Obama’s erstwhile rival, Sen. John McCain, was pilloried when he told voters in New Hampshire that we should keep troops in Iraq “as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. It’s fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day.”
And that’s undoubtedly what will happen in the years ahead. American troops will remain in Iraq, just as they remain in Germany and Japan, decades after our victories there.
Here’s why this really matters. According to 2004 exit polls, the number-one issue in that election was the war in Iraq. With that in mind, suppose that in November of 2004 you’d been told that on Election Day four years later, the war in Iraq would be effectively over, and that the American side had won that war. You’d have assumed President Bush would be at least moderately popular in 2008, and that the Republican candidate, whomever that might be, would enjoy some coattails.
It didn’t happen.
This year, Americans told pollsters the economy was their biggest concern. That too will benefit Obama, since the economy is almost certain to improve over these next four years, whatever he may do.
There’s a more important lesson for conservatives here: We need to stay the course. Why? Well, consider that Obama’s supposedly historic election is actually beginning to look like nothing more than a third Bill Clinton term.
He’s already hired former Clinton hands John Podesta (to run his transition team) and Rahm Emanuel (as White House Chief of Staff). And as The New York Times reported, “Podesta put together an extensive team to plan for a possible Obama transition; not counting Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s representatives, all 10 members of the advisory board served in the Clinton administration.” Everything old is, apparently, new again.
Conservatives were right about the war in Iraq, right on taxes, right in saying the country needs to move to the right to prosper. If we find the correct spokesman for our popular ideas, conservatives will be the ones winning elections and making history again.