A narrative is beginning to form among the top-tier of presidential candidates of both parties. This narrative is not ideological in scope or definition. We are seeing two pools of candidates form: Authentic ones whose positions on key issues are fixed, perhaps even to the point of damaging their electoral potential and synthetic ones whose “evolving” positions on key issues seem specifically designed to improve these candidates’ chances at the polls.
Today I would like to look at two candidates’—one authentic, the other synthetic—views on the war in Iraq.
Sen. John McCain (my client) is nothing if not authentic on matters of national security and defense. McCain supported sending more troops into Iraq long before President George W. Bush came to see it as a necessary move. His position on Iraq has been praised even by those conservatives who are highly critical of him on other policy matters.
And yet, McCain’s position is not a popular one with the public at-large. Americans are remarkably sour on the Iraq War. In a mid-February AP-Ipsos poll, 56% of respondents said the Iraq War is a “hopeless cause,” as opposed to 39% who said it is a “worthy cause.” In the same poll, only 32% agreed that sending more troops to Iraq would stabilize the situation there.
As I have said to a number of my conservative friends, if McCain seeks only accolades from the mainstream press corps, as they often claim (McCain himself even once joked about the press being his “base”), surely he would have flip-flopped here and turned against this war, no?
Of course, there is precedent for flip-flopping on the war, but it comes from the other side of the partisan aisle. Both Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina have evolved in their thinking on this important subject. Both Clinton and Edwards voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq in 2002.
Edwards’s reversal on Iraq has been clean and precise. He has either completely altered his thinking on this issue or he has made a calculated reversal to placate his party’s anti-war base. Either way, he made a clean break from his vote and now says, “I was wrong” for having voted to authorize the invasion, usually to loud applause from anti-war, Democratic crowds.
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