McCain About to Punt on Iraq? Lauer Question Raises Possibility
Does NBC have some inside dope? Is John McCain, till now one of the staunchest supporters of the Bush administration's Iraq policy, about to bug out? An unusual question from Matt Lauer to Tony Snow this morning raised that possibility.
Here's the exchange that came on this morning's "Today" at 7:08 A.M. EDT, toward the end of Lauer's interview of White House press secretary Snow:
TODAY CO-HOST MATT LAUER: If, and you hate hypotheticals, I know, so hate me later, but if John McCain comes back [from his current Iraq trip] and joins the ranks of those other Republicans who say it's time to rethink this strategy, how big a blow is that to the President, considering how supportive John McCain has been to the strategy?
WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY TONY SNOW: You've got to understand that for the President, although politics is clearly important in building public support, succeeding is the most important thing of all. If we fail in Iraq, and this is something [U.S. Ambassador to Iraq] Ryan Crocker was pointing out as well, if you have failure in Iraq, you are going to see consequences that are going to be extraordinarily dire in the region, throughout the world and for the United States.
View video here.
Given the very track record of McCain's support that Lauer cited, why would the "Today" host have raised the possibility that the Arizona senator might take a powder? Has NBC received a heads-up, some kind of McCain trial balloon?
Just as interesting as Lauer's question was Snow's response. Presumably the White House and/or administration representatives in Iraq are in contact with McCain during his trip. If the administration were certain McCain was still on board, you would have expected a more dismissive answer from Snow. Does the fact that Snow downplayed the importance of "politics" and spoke of the importance of success regardless of domestic support suggest the White House has an inkling McCain's support might be wavering?
Could this be some kind of McCain Hail Mary, a sudden change of course in an attempt to revive a moribund presidential candidacy? Stay tuned.
UPDATE 7-10 8:05 A.M.: A posting by Andy McCarthy at "The Corner" at National Review online suggests McCain is still on board: "Like Sen. Lieberman, Sen. Kyl thinks the president will hang tough. Also, though he avoids stealing Sen. McCain's thunder, says we can expect to hear from McCain (and Sen. Graham) later this morning and that it will be a positive report — at least on the military front." H/t FReeper GWB00.
Does NBC know something Sen. Kyl doesn't, or was Lauer's question simply a shot in the dark?
Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at email@example.com