NEVER MIND THE WITHDRAWAL 'HORIZON'.... The encouraging reports from yesterday were apparently accurate, and a withdrawal timeline for U.S. troops in Iraq is moving forward apace. The Washington Post reported, "U.S. and Iraqi negotiators have agreed to the withdrawal of all U.S. combat forces from the country by the end of 2011." There are some remaining roadblocks among Iraqi officials, but they believe they're "very close" to an agreement.
The AP's Charles Babington considers the political implications.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain prides himself on being gung-ho about pursuing the Iraq war even if it hurts him politically. Recent events in Baghdad threaten to put him still farther out on a limb, however, as the Bush administration works toward a troop withdrawal schedule that is more aggressive than McCain envisions. [...]Campaigning Thursday in Virginia, Obama said, "They are working on a plan that looks, lo and behold, like the plan that I've been advocating. I will encourage the administration to move forward with it."
McCain campaign spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said, "We're monitoring closely and will have something to say when an agreement is finalized."
That's not a bad way, I suppose, of pushing off a politically problematic development, but a timeline agreement is nevertheless a dilemma for McCain for which there is no obvious solution.
Brookings' Michael O'Hanlon, of all people, said, "At this point, Obama looks a little less reckless than he might have a few months ago."
A "little"? Obama's policy has been embraced by the Maliki government and the Bush administration. As Josh Marshall put it, "John McCain has staked his whole campaign on opposing Barack Obama's call for a timetable for the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.... And yet today, the US and Iraq have agreed on a 'timetable,' using that very word, for leaving Iraq. Reality, the Bush administration and the Iraqi government have jointly endorsed Obama's position and left McCain a relic."
To be sure, the issue isn't off the table with regards to the presidential election, but McCain is going to a) have a tough time calling Obama an elitist if he can't count his own homes; and b) have a tough time blasting Obama's Iraq policy as irresponsible if it's being implemented in Iraq right now.
As Kevin concluded, "It's true that you never know how these things will go, but Obama's judgment has been so spectacularly vindicated by this that it's hard not to see it helping him in the long run."