Five years ago today and a week prior to Bush's "mission accomplished" speech John McCain was on Chris Matthews' Hardball where he praised the president, Rumsfeld, and the strategy and tactics used to go into Iraq. Of note, McCain said Bush had "done a great job," and that he was a "great admirer of Rumsfeld." He also said he thought the Sunnis and Shiites would "probably get along" and that we did not need any more international troops on the ground.
This interview -- a month after the war began -- clearly shows that John McCain was not the critic he claims he was. But it does more than that. It shows that McCain was in lockstep with the strategy and tactics that the administration employed in invading Iraq.
McCain was proud of Bush's leadership on the war in Iraq:
MATTHEWS: Let me you about, are you proud of the work, and the leadership of the Commander-in-Chief in this war?
MCCAIN: Yes, I am. I think the president has led with great clarity and I think he's done a great job leading the country, don't you all? [MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]
McCain on admiring Rumsfeld.
MCCAIN: "...and I'm a great admirer of Rumsfeld."
...MCCAIN: I think the president is blessed to have two extremely talented people (Powell and Rumsfeld), experienced people, working for him, and others, but particularly those two. [MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]
McCain - Sunnis and Shiites can probably get along.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Senator McCain, with what you've already said about the powerful presence of the Shiah majority in Iraq, how would you propose we represent that majority in the new democracy?
MCCAIN: Well, I don't think there's any doubt that as the largest population segment, that they would play a major role.
I think one of the tricky areas, of course, is the relationship they have with the Kurds. There's not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shiites. So I think they can probably get along. [MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]
Despite claiming to have called for more troops from the outset, McCain didn't think we needed more international troops on the ground.
MCCAIN: I think that the only military presence required right now would be American and British. [MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]
McCain talks about lessons he learned from Vietnam, lessons that apply pretty clearly to Iraq as well.
MCCAIN: ...I have been committed from my experience in Vietnam never to get into a conflict that the American people would not support over time.
I felt that the difference between the Vietnam conflict and this one we just went through is that in Vietnam, we didn't have clear cut objectives. We didn't have a strategy for victory. And obviously, we didn't have, over time, the support of the American people. I didn't feel that the Iraqi challenge in any way could be equated to that in Vietnam. [MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]