Just got off a McCain conference call, and thought a few things were worth reporting. (The text of his speech to VMI is available here, which hits on a lot of his key points, as does my post on the speech below.) What's clear is how he is both distancing himself from Bush's past Iraq policy, while throwing his full support behind the new strategy, with tempered optimism.
Throughout the call he criticized the Bush administration for painting "rosy scenarios" in the past and stressed that there was still a tough road ahead, but he believes that with the surge there's now a strategy in place than can succeed. "For four years we've been screwing this thing up, but the early signs of our new operating presence in these neighborhoods in Baghdad have been encouraging."
Though he complimented Defense Secretary Gates, McCain was critical of the Pentagon for not deploying troops quickly enough (which he said is due to the small size of the military, "one of a number legacies that Secretary Rumsfeld hands to us which is going to have to be corrected") and said that within the Pentagon, "there's not the sense of urgency there should be." He added, "I don't think the State Department is yet fully engaged in this conflict."
When asked who he holds responsible for failures in Iraq, he said: "I have to hold the President of the United States responsible, but I am very happy to add that the President of the Unites States is fully behind this new strategy." He placed blame on Rumsfeld as well as Generals Casey and Sanchez for past failures in Iraq. "History will judge them very harshly," Mcain said. But he had the highest praise for General Petraeus and the rest of the current team.
McCain also took aim at the media. "I think some of the mainstream media is not going to report the good news...Let's go to alternate means such as blogs, such as websites, such as people calling into the talk shows, such as people writing letters to the editor."
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