McCain dodging questions on surge timeline?

John McCain's campaign canceled a press availability scheduled for Wednesday -- is it trying to avoid some tough questions?

Published July 23, 2008 3:33PM (EDT)

In an interview with CBS News on Tuesday, John McCain made a major mistake in recounting the history of the surge in Iraq. McCain credited it with the development of the "Anbar awakening," the movement of Sunnis in that province away from al-Qaida and toward working with the U.S. The problem? The awakening began before the surge was even announced.

The McCain campaign has -- deservedly -- been getting hammered on this, and it has struck back, somewhat angrily. "Democrats can debate whether the awakening would have survived without the surge ... but that is nothing more than a transparent effort to minimize the role of our commanders and our troops in defeating the enemy," spokesman Tucker Bounds said. (Of course, that's not what's being debated -- McCain said the surge "began" the awakening.)

Now, all of a sudden, the McCain campaign has canceled a press availability that was scheduled for Wednesday. Both the Atlantic's Marc Ambinder and Politico's Ben Smith rightly wonder about the McCain camp's reasons for doing so.

"My bet is that the campaign much prefers local and regional interviews. Us national press folks will ask qualitatively different questions -- McCain v. the press, McCain v. history, McCain v. Obamania ... The priority here in northern Pennsylvania's 10th Congressional district is on getting good local news coverage," Ambinder, who is traveling with McCain, wrote.

"McCain's avail today was the one with more promise to make news," Smith wrote, then cited a list of potentially uncomfortable things -- with the awakening first among them -- that McCain could expect to be asked about before noting, "And now he's canceled the avail."

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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2008 Elections Iraq John Mccain R-ariz. Middle East