No, No, No. St. John doesn't get to punt on the McCain Doctrine by asking his "supporters" what they think. Nor does he get to differentiate himself from the most unpopular politician in the country at this late date by calling for "benchmarks" and pretending that it makes him a maverick. It was only two months ago that he was saying that such things would be a "recipe for disaster."
He's trying his damnedest to get out of the corner into which he's painted himself, but he can't. His entire strategy for 08 was to run against both the hippy Dems who wanted to cut-n-run and Bush who failed to follow his advice to send in more troops. He took that tack for good reasons. The conventional wisdom for years was that Bush would not escalate the war.
Just before the election last fall, it was all over the papers that the Army said it was on the verge of collapse:
In fact, there are no more troops to send to Iraq.
That is the unmistakable message of an Army briefing making the rounds in Washington. According to in-house assessments, fully two-thirds of the Army's operating force, both active and reserve, is now reporting in as "unready"—that is, they lack the equipment, people, or training they need to execute their assigned missions. Not a single one of the Army's Brigade Combat Teams—its core fighting units—currently in the United States is ready to deploy. In short, the Army has no strategic reserve to speak of. The other key U.S. fighting force in Iraq, the Marine Corps, is also hurting, with much of its equipment badly in need of repair or replacement.
It seemed like a free shot and a good way for a cynical opportunist with a maverick reputation to position himself. But on October 27th, 2006 he made a fatal mistake --- he got specific:
Reporters asked him to elaborate on his statement last week in Iowa that more combat troops are needed in Iraq to quell a “classic insurgency.”
“Another 20,000 troops in Iraq, but that means expanding the Army and the Marine Corps,” he said
Bush called his bluff and John Edwards very astutely immediately began calling it The McCain Escalation Doctrine.
He's since tried to distance himself from Bush by saying that he really meant 30,000 or that Bush wasn't honest about the situation on the ground or that we need benchmarks.
But Bush got this plan from him, not the other way around. It's his baby.
I hope that we can keep the press focused on this. They love them some St. John and are always willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. No.
And speaking of focus, this doesn't help allay all that talk about him being in ill health.
Update: Hah. And Bush screws McCain again!
President George W. Bush met privately with House Republicans on Friday and agreed to an alternative resolution to set "benchmarks" for progress in his plan to send more troops to Iraq, party officials said.