McCain vows troop with­drawal from Iraq by Jan­uary 2013

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Joseph Curl

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

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