IRAQ WITHDRAWAL THOUGHTS....If the Journal is right and we're about to sign an agreement to withdraw combat troops from Iraq, what does it mean domestically? For starters, I assume that the agreement allows for some kind of long-term "residual force," and I also assume there will be a bit of weasel wording about the withdrawal depending on conditions on the ground. Still, a document that commits both sides to pulling out troops from the cities by next summer and completing the rest of the withdrawal by 2011 is a big-time game changer. Here are a few miscellaneous thoughts:
- This is very good news for Democrats. It means that our eventual withdrawal from Iraq will not only be a bipartisan action, it will have been the creation of a Republican president. This is going to make it almost impossible for conservatives to ramp up any kind of serious stab-in-the-back narrative against anti-war liberals.
- Basic Obama spin: "I'm glad to see that President Bush has finally come around to my view etc. etc." This ought to be a big win for him: he visits Iraq, meets with Nouri al-Maliki, gets Maliki's endorsement for a near-term troop withdrawal, and then gets to applaud as President Bush signs on.
- Looking ahead, it's also a big win for Obama if he wins in November. Instead of a bruising congressional battle on withdrawal starting in January, he can just continue along the path Bush has set out. At most he'll tweak it a bit, which he can do on his own and without expending a lot of political capital.
- This is also good news for Dems in conservative districts, since it eliminates a campaign issue that potentially hurts them.
- Basic McCain spin: "It's good news that Iraq is now secure enough that we can envision bringing our troops home." He'll also talk about how the surge deserves all the credit and he'll claim that 2011 is a totally different thing than Obama's plan to withdraw by 2010. This isn't great spin, but it's probably the best he's got.
- Outside of spin alley, the news for McCain is mixed. It takes Iraq largely off the table as a partisan campaign issue, which might be good (the public supports withdrawal, so it's been an Achilles heel for him) or might be bad (it takes the spotlight off foreign affairs, which he considers his strong suit). Overall, though, it's got to be a negative for a guy who just a few months ago was talking about staying in Iraq for a hundred years.
- I wonder what McCain's initial reaction to this is going to be? When rumors of an agreement like this were being floated last month, he insisted that he had talked to Maliki personally and he knew that Maliki didn't really want a timetable for withdrawal. Looks like he was wrong about that. Is he going to stick to that line, or, like Jerry Brown after Prop 13 passed in 1978, is he suddenly going to become withdrawal's greatest advocate?