Iraq Still Matters, Sort Of

Michael Crowley is still obsessed with whether Obama is going to get away with picking a VP who voted for the Iraq resolution, and now he wants to know if Iraq still matters. Of course, the changing reality he doesn’t mention is the fact that the Bush administration just agreed to a timetable to withdraw from Iraq, fundamentally changing the issue going forward. Obama now gets to claim that, yet again, even Bush has had to come around to what Obama has been advocating all along, and he can argue that the nature of the debate has changed. McCain is put in the terribly tough spot of either admitting to the new nature of the game, and basically obliterating the entire focus of his substantive campaign thus far, or hanging out on a limb all by himself, with even Bush demonstratively more “moderate” on Iraq than McCain. Not a good place to be, and I predict that the campaign will compensate by ignoring Iraq more and more, launching increasingly negative attacks against Obama, and lying about Obama’s domestic policy proposals. Which makes it even more important that they picked an effective rebutter like Biden as VP.

Speaking of Biden, there’s any number of ways Obama could frame him. Yes Biden voted for the war, but so did a lot of people. John Edwards voted for it, and he still emerged as the early favorite of the anti-war netroots. Much of the disconnect can be explained away in 2 steps; first of all, Biden has recognized that the vote was wrong, and has tried to correct it. He’s fought against bad policy in Iraq, he’s fought for equipping troops in combat, and he’s fought against hyperbolic, inaccurate, rhetoric on Iran. Secondly, the President is the commander-in-chief, and it’s Obama who is running for President. Assuming McCain doesn’t pick Chuck Hagel or Ron Paul, a seemingly fair assumption to make, Obama will be able to make the claim that, of the 4 combined President/Vice-Presidential candidates, he was the only one with the prescience to oppose Iraq in 2002. Indeed, politicians who were willing to openly oppose Iraq back then (and who would be viable VP picks today) are few and far between. The trick is using this fact to make Obama look even better in retrospect. Biden will at least be able to say he recognizes he was wrong to vote for the war which, along with is opposition to further reckless conflict in places like Iran, will be a sufficiently stark contrast with the McCain campaign.

Again, it’s worth remembering that the primary and the general election are 2 very different beasts.