McCain vows troop withdrawal from Iraq by January 2013
Sen. John McCain said May 15 that if elected president, he would achieve victory in Iraq and bring most troops home by the end of his first term. He also promised a secure Southern border, a simpler tax code, affordable health care and smarter schoolchildren.
In a campaign speech with something for nearly everyone — global warming liberals, flat-taxing libertarians, nuclear energy proponents, conservative judge advocates — the presumptive Republican presidential candidate forecast what his 2012 re-election campaign would tout.
The Ar izona Republican vowed to end partisan rancor and congressional gridlock, employ Democrats in his administration, hold weekly press conferences and take questions from lawmakers, just as the British prime minister does.
But it was his vow to bring U.S. troops home by a specific date — the first time he has set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal — that drew the most attention.
“By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom,” Mr. McCain said at a convention center in Columbus, Ohio.
“The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced.”
The new date seemed at odds with the candidate’s attacks on former presidential candidate Mitt Romney in a January debate, when the former Massachusetts governor offered a withdrawal timeline in answer to a question.
“He said he wanted a timetable,” Mr. McCain interrupted. “Governor, the right answer to that question was ‘no.’ ‘Timetables’ was the buzzword for the [. . .] withdrawal.”[. . .] he said.
Mr. McCain’s prediction puts him between President Bush, who has never set even the broadest timetable, and the two Democratic candidates.
Mr. McCain has long echoed Mr. Bush’s contention that setting a date for withdrawal would embolden terrorists and endanger U.S. forces. Last year, he said a Democratic plan to set a timeline was tantamount to “a date certain for surrender.”
His campaign staff said afterward that the senator’s vision differs dramatically from those held by his Democratic opponents, both of whom pledge to withdraw most troops within 16 months of taking office. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has said she would withdraw U.S. troops regardless of conditions on the ground in Iraq.
“There is no similarity,” McCain adviser Steve Schmidt said of the plans offered by the three presidential candidates.
On his campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express, Mr. McCain sought to clarify his position, telling reporters that he is “promising that we will succeed in Iraq,” but not guaranteeing that U.S. troops will come home if that effort fails.
The speech in the swing state of Ohio was extraordinarily optimistic, but the senator rejected one reporter’s summation that the speech was a “magic carpet ride.”
“I don’t think it has anything to do with fantasy, I think it has everything to do with setting goals and achieving,” he said