[W]hen asked about Iraq, [Romney and Giuliani] talk about terrorism... [T]hey emphasize their antiterrorism toughness while keeping their Iraq views fuzzy. This gives them room to embrace a significant troop withdrawal next year once they have their party's nomination in hand.So, let's put aside the (very substantial) consideration that the surge might work and the (also very substantial) consideration that it is offensive to think of fighting the war in the way that would help one candidate or another. Let's assume that Bush decides in the near future to end the surge and begin withdrawing troops. That helps Romney and Giuliani? They are only helped if their opponents are not helped more. It seems to me that everyone who has been against the effort to win the war will claim triumph and express deep sadness that that Bush didn't listen to them sooner. Meanwhile, Romney and Giuliani -- in Beinart's scenario -- breathe a sigh of relief because they won't have to talk about Iraq anymore. But they will! They'll be called on their failure to demand an end to the war.
So far, the strategy has worked beautifully. But there's a problem. One way Romney and Giuliani have evaded clear answers on the surge is by delaying the question until September, when General David Petraeus will report on its progress. Now September is here. Petraeus will probably oppose any immediate troop withdrawal, deferring any drawdown until next spring. Bush and most conservative pundits will demand that the surge continue into 2008. And Romney and Giuliani will find it harder to bob and weave...
So, what will Romney and Giuliani do if forced to finally come clean? They'll back the surge. Romney is running as the conservative candidate, so he can't alienate Iraq hard-liners. Neither can Giuliani, given his tough-on-terrorism persona. But once they back the surge, they'll get a taste of what McCain has been experiencing all year. The more they're defined by support for the war, the more Bush's unpopularity will become their own, especially among independents, the people who have turned against McCain en masse. Backing the surge will instantly weaken them in the general election, because if they do eventually pivot in favor of some withdrawal, it will look like a flip-flop.
August 31, 2007
"The best thing for Romney and Giuliani would be for the White House and Congress to halt the surge and agree on a phased withdrawal."
So says Peter Beinart, but wouldn't this actually be the best thing for the Democratic candidates? Here's the reasoning (which I don't get):