ELECTION '08: McCain Makes A Move

This week in politics was primarily a lull in the action, with most of the presidential thunder stolen by the landmark 4,000th death in Iraq and the explosion of violence in the region.

With John “Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” McCain telling us the surge is working, the evidence has loudly overruled the Senator from Arizona. For the last year or so there has been a cease fire between the Shiite Al-Sadr brigade and the US backed Iraqi coalition government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a treaty greased with US money.

This cease fire broke last week, as the Al-Sadr brigade began targeting Iraqi police (and US soldiers) and fired rockets into the Green Zone. Al-Maliki responded back with Bush style rhetoric, and the US led bombing raids in Basra. This has been some of the first bombings of the region since the initial invasion in 2003. Projections about this situation and its effect in US policy are varied.

Some conservative voices believe that this is a reason to extend US intervention, since it seems necessary to maintain a large military presence to defend against insurgency. Others see this as a reason for the US to exit the region, as that the surge doesn’t seem to have reduced insurgent military capacity or their willingness to target American soldiers.

Furthermore, some have suggested that this blow-up was encouraged by Al-Maliki who, understanding that a Democratic victory in November is possible (and along with that a US withdrawal), has decided to up the ante, and attack his insurgent opposition while he still has US support. That’s great for him, but horrible for US troops who are now in the position of playing Al-Maliki’s personal goon squad.

Note, this violence still hasn’t ceased. On Monday the Green Zone came under rocket attack by Al-Sadr’s brigade.

You would think that this would have attracted more attention by our presidential candidates, but, for the most part, Clinton, Obama, and McCain were silent regarding Iraq. Instead, as I predicted, the candidates talked about the malaise of the US economy, and, more accurately, the crisis in home mortgage loans. Both Obama and Clinton have outlined economic plans; Obama’s includes a 10 billion fund to keep some mortgages afloat while Clinton has been pushing a 10 billion for job training for displaced workers.

McCain on the other hand has decided to take the ‘tough love’ stance, stating that “it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly, whether they are big banks or small borrowers.” Many conservatives have praised McCain for his self-reliant push, but one has to wonder how much of this is just rhetoric since McCain in the past has repeatedly advocated for preferential treatment of special interests—Keating 5 notwithstanding, but always remembered.

Some smaller issues this week: Clinton tried weakly to reignite the Rev. Wright controversy telling the Pittsburg Tribune-Review, “He would not have been my pastor…You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend." I wondered on my blog if she thought that before or after he came to the White House to administer spiritual aid to her husband after the Lewinsky scandal broke, but regardless this Wright matter seems to have floated off of Obama like water off a duck’s back.

According to a NBC/WSJ poll conducted last week, Obama has weathered the Wright storm. His favorability rating is at 49% down only two points from about three weeks ago, while Hillary is down to 35%, an all new low. This has given credence to the idea that Hillary’s kitchen sink strategy is doing more to hurt her than help. Also this week Obama got a boost by releasing six years worth of his tax returns while simultaneously calling out Hillary for refusing to release hers. The Clinton campaign still claims that they will release them before the general election should Hillary become the nominee.

Thus, Obama has taken the last week in politics with ease over his democratic challenger who’s looking just as inconsequential as Mike Huckabee did in February (or Ron Paul today). Some have said that having Hillary in the race is good for Obama as that it allows him to respond to harsh criticism before the general election. But those who have towed this line on the Democratic side need to seriously consider John McCain. The longer this Hillary-Obama beef continues the more momentum McCain gathers.

Just look at this Gallup poll from March 18th and you’ll see that McCain’s favorability rating is at a whopping 67%, his highest in eight years, which coincided with his repeated Al-Qaeda-Iran gaffe. At a time where he should be attacked by his challenger and the media, he’s gotten a pass. This is exactly the opening that the GOP has been waiting for, and while they’re still hoping they face Hillary in the fall, David Brooks over at Meet the Press this week mentioned that his sources in the GOP now think that they might have a shot against Obama. The good news for Obama fans—if Hill’s spirit won’t quit then her checkbook might as she is now seriously in the red.

Things to look forward to: Pennsylvania is about to become a virtual firestorm for the Democrats as Clinton prepares her last stand. If you live in the area prepare to either put on a pot of tea or by a cattle prod because the campaigns are coming. Expect McCain to get more criticism as the media will need to fill in columns with something, and by Thursday there will be some type of peace brokered in Iraq between Al-Sadr and Iraqi government, but regardless there will be an amping up of attacks in the Green Zone.