POLITICS
04/24/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

McCain: We'll Look Back On Iraq As An 'Academic Argument'

[via Democracy Arsenal] John McCain, appearing on the Hardball College Tour, didn't shy away from making his now-familiar case on why he will be a different president than George W. Bush. He made some effective distinctions - nothing you haven't heard before - on the issues of global warming and torture. He's against it! But more critical to his argument is his opposition to the way in which Bush handled the Iraq war initially:

MCCAIN: The war was mishandled terribly for nearly four years by Donald Rumsfeld and this administration. I fought against it. I argued against. And I argued for the new strategy, which is succeeding. It's long and hard and tough. We just passed not that long ago the 4,000th brave young American who was sacrificed in this conflict. But I believe that the strategy is succeeding.

Critically, however, McCain's willingness to scrutinize these failures do not go so far as to analyze the underlying strategic decision to go to war with Iraq at all, a decision that has greatly benefited the larger al Qaeda organization in Afghanistan and Pakistan. You remember those guys, right? One major disputant of McCain's foreign policy, Senator Joe Biden - who Matthews invokes in his exchange with McCain - sure does! As does Ambassador Ryan Crocker himself.

But for McCain, the whole matter of whether we would have been better off actually working to defeat the terrorist organization that attacked the United States as opposed to launching an costly military distraction in Iraq is a concern best left for tweedy types to discuss at their chummy leisure:

MCCAIN: We can look back at the past and argue about whether we should have gone to war or not, whether we should have invaded or not, and that's a good academic argument.

I can think of about four thousand people that will have no opportunity to attend that lecture.

[WATCH.]