Paul Greenberg

A couple of past presidential wannabes now have done their ineffectual best for the Democratic attack machine: John Kerry - you may remember him - has joined Arkansas' own Wesley Clark in questioning John McCain's credentials for serving as the country's next president and commander-in-chief of its armed forces.

Sen. Kerry, as credible as ever, says his colleague from Arizona "has been wrong about every judgment he's made about the war" in Iraq. That assertion may surprise anybody's who's been following the news out of Iraq of late. But it does illustrate the lengths that political partisans will go to deny reality. For of all American politicians, John McCain has proven the most prescient for the longest time about what needed to be done in Iraq.

Speaking at the lowest point in American fortunes in Iraq - in January 2007 - Sen. (and Captain, U.S.N.) McCain pointed out that American forces not only needed to clear the enemy out of its bases in Iraq, which they had done with marked success, but hold the territory they'd cleared.

To accomplish that mission, he called for at least three additional combat brigades in Baghdad and one in Anbar Province. Not a popular tack to take at a time when disgust with the war, or at least with the way it was going, was widespread. And growing.

Sen. McCain was proposing his decidedly unfashionable course at a time when other politicians, including a freshman senator from Illinois named Barack Obama, were ready to give up. Here is how Sen. Obama responded the day George W. Bush announced the Surge early in 2007:

"I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse. I think it takes pressure off the Iraqis to arrive at the sort of political accommodation that every observer believes is the ultimate solution to the problems we face there."

How did Barack Obama become such a defeatist? He did so on what he must have assumed was the very best counsel available at the time, that of the generals he'd conferred with, and they saw no point in a surge. Never mind that those were the very generals who were fast losing the war.

The moral of this story: Presidential judgment requires more than doing whatever the commanders in the field advise - as the current commander-in-chief discovered much to his regret.

Good judgment may even require changing those commanders and their strategy, which this president finally summoned the gumption to do. That kind of independent judgment, and vision, may come only from extensive experience with heavy responsibility, and with life.


Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.