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McCain Escalates Obama Attacks

ROCHESTER, N.H. –Any degree of restraint and nuance in the attacks within Sen. John McCain’s crusade against Sen. Brarack Obama has officially ended. It did so in the place, in the state, where McCain has always come to renew himself, to begin again. It was here in 2000 where he rode the Straight Talk Express to a primary win against Karl Rove and Rove’s man, then-Texas Governor George W. Bush. And it was here where he came and found a degree of rebirth in the summer of 2007, after he had to fire most of his national staff and was forced to run a tight campaign against better-financed Republican opponents.

And now McCain went to New Hampshire to take his ideological fight against Obama to unprecedented heights. Speaking to a small town hall gathering at the local opera house where reporters, stuck in the rafters, were working from a table literally on a diagonal slant, McCain seemed at ease–even when locked in a verbal battle with an elderly woman in an orange cardigan who challenged the very legality of the U.S. presence in Iraq.

But he pushed his traditional line of "I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war" to another level when he quipped, "It seems to me Sen. Obama would rather lose a war to win a campaign."

And while these remarks echo the sentiments of McCain senior adviser Mark Salter, they represent a fundamental escalation in McCain’s attack on Obama, striking hard at the Illinois senator’s idea of patriotism. McCain, a victim of another war that should never have been authorized or fought, has taken dead aim at Obama–declaring that Obama’s interest in ending the war is a a politically strategic one, rather than a moral one. As such, the lines have become dead clear: Either the United States should come home having achieved some sort of vague notion of a "mission accomplished," or withdraw from the region as cowards, the laughingstock of the world.

In many ways it mirrors Richard Nixon’s position in 1968. It was Nixon who argued that yes, he would end the Vietnam war, but would do so with strength and honor. The Democrats, he said, would make us seem weak to the rest of the world. This position cost this country 20,000 more lives before the war ended with the peace accord in Paris. As we go forward in the general election, perhaps we should stop and consider what victory in the region really means and whether that translates into a love of country or of conquest.

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