As of Thursday, 4,098 U.S. troops had died in the Iraq war. Yet Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's No. 1 issue is the U.S. economy. When the senator talks about the war, he often does so in terms of the $12 billion spent each month in Iraq. Clearly, Team Obama figures that it's not the toll of American blood but the price tag that enrages voters in this short-attention span nation.
It seems the better the war goes, the less interest some partisans show in Iraq. Their attention wanders if they can't play the blame game and chant, "Bush lied."
Ah, and this time, the critics were wrong when they argued the surge could not work. Obama was wrong, and, face it, opposing the surge was the politically easy thing to do.
Conversely, John McCain supported the surge -- and he did so in opposition to well-wishers and pundits who argued that his support for the war would doom his campaign.
So Team Obama is reduced to nitpicking at McCain. When McCain told NBC's "Today" show that it's "not too important" when U.S. troops are brought home -- "We will be able to withdraw, but the key to it is that we don't want any more Americans in harm's way" -- Obama surrogates pounced.
Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., called McCain "unbelievably out of touch with the needs and concerns of Americans, particularly of the families of the troops that are over there." Sure, McCain spent five years as a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton. His 19-year-old son, Jimmy, just returned from his first tour in Iraq and another son, Jack, is in the U.S. Naval Academy. Yet somehow Team Obama paints McCain as out-of-touch with military families.
Four years ago, when Iraq was center stage and Democrats thought opposition to the war would lead to electoral victory, Kerry led off his address to the Democratic National Committee with a salute as he announced, "I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty."
In 2008, now that prices at the pump are his big issue and Iraq is framed as an economic issue, what will Obama say: You deserve a break today?