Presidential candidates from both parties peppered their campaign speeches with reactions to the congressional testimony by Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker over the last few days to spotlight their views on the Iraq war. Campaigning in Iowa, Democratic hopeful Barack Obama said, “There is no military solution in Iraq and there never was.” Republican candidate John McCain’s bus rolled into Iowa adorned with a banner that read “No Surrender.”
McCain hit the right note, said Jim Wooten in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. President Bush made it clear this week that “surrender is not an option” in an age when “evil people” will stop at nothing to “kill us en masse.” Americans can’t afford to back any candidate who are “antsy to run.”
Petraeus’ appearance certainly gave McCain a boost, said the Boston Globe in an editorial, but Petraeus’ appearance certainly boosted the flagging hopes of McCain. “Whether the new dynamic in Iraq can salvage McCain's troubled campaign is far from certain. But he is wooing voters with a sense of momentum not seen since he drastically reduced his staff and spending two months ago.”
Petraeus’ long-awaited progress report on Iraq gave a stark clarity to the race for the White House in 2008,” said The Chicago Tribune in an editorial. “Democratic hopes” are “pinned to voter sentiment against the war.” Republicans are betting that “in time, the strategy crafted by Petraeus and endorsed by President Bush, will prevail.” The congressional hearings “solidified” those differences, but changed no minds on the campaign trail.
But let’s face it, said Daniel Henninger in OpinionJournal.com. “As a political debate, the Iraq war has been drained.” Simply put, “there's not much more to get out of it.” What really shows that most Democrats are losing their nerve is their unwillingness to even talk about whether we should “crack back at Iran,” which is “costing American lives in Iraq.” If the security situation continues to improve, as it should, the Democrats will find themselves out of touch with voters come fall.
The Democratic candidates are indeed in a bind, said The New York Times’ The Caucus blog. If their Democratic counterparts in Congress compromise and accept a slow withdrawal from Iraq, the candidates will have to decide whether to go along or break with their party and demand that we bring home the troops sooner. Republican candidates have it easier. They can take “political cover” and go along with the administration, and cautiously “create a sliver of daylight” between their policies and the president’s if public opinion “keeps rising against the war.”