Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has told Der Spiegel that he supports Barack Obama‘s proposal that U.S. troops should leave Iraq within 16 months. “We think [that] would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes,” Maliki said. And that’s it — the tide has fundamentally gone against John McCain. He’s been basing his candidacy on toughing it out and staying the course in Iraq, and now what does he say?
The Atlantic‘s Marc Ambinder has written that this “could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq’s Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there’s no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot.”
Ambinder also quotes an e-mail reaction sent by “a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign , [saying] simply, ‘We’re fucked.'”
Time‘s Joe Klein is basically agreeing that McCain has been dealt terrible cards with this statement, and that it’s hard to imagine how it won’t hurt him big-time. In a piece called “Big Deal? No…Bigger,” TPM’s John Marshall has written that “Maliki has cut McCain off at the knees in a way I’m not sure his campaign strategy can recover from.”
Update: A CNN report says that “a spokesman for al-Maliki said his remarks ‘were misunderstood, mistranslated and not conveyed accurately.'” As Charles Durning ‘s politician sang in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, “Oooooh, I like to do a little sidestep!”
“Government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the possibility of troop withdrawal was based on the continuance of security improvements, echoing statements that the White House made Friday after a meeting between al-Maliki and U.S. President Bush.
The following graph appears in the original Der Spiegel interview: “Maliki was careful to back away from outright support for Obama. ‘Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement…who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business,” he said. But then, apparently referring to Republican candidate John McCain’s more open-ended Iraq policy, Maliki said: ‘Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems.”