My Column John Mccains Iraq Problem Is

Cole in Salon: McCain’s Iraq Problem

My column , “John McCain’s Iraq Problem,” is now available at


‘ On Sunday, April 8, Sen. John McCain appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” in an attempt to do damage control. Pressed on his assertion, in a CNN interview last week, that Gen. David Petraeus goes about Baghdad in an unarmored Humvee, he admitted that he was wrong. “Of course I’m going to misspeak,” he observed, as though he could put the controversy behind him with weasel words. But he did not actually back off his recent sunny pronouncements about the situation in Iraq. “I believe we can succeed, and I believe the consequences of failure are catastrophic.”

In the past two weeks, McCain has produced a trove of Iraq-related images and quotes that are sure to dog his faltering bid for the presidency. On March 26, during an interview with conservative radio host Bill Bennett, McCain said, “There are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk through those neighborhoods today.” The next day, he insisted to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that Gen. Petraeus was driving around armorless. Then, on April 1, in an attempt to back up his words, McCain went on his infamous Baghdad shopping trip. The Internet was soon awash with mocking photos of McCain strolling blithely through the Shurja market in a Kevlar vest. On Sunday, “60 Minutes” ran footage of McCain dickering over a rug with a merchant, then pulled back to show the senator surrounded by heavily armed and armored U.S. troops, and also mentioned that attack helicopters were hovering overhead. In the past year, only the image of Israeli Minister of Defense Amir Peretz looking out on the battlefield through binoculars with the caps still over the lenses has made a politician look more foolish. ‘

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