John McCain just wrapped up his subdued but determined speech to the Virginia Military Institute. Although there are many issues on which conservatives have a beef with McCain, as far as the Iraq War goes, he has been rock solid. Picking a fight with the media on an issue that allows him to capitalize on his greatest strength (his military background) is the best hope McCain has of turning his campaign around amid faltering poll numbers and weak fundraising. He is the one Republican candidate who can put to rest the whole “chicken hawk” charge. He even earned some rare praise from the WSJ editorial page.
In his speech, McCain spoke of “glimmers of progress” he witnessed on his trip to Iraq that were the cause for “very cautious optimism.” He emphasized the need to give the surge a chance, lambasted Democrats for voting for surrender, and discussed the consequences of withdrawal.
Among the noteworthy moments, that are telling in terms of how McCain is positioning himself politically.
He took a little dig at the media:
Made clear that he has had his problems with Bush’s handling of the war:
Spoke of his support for the surge as a matter of patriotism and honor:
Took aim at Democrats:
This alone may not be enough to win over bitter conservatives, but it’s the best play he has.