06/21/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

War Was Out of Sight, Out of Mind at McCain Town Hall

It was a perfectly beautiful day in Nashua, New Hampshire when the faithful turned out to see John McCain this Thursday. In Baghdad it was 101 degrees, expected to reach 113 by Monday.

With 155,000 U.S. troops in Iraq facing mortal danger daily, braving the heat in body armor, in sandstorms, often going without food or sleep, and dealing with the toll of repeated tours, you'd think that the war might warrant at least one question at John McCain's Town Hall.

Former New Hampshire Senator Warren Rudman betrayed Republican anxiety over the war issue in his introductory remarks. While talking about the unforeseen challenges each new president faces, he used George Bush and 9/11 as an example. With a momentary pause he added: no matter how one felt about the action the President took.

There was discussion of education, immigration, health care, social security, and college costs. One questioner was concerned about too much videogame censorship. Earth-shattering stuff! It was fun to watch McCain's eyes glaze over as she went on at some length.

Then there was the odd man who went on a political rant and no one could understand what he was talking about. Eventually the crowd gave him the Pollice Verso (the Roman thumbs down), and he was silenced.

But there was no discussion of Iraq, whatsoever.

Senator McCain and I agree that our democracy demands a healthy debate if we are to make the best choices for our country. Speaking during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings on "the surge", Senator Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska and a Vietnam vet, said it best:

"These young men and women that we put in Anbar Province, in Iraq, in Baghdad ... they're real lives. And we better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder. If we don't debate this, we are not worthy of our country."

If one truly cares about our soldiers and their families, how can one be silent? It would seem that the mostly Republican crowd and their candidate were happy to sweep the issue under the rug.