As John McCain launched his first run for the White House in 1999, he was forced to confront the Keating Five scandal that nearly ended his political career. “The fact is, it was the wrong thing to do,” McCain acknowledged, “and it will be on my tombstone and deservedly so.”
As it turns out, John McCain didn’t just speak too soon; he’s going to need a much larger tombstone. After all, in 2008 McCain invented Sarah Palin, an unqualified, petty partisan whose elevation to vice president would have jeopardized the country he claimed to “put first.” But while McCain etched that two word addition to his epitaph, in 2010 the Supreme Court in Citizens United erased another, gutting the campaign finance reforms that had been his penance for his S&L sins. Now, as the same man who was wrong about almost every national security issue of the past decade rages at President Obama over Libya, Iraq and Iran, the debasement of John McCain is complete.
To be sure, McCain’s devolution from “the Maverick” to a bitter, sore loser was well underway long before his raving this week about the Benghazi tragedy that claimed the lives of four Americans. (Appealing to the GOP’s tea party base in April 2010, McCain announced that “I never considered myself a maverick” and declared, “I’m madder than I’ve ever been.”) Before he threatened to block a potential nomination of Susan Rice as secretary of state, before he slandered her as “not very bright,” before he declared “no one died during Watergate” and before even his allies rejected his call for a Senate select committee to probe the Benghazi attacks, John McCain blasted President Obama and the top military brass for the draw-down in Iraq.
Last November, McCain attacked Joint Chiefs chairman nominee General Martin Dempsey for having opposed the 2007 Iraq surge. As he put it during the confirmation hearings, “We’re all responsible for the judgments that we make and obviously that affects the credibility of the judgments that we make now on Iraq.” McCain also took to the Senate floor to decry Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. forces:
“I believe that history will judge this president’s leadership with scorn and disdain, with the scorn and disdain that it deserves.”
Sadly for Obama’s vanquished foe, history’s judgment on John McCain is already in. As a look back at his calamitous forecasts, disastrous predictions and jaw-dropping assessments on Iraq shows, it is McCain who should receive the scorn and disdain he deserves.
Consider McCain’s statements during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in January 2002, McCain declared, “Next up, Baghdad!” That followed by three months McCain’s baseless claim that the anthrax attacks that fall could have been the work of Saddam Hussein:
“I think we’re doing fine [in Afghanistan]…I think we’ll do fine. The second phase – if I could just make one, very quickly – the second phase is Iraq. There is some indication, and I don’t have the conclusions, but some of this anthrax may – and I emphasize may – have come from Iraq.”
Or may not have come from Iraq. In any event, McCain insisted, the United States would make short work of Saddam’s forces. As the Bush administration was making its case for war by warning of “the smoking gun that could come on the form of a mushroom cloud,” McCain in the September 2002 assured Americans that “I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult” because “I cannot believe that there is an Iraqi soldier who is going to be willing to die for Saddam Hussein.” (As for Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress leader who joined President Bush for the 2003 State of the Union Address only to later be linked to Iran, McCain declared, “He’s a patriot who has the best interests of his country at heart.”) It’s no wonder McCain told MSNBC’s Chris Matthews on March 12, 2003, that American forces would “absolutely, absolutely” be greeted as liberators, a claim he repeated two weeks later:
“There’s no doubt in my mind that we will prevail and there’s no doubt in my mind, once these people are gone, that we will be welcomed as liberators.”
As it turned out, not so much. The victory John McCain predicted in January 2003 would be “rapid, within about three weeks” did not come to pass.
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