This week’s testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker seemed to ensure that President Bush would be able to fend off critics in Congress, and maintain current troop levels in Iraq through the November election. (Reuters)
What the commentators said
“A lot could happen between now and November,” said Rosa Brooks in the Los Angeles Times (free registration), “but at the moment, the Democrats appear poised to retake the White House and consolidate control over both houses of Congress.” And “the primary driver of Democratic good fortune has been the Iraq war.” Every day, more Americans regret the decision to go to war, President Bush’s approval ratings are plummeting, and, “as Petraeus acknowledged this week, there’s no end in sight.”
Most Americans indeed think it was a mistake to invade Iraq, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post (free registration), but a candidate’s initial position on the war isn’t what matters in the presidential campaign. “Young” Barack Obama thinks Iraq will be a winner for him because he can focus on “the failures of the past.” But Americans are more likely to decide that “the older man,” John McCain, “by insisting on victory, is more responsible and realistic about the future.”
Actually, everyone has an Iraq problem, said Noam Scheiber in The New Republic’s The Stump blog. “McCain’s problem is obvious: The war has become spectacularly unpopular,” and his fortunes in November will be tied to the situation over there. But “Obama and Clinton have the converse problem: Politically, their Iraq position is a real advantage. But the position is substantively incoherent: They want to withdraw most of our troops” relatively soon, “and, as Obama suggested, leave behind the kind of messy but semi-functional status quo we have now.” But pulling out is hardly the way to maintain the status quo.