Paul Greenberg

No wonder Barack Obama got such a tepid reception this week at the Veterans of Foreign Wars' convention. The better the United States does in Iraq, the worse he looks.

If only his strategy had been followed. His presidential campaign would be sitting pretty at this point instead of struggling to maintain a once comfortable lead. Iraq would still be Issue No. 1 instead of the economy, and he would be making the most of it - instead of events in Iraq working to his political disadvantage.

It's been a long McGovern summer for Sen. Obama as his lead in the polls has dwindled down, and he's been obliged to wiggle out of - excuse me, refine - one position after another. (Some of us are old enough to remember when he was still a left-winger instead of a waffler.) That he's quite good at shifting his political stances can't quite disguise the fact that he's doing it. And it's costing him his credibility. Especially when he insists that he's not changing his stance at all, not at all, just giving it some, uh, needed nuance.

Without the Surge in Iraq that, lest we forget, Sen. Obama strongly opposed, and whose success he still tries to deny, Iraq would be in chaos, America's enemies crowing, terrorism revitalized, our allies demoralized and the rest of the Middle East quaking.

But the growing prospect of victory in Iraq has tended to remove it as a political issue. Nothing unites like success. The brigades devoted to the Surge are now out of Iraq, the Iraqis are moving into political confrontations rather than civil war, and victory is in sight, not that Barack Obama is prepared to accept it.

There are few things sadder in this presidential campaign than General Obama's trying to depict himself as some kind of realist. When he does, as before the real vets this week, even his legendary smoothness deserts him.

Sen. Obama bridles when it's pointed out that, not to put too fine a point on it, he favored failure in Iraq. If this president and commander-in-chief hadn't finally followed John McCain's advice, changed secretaries of defense, and replaced his incompetent generals with an effective commander, America would now be confronting another Vietnam-era defeat - this one in the heart of the Middle East.

All of which might have been good for the Democratic presidential candidate's chances in this election, but it would have been disastrous for America and freedom everywhere.

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.