Looking over John McCain's campaign strategy, you'd swear Donald Rumsfeld was in charge. It has the same mission -- Victory in Iraq -- the same disastrous planning and the same chaotic results.
Like President George Bush, he's put all his hopes in that one basket. What Sen. McCain ignores is that carrying that basket got Mr. Bush a 28% approval rating.
But Victory in Iraq is, nonetheless, the mission for which John McCain has set his campaign.
What he's also ignored is that the American public isn't fighting for that same mission. They want out of Iraq. They want out of Iraq as soon as possible. They want out of Iraq faster than the 16 months Barack Obama has proposed -- and that Iraq itself has proposed.
The L.A. Times/ Bloomberg poll, shows 68% of Americans want to withdraw all troops either within 12 months -- or right away. Only 26% want to stay. Americans want out.
Besides -- that mission -- Victory in Iraq? Against who? Where does John McCain believe this Victory in Iraq treaty will be signed? There's no leader to surrender. We're just there peacekeeping. This is an occupation force during a civil war. But John McCain is fighting his campaign for president on somehow winning a Victory in Iraq.
When you try to win a Victory in Iraq that can only be an illusion, then you have turned your election campaign into a mirror image of the actual war.
That's why, just as President George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney made gaffe after gaffe in their planning, underestimating the strength of their opponent, so too has John McCain.
For months, Sen. McCain gleefully chided his opponent, as the Republican National Committee put an "Obama Clock" on its website, ticking how long it had been since Barack Obama had been to Iraq. It was, they naively thought, an easy attack of bravado. But Sen. Obama was neither shocked nor awed, and not only did he go to Iraq, but he was he met by cheering troops (likely thrilled at the prospect of coming home) -- and Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki agreed with Obama's 16-month suggested timetable. The visit was a spectacular coup for Mr. Obama. At least George Bush had the presence of mind to take down his "Mission Accomplished" sign. The RNC left their "Obama Clock" up on its website! Left to remind everyone that if there was any Mission Accomplished in Iraq, it was Barack Obama's.
And just like the Bush-Rumsfeld-Cheney team, the McCain campaign has kept tripping over itself on its broken path for Victory in Iraq.
The comparison is meant precisely. Do you recall when Vice-President Dick Cheney said, "We were greeted as liberators"? Well... sorry, that was actually John McCain. What Mr. Cheney said was "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." Don't worry, it's an easy mistake to make.
Like George Bush, John McCain keeps his presidential campaign staying the course on Victory in Iraq. Unfortunately, as we've seen, staying the course in a quagmire only drags you deeper in the quagmire.
It drags you into confusing the non-existent Afghanistan-Pakistan border.
It drags you into confusing the history of the Anbar awakening and surge -- worse, since Sen. McCain was trying to chide Sen. Obama about that very history. And far worse still, since the sheikh he said was "protected" by the surge, Abdul Sattar, was, in fact, killed during the surge.
It drags you into repeatedly stepping on yourself -- whimsically singing, "Bomb Bomb Iran;" whimsically joking about killing Iranians with cigarettes, whimsically noting how safe Baghdad is while being guarded by an Army battalion. And while these repeatedly get explained as "McCain being McCain," that is precisely the problem. President George Bush whimsically did a comedy sketch about not being able to find the WMDs in his office. That wasn't funny either. But then, it was just Bush being Bush.
When you're in a disastrous campaign fighting for Victory in Iraq, with incompetent planning, it forces you to lob your long-range missiles and make ill-conceived, desperate attacks. And so we get John McCain actually suggesting his opponent is treasonous, painfully offering, "Senator Obama would rather lose a war to win an election"
It forces you to make ill-conceived, desperate attacks questioning your opponent's patriotism, by painfully responding to a question whether Sen. Obama is a Socialist, "I don't know."
It forces your campaign to make ill-conceived, desperate attacks that painfully insinuate your opponent is somehow not opposed to genocide.
Acts of desperation only show how desperate you are, as your march to Victory in Iraq unravels before your eyes.
For all these problems of planning in the field of battle, there is one overriding problem with running your election campaign with the same Victory in Iraq strategy as did President George Bush: the chaotic result.
As we saw with the Republican Party hoping for Victory in Iraq as its "One Issue" and being dragged down to landslide defeat in 2006 -- with 2008 poised to be far worse -- the reality is that the American public understands not only that the nation has a great many other issues to address...but Victory in Iraq isn't even the most important.
John McCain is putting his hopes on his own Victory in Iraq campaign, complete with the same flawed mission, the same flawed planning, and the same flawed results -- while missing that 81% of the nation says America has pretty seriously gotten off-track.
And so when Americans look for a change in leadership -- for the crumbling economy, skyrocketing gas prices, encompassing budget deficit, health care, the environment, education, and on and on - they only see John McCain's economic advisor blasting a "nation of whiners," they only see John McCain pandering an off-shore oil plan which all experts acknowledge won't have impact for up to 15 years, they only see John McCain sitting silent until finally insisting he doesn't remember how he voted on women's issues. They only see chaos.
As John McCain pins his hopes on Victory in Iraq, and runs his election campaign the same way as did President George Bush, you get the only thing you can get: the same metaphor for what happened when Mr. Bush tried it disastrously on the battlefield.
It's a campaign with the same misguided mission, the same incompetent planning, the same chaotic result.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RobertElisberg