Reacting to news of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's resignation on Monday, John McCain put out a statement that described the breaking news development as "a step toward moving Pakistan onto a more stable political footing."
The tepid-sounding nature of those comments stems from the fact that McCain was never eager to see Musharraf fall.
As recently as February, the Washington Post described McCain as an "outspoken" supporter of the "legitimately elected" leader of Pakistan. In December 2007, just before the Iowa caucuses, McCain said, "I continue to believe Musharraf has done a pretty good job, done a lot of the things that we wanted him to do." Those remarks came on the heels of the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, after which presidential candidate Gov. Bill Richardson expressed the opinion that Pakistan's president should step down.
While Barack Obama did not go as far as Richardson during primary season, his statement Monday on Musharraf's resignation reflects his historically tougher stand on issues related to Pakistan.
"President Musharraf has made the right decision to step down as President of Pakistan," Obama said, adding: "A year ago, I advocated that the US move from a 'Musharraf policy' to a 'Pakistan policy.'"
What's interesting -- especially in light of the conventional wisdom that emerged during the recent Georgia-Russia crisis -- is that Obama has often been more aggressive on Pakistan than McCain. Back in February, McCain criticized Obama's stated willingness to attack known Al Qaeda targets in remote Pakistani provinces as "naive." Unlike McCain and the Georgia crisis, however, Obama has yet to reap a mountain of press coverage touting his commander in chief bona fides for taking a clear, early stand that the Bush administration itself appears to have followed.