I am constantly amazed to hear otherwise intelligent friends tell me that the Iraq war is “off the table” for the November election. As Lerxst pointed out, McCain is already saying that the Democrats want to surrender to Al Qaeda, and the election is still seven months away. McCain’s entire campaign rests on the claim that he is the warrior who will fight the terrorists and that Democrats are guilty of treason. There’s no way the Democrats are going to be able to sidestep these accusations and just talk about the economy.
Nonetheless, as Glenn Greenwald notes, Hillary and her advisers believe that they need to concede that McCain is strong on national security, so that the winning strategy is to try to match his position of belligerence and thus take the issue "off the table." Never mind that this was the same losing strategy the Democrats pursued in 2002 and 2004. In my view this is the key difference between Clinton and Obama. Clinton’s refrain has been, “I can go toe to toe with John McCain on national security” In contrast, here’s what Obama said on Saturday night (this is now part of his stump speech):
It is time to turn the page on eight years of a foreign policy that has made us less safe and less respected in the world. I am looking forward to having a debate with John McCain about foreign policy, because if I am the nominee, the American people will have a clear choice.
I will end this war in Iraq. I will bring our troops too home. But I will also end the mindset that got us into war. That will change when I am President.