Commentary Magazine


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Who Won?

From the news accounts and the tenor of both team’s surrogates you got the distinct impression that John McCain and company were delighted to spend most of today on Iraq. And the Obama team, despite the fact it was their guy’s op-ed which set the whole day in motion, was on defense. Every day spent on Iraq arguing about the surge’s success is not an optimal day for team Obama. Not only does it emphasize the candidate’s major error on national security, but it distracts him from his domestic message.

Part of the problem stems from the hesitancy and slowness of his policy shift. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, the policy reversal was not delayed until he made his Iraq trip. That was the purpose of the trip, right? It was to give him cover, provide a nice forum to show him in a flattering light, and avoid endless angst over when he would switch and what his policy would be. So why give the McCain camp days and days before the trip to beat up on Obama?

The Iraq shift (like the flurry of position changes on other issues) seems to smack of over-confidence that Obama can simply charm everyone into a stupor and avoid scrutiny. That might have been the case in a Democratic primary. But July is not February. Everyone except his campaign seems to realize that.