deluded themselves into believing that: Al-Qaeda is no longer a serious threat, we don’t need tough security measures, and that Bush really doesn’t deserve a lot of credit for keeping another 9/11 from occurring.

Well, Jonah Goldberg is making a similar argument about Iraq and the surge,

But the tragic Catch-22 for the Arizona senator is that the more the surge succeeds, the more politically advantageous it is for Obama.

Voters don’t care about the surge; they care about the war. Americans want it to be over — and in a way they can be proud of.

Richard Nixon didn’t win in 1968 by second-guessing LBJ about the mess in Vietnam; he ran on getting us out with honor. McCain is great talking about honor, but the getting-us-out part is where he gets tongue-tied. Obama, meanwhile, talks about getting out of Iraq as though Americans don’t care about honor. That may have worked for him in the early primaries, but it won’t in the general election. Americans don’t like to lose wars.

Politically, the surge is a bit like the Supreme Court’s recent decision affirming the constitutional right to own a gun. Obama’s position on gun rights, a miasma of murky equivocation, would hurt him if gun control were a big issue this year. It isn’t, thanks to the high court’s ruling. That’s a huge boon.

The surge has done likewise with the war. If it were going worse, McCain’s Churchillian rhetoric would match reality more. But with sectarian violence nearly gone, Al Qaeda in Iraq almost totally routed and even Shiite Sadrist militias seemingly neutralized, the stakes of withdrawal seem low enough for Americans to feel comfortable voting for Obama. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki’s support for an American troop drawdown undoubtedly pushes the perceived stakes even lower.

…Although the economy will dominate this election, McCain can still press his advantage on foreign policy. But not with I-told-you-sos. Re-arguing the surge is almost as counterproductive as re-arguing the war itself. Elections are about the future.

McCain doesn’t need to explain why he’d be a better commander in chief. Voters already acknowledge his superior judgment on foreign policy by huge margins. He needs to explain why, going forward, we’ll need that judgment.

I don’t think the surge is politically irrelevant, since clearly McCain deserves a lot of credit for supporting it early on and Obama, who has very little relevant experience, showed very bad judgment as well in opposing it.

That being said, if the American people believe that Iraq will hold together even if we do set a timeline, it will move votes to Obama. Winning is the most important thing, but getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible comes in a close second and most Americans, if they thought it was feasible, would prefer to have a timeline.

That means that on Iraq, which is a major issue in this campaign, McCain needs to either spend more time fleshing out the case that Obama’s plan will lead to a collapse in Iraq or alternately, he needs to spend more time emphasizing that he will get the troops out as quickly as the situation allows.

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