John McCain is so mighty, he has truly done the impossible: He's made me feel a little sympathetic to Flippin' Mitt Romney. Romney's run a nasty campaign, spending his personal fortune on ads to smear his opponents, so maybe it's just payback. But I can't believe McCain is continuing to claim that Romney backed a timetable or a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq. And when I read the Romney quote McCain uses, I get a little queasy. Here's what he said:
"Well, there's no question but that the president and Prime Minister al-Maliki have to have a series of timetables and milestones that they speak about. But those shouldn't be for public pronouncement. You don't want the enemy to understand how long they have to wait in the weeds until you're going to be gone."
Two things jump out: First, Romney expressly said any "timetables and milestones" discussed by Bush and Nouri al-Maliki shouldn't be public. That's an absolute repudiation of the strategy of having Congress set such milestones and timetables, which has been pushed by Democratic leaders and brave Republicans like Chuck Hagel. But maybe more important, McCain admits he's zeroing in on the end of Romney's quote, arguing that merely by referring to some day in the perhaps distant future when American troops will be "gone" from Iraq, Romney is surrendering.
Is McCain suggesting that anyone, no matter how hawkish, who suggests a day will come when American troops will leave Iraq is on the wrong side? I think he's just written off the vast majority of the electorate. Plus, the way he's bullied Romney in several debates -- just before the New Hampshire primary was the worst -- has been simply cruel and small. I know a lot of people quail at the prospect of war hero McCain squaring off against either a woman, Hillary Clinton, or a younger black man who opposed the war from the start, Barack Obama. Personally, I think either one of them will do just fine, because the country is on their side on the war, and they're both more appealing and harder to rattle than the mighty McCain.