So far, the debate on the relationship between the Iraq and the 2008 Presidential has focused on the Democrats running from the war and the effect on John McCain’s candidacy. I wrote on both of these earlier in the week. (John Dickerson from Slate agrees that it won’t hurt McCain all that much)
And today, Mitt Romney weighed in. But it appears that there were some difficulties with his first intervention in American foreign policy.
I’m not going to weigh in. I’m still a governor. I’m not running for national office at this stage. I’m not going to weigh in on specific tactics about whether we should go from 140,000 to 170,000. That’s something I expect the President to decide over the next couple of weeks and announce that to the nation. I want to hear what he has to say.
Well. Mitt didn’t wait. He got an opinion. But it gets worse for Mitt. Redstate’s Dan McLaughlin reads a criticism of President Bush in his statement:
although you can see him straining to both embrace and distance himself from the Bush Administration from the opening line: "I agree with the President: Our strategy in Iraq must change." But it also includes this head-scratcher: "Our military mission, for the first time, must include securing the civilian population from violence and terror."
Now, I understand the argument that we have not done that adequately, but does Romney really believe we have not even been trying to protect the civilian population of Iraq from violence and terror? What exactly does he think 130,000 soldiers have been doing there for three and a half years?
I would add that the debate is over the number of troops. McCain and Lieberman have said 30k+. The President will land with a smaller number. Romney doesn’t give a number, he gives a structure:
I support adding five brigades in Baghdad and two regiments in Al-Anbar province. Success will require rapid deployment.
While that line means something, it makes him hard to quote in the future. No voter will know how many troops that means. Not only is he reluctant about taking a position, he is reluctant about being accountable for the position he takes. Come on MItt. Put it on the table!
But he has to. As Bluey said:
No serious contender for the GOP nomination in ’08 could remain silent on this issue, and Romney’s reluctance to lay out his position beforehand shows the learning curve he faces as a first-time national candidate.
McCain, who has articulated a clear position on Iraq, has the most to gain from Romney’s wait-and-see attitude.