John McCain declared this morning that he was right -- and Democrat Barack Obama was wrong -- about the right strategy in Iraq, and that he was ahead of the curve on Russia's incursion into Georgia as well.
Speaking to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando, Fla., McCain renewed his attack on Obama for opposing the troop surge last year in Iraq -- and boasted that he acted with political courage.
"With less than three months to go before the election, a lot of people are still trying to square Senator Obama's varying positions on the surge in Iraq. First, he opposed the surge and confidently predicted that it would fail. Then he tried to prevent funding for the troops who carried out the surge. Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure. This was back when supporting America's efforts in Iraq entailed serious political risk. It was a clarifying moment. It was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways. For my part, with so much in the balance, my friends, it was an easy call. As I said at the time, I would rather lose an election than lose a war," McCain said.
"Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines and to brave Iraqi fighters the surge has succeeded," he added. "And yet Senator Obama still cannot quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment. Nor has he been willing to heed the guidance of General Petraeus, or to listen to our troops on the ground when they say -- as they have said to me on my trips to Iraq: 'Let us win, just let us win.' Instead, Senator Obama commits the greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. In short, both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home. The great difference -- the great difference -- is that I intend to win it first."
Obama is scheduled to address the VFW gathering on Tuesday.
On Russia, McCain said he showed the judgment needed in the next president by warning about Russia's expansionist ambitions.
"It's been a while since most Americans -- including most of our leaders and diplomats -- have viewed Russia as a threat to the peace. But the Russian government's assault on a small democratic neighbor shows why this needs revising. As I have long warned, Russia under the rule of Vladimir Putin is becoming more aggressive toward the now democratic nations that broke free of the old Soviet empire," he said.
McCain then continued his hard line against Russia, warning of consequences if it does not pull back and vowing US support for former Soviet republics' move toward democracy.
"There are reports now of Georgian villages being razed, civilians being rounded up, and innocent civilians shot. We have seen such things before, as in the Balkans and in earlier periods of European history, and now we must ensure that events in Georgia do not unfold into a tragedy of greater scale. When young democracies are threatened or attacked, and innocent civilians are targeted, they should be able to count on the free world for support and solidarity," he said.
"If I am elected president, they will have that support," McCain vowed. "And in cooperation with our friends and allies in Europe, we will make it clear to Russia's rulers that acts of violence and intimidation come at a heavy cost. There will be no place among G-8 nations, or in the WTO, for a modern Russia that acts at times like the old Soviet Union. The Cold War is over, the Soviet empire is gone, and neither one is missed. Least of all is that empire missed by the once captive nations of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine, and Georgia. These brave young democracies have joined the free world, and they are not going back."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.