In recent weeks, there has been interminable talk about how John McCain’s Presidential hopes could be over because of his position on Iraq. While I see that McCain’s position on Iraq could be a threat to his candidacy, I think that the Democrats are between a rock and a hard place.
President Bush is clearly telegraphing what his proposal will be. And the Democrats are clearly responding. But not coherently. This issue will split the Democrats. Democrats running for Pre sident must oppose the surge. The base will kill them in their cribs if they don’t. Just look at the blogs (here, here, and innumerable more). This issue defines the Democratic party today. And opposition to the war is the most credible explanation of what happened November. And stories about more years being required in Iraq, are exactly the sort of thing that feeds the base. The New Yorker has a great story on the problem for the Democrats.
But let’s be clear about something. If the President pushes it, there will be votes. At this point, Iraq is the Bush legacy. And his legacy will bad if he doesn’t start sharing ownership on this. And Congress, and that means Democrats now, are the obvious people to start sharing ownership with.
It seems that the Democrats have 3 options:
- Allow the surge with open support. The Democrats shatter. John Edwards or Al Gore win the nomination. Maybe Feingold gets back in.
- Stop the surge. Then all the Dems have is an (old) issue. But Bush and the Republicans can claim that the Democrats gave up on the war. Anything bad that happens, at that point, GOPers can blame on the Dems. But Iraq will be gone. We might even pull out.
- Allow the surge with extensive and skeptical oversight. This gives the Dems the highest chance of success. But that means that the Dems will have to vote for more money. They have will to go along with the President — and John McCain. And John McCain will be the GOP leader in the consensus oversight process of Iraq, the most important issue facing America.
That’s why the Democrats are trying to kill this policy in its bed:
I’m not sure that in my over 20 years of involvement in politics and media have I seen as disastrous a pre-launch of a major policy initiative as what the President will propose this week for Iraq.
So back to McCain. What’s the impact on him (or the rest of the GOP)? Hard to tell. But if the surge is blocked, then we will likely start pulling out. There’s simply no other option. And Iraq will become less of an issue. But terrorism will re-emerge as the major foreign policy issue in the election (helping Rudy Giuliani and McCain), along with a stronger Iran, problems with (Romney’s "family oriented") China, and international trade.
If the surge goes on, it will be because the Republican Party unified behind McCain’s position, but attempts to stick it on McCain will be much, much harder because it will have passed with many Democratic votes. And the base will say, "The country sent Dems to Washington to stop Bush and they kept collaborating."