John McCain's bad week

President Bush's halt to troop reductions and commitment to an endless Iraq war will haunt the GOP come November -- but Bill Clinton's lame Bosnia gaffe is already dogging his wife.

By Joan Walsh

Published April 14, 2008 7:50AM (EDT)

One of the things I like about having a blog is that when I do television, and I get cut off, I have a place to get the last word. And I felt that way Friday after MSNBC's "Hardball."

We spent most of our time bemoaning President Clinton's simply awful and multiply inaccurate comments about his wife's Bosnia gaffe -- especially his remark about reporters who covered the story, that "when they're 60, they'll forget something when they're tired at 11:00 at night, too." That seemed to suggest that she's getting senile, or at least that she's not ready for that infamous 3 a.m. phone call. The many sexist critics who've dogged Clinton in this race have rarely said anything so undermining.

So I criticized Bill Clinton, as did Chris Matthews, of course, as well as the other guests. But since we were summing up the entire political week, in the second half of our segment (after many minutes of dissecting the sad Clinton story) I made the point that the most damaging political move, in my opinion, came from President Bush, committing the U.S. to a war in Iraq with ever-changing benchmarks for success that would ultimately hurt John McCain in November. Thursday Bush said American troops can't come home until "Iraq is a capable partner of the United States," and "a stable democracy that helps fight our common enemies and promote our common interests in the Middle East." That will take decades. As proud as Americans may be about the limited but notable military success created by the military surge, they're likely to be much less happy about endless war when they tune in to the presidential campaign this fall.

Interestingly, Matthews immediately agreed with me (and he gave me plenty of time to make my point), but Princeton University's Melissa Harris-Lacewell did not. A terrific writer for The and also an Obama supporter, she suggested that only "progressive liberals" and folks on the fringy left thought the endless war would hurt John McCain -- and Matthews (who, it must be said, kept calling her "the professor," and seemed a bit flummoxed by her overall moxie and gravitas) gave her the last word. I very much wanted to say: The universe of antiwar Americans is so much bigger than the fringe Harris-Lacewell defined. When voters start paying real attention to the race between McCain and a Democrat, probably Obama, this week will go down as a very, very bad one for the GOP.

Here's my Current video on Bush's Iraq speech -- which I recorded, for the record, right before "Hardball."

Joan Walsh

Joan Walsh is the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America."

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2008 Elections