Iraq leaders set deadline giving Republicans PR disaster

Republican John McCain's touting of superior foreign policy credentials over his Democratic opponent foundered Monday as Iraqi officials pointed to a 2010 deadline for troop withdrawal, an almost identical time table favored by Barack Obama. The Arizona Republican has been opposed to setting any deadline even as the Bush administration itself last week offered “time horizons” marking a 180 degree turn from previous positions. Press reports that Bush administration officials scrambled over the weekend seeking clarification of the widely reported Iraqi president statement in Der Spiegel supporting a timetable, apparently to no avail.

Mr. McCain appearing on all three network morning news programs Monday morning in an effort at damage control reiterated his positions even going so far as to arrogantly claim that as a veteran of several trips to Iraq he knew better than the leaders of the war ravaged country.

In this regard Thinkprogress.org reports that McCain on the Today Show “was again dismissive of Maliki, suggesting that only he knows what the Iraqis really “want”:

Q: If the Iraqi government were to say, if you were president, ‘we want a timetable for troops being removed,’ would you agree to that? McCAIN: I’ve been there too many times. I’ve met too many times with him. And I know what they want. They want it based on conditions. And of course they’d like to have us out. That’s what happens when you win wars.'

In a recent news broadcast, the Republican presumptive nominee and foreign policy expert also referred to growing violence on the Iraqi/Pakistan border, even as Iraq shares no border with that country.

'It's a shame and sign of the times when the Iraq government's call for a time table creates a public relations crisis for the Bush administration' said Judith Le Blanc, national organizing director of United for Peace and Justice.

McCain later in the day at Maine picnic with former President Bush according to the New York Times continued to attack Obama, portraying the “presumptive Democratic nominee, as too green to be commander-in-chief — he has had “no military experience whatsoever,” Mr. McCain told reporters — and for opposing the troop escalation that has helped lead to more stable conditions in Iraq.”

The Times also reports that McCain aids have begun to sarcastically refer to Obama as “The One,” a title perhaps given to him by supporter Oprah Winfrey and drawn from the popular cult movie The Matrix. A widely circulated photo of Mr. Obama wearing wrap around sunglasses aboard a military helicopter with General Petraeus may have added to the McCain campaign's discomfort.

The beginning of Mr. McCain's week was also hampered when an op ed by the conservative Republican was also rebuffed by the Times as lacking substance on future war plans in Iraq and Afghanistan. McCain's public relations problem continued when a new ad was aired claiming Obama was responsible for the rise in gas prices by opposing domestic and off shore drilling. The new attack ad entitled 'Pump' coincides with Al Gore's widely touted call for ending US use of carbon based fuels in 10 years.

Weekend polling shows McCain trailing Obama by 8 points in the important battleground state of Ohio but running close to even in New Hampshire.