McCain says: Obama and I both thought the Bush Admin bungled the war early on, but I supported the surge, which is working, while he opposed it, so I have better judgment.
Obama says: The military component of the surge has reduced violence but there still is inadequate political reconciliation in Iraq and, more importantly, McCain's judgment is terribly suspect because he supported the invasion of Iraq, which I opposed.
For my money, even if one thinks the surge was the right call given where matters stood a year ago, this is a losing game for McCain to play. The tactical question of whether to surge or not is so obviously less important than was the strategic question whether to invade in the first place. How this will play out politically is not entirely clear. Elections tend to be about the future more than the past, and so voters would likely be more interested in what each candidate would do going forward. To the extent that the battle of I-told-you-so's matters, my best guess is that Obama wins here. No matter how many times people hear "the surge is working," and no matter how much distance McCain tries to place between his position and that of the Bush Administration, the overall impression of a failed policy in Iraq would favor the greater change agent, which is pretty clearly Obama.
And what about the title of today's post? Well, that's a reference to the following inadvertently hilarious excerpt from Sen. McCain's speech:
Too often, even as American soldiers and diplomats cooperate in the field, their superiors back home have been squabbling. Last year, the Bush administration appointed a war czar, responsible for both Iraq and Afghanistan. This was a step in the right direction. But Afghanistan is sufficiently important that a separate Afghanistan Czar is needed. I will appoint a highly-respected national security leader, based in the White House and reporting directly to the President, whose sole mission will be to ensure we bring the war in Afghanistan to a successful end.Yes, what better way to ensure that the superiors back home don't squabble than to have two separate "Czars" for Iraq and Afghanistan? Surely two people will squabble with each other much less than one person would squabble with himself!
Posted by Mike Dorf (aka "Dorf on Law Czar for posts by Mike Dorf")