The McCain campaign continues to be second-to-none (at least on the Republican side) when it comes to blogger outreach. For example, McCain continues regularly to schedule and conduct teleconferences with bloggers, a practice he began during brighter days for his campaign.
I’m not a huge fan of blogger conference calls, and I’m not a McCain supporter. Nonetheless, I feel privileged to participate in his calls because I sense I’m witnessing something close to greatness when McCain talks about Iraq. No public figure has consistently combined McCain’s commitment to success in Iraq and his realism and candor about the situation there. This combination, along with the resulting anguish, comes through quite powerfully at times during the calls.
McCain’s willingness to engage with bloggers extends beyond the calls. Last Friday, I was uanable to ask my question due to technical problems. Thus, pursuant to the campaign’s standing invitation, I submitted a written question. A few days later, I receive an answer. Here’s the exchange:
Question: Thank you, Senator McCain, for being such a strong voice for victory in Iraq. And thanks for being someone we can count on for honest, reliable assessments of the situation there.
In that regard, the president says that political success in Iraq will be a lagging indicator of success on the security front. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to see much of it until the security situation has improved, giving the parties the “breathing room” they need to make political concessions to one another.
Do you buy the administration’s analysis, and do you expect to see political success if the security situation improves? Or do the obstacles to political success transcend the security problems?
Answer: Political progress in Iraq has been quite disappointing for a number of reasons since the elected government was formed. There can be no doubt that political progress will not take place if extremist violence is not brought under greater control. What is less clear is whether Iraqi leaders will be willing to take the difficult but necessary steps toward political reconciliation as the military situation stabilizes. We must continue to press both the military and political spheres as long as we have a chance to succeed and avoid the terrible consequences of defeat and failure in Iraq.
McCain thus views major progress in stabilizing Iraq as a necessary but perhaps not a sufficent condition for major political progress, and he seems less confident than the administration that the second would follow from the first. From this McCain concludes not that we should back away from our either objective, but that we should push even harder to accomplish both.
As I said, McCain’s combination of candor and resolve seems like something close to greatness.