Huffington Blames McCain’s Fall on War

Arianna Huffington showcases the insightful political analysis that she’s known for: “[John] McCain’s fate should be a warning to all Republicans seeking office in 2008: continue to back the president’s war policy at your own risk.”

McCain, once the frontrunner, is second or third in most polls. Public support for the Iraq War has plummeted, too. Q.E.D.

There’s one wee problem, however, with that analysis: The guys at 1 and 2 in those polls also support the war. Now, it’s arguably true that the other contenders are being more cautious than the pugnacious McCain. Still, Giuliani isn’t pulling away and Romney isn’t gaining any substantial ground. The only reason McCain has fallen further behind is the entrance of Fred Thompson, a near McCain clone ideologically, as a presumptive candidate.

Wouldn’t it stand to reason, then, that something other than his support for the war was the decisive variable in McCain’s poor fundraising? Like, oh, his championing of an immigration bill that’s universally unpopular with the base?

Now, Huffington is likely right that someone pushing for continued, or even escalated, troop presence in Iraq will be a tough sell in the general election. My guess is that, if he somehow emerged as the nominee, even McCain will be calling for phased withdrawal if a miracle doesn’t take place by September.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. The only time Huffington has been right about Republican politics is when she became friends with News Gingrich. There was her ex-husband, Michael Huffington who lost his Senate race. She should stick with her anti-war critique instead of embarrassing herself with such limited political analysis.

  2. Bithead says:


    My comments were pretty much the same as yours, about all this.


    Quite so. She is guaranteed to be accurate less than 1% of the time… a 99.7% inaccuracy rating .
    So, when she starts rattling on about Iraq I take her comments as a partial vindication of my own stance on the matter.


    we see elsewhere in this morning’s roundup, that Jim Gilmore has withdrawn from the race. The surprise from just about everybody that Gilmore was still running tends to put McCain’s sinking ship in context. The actual move to resign is rather anticlimatic by the time it finally happens. Forget the death watch. It’s already done.

  3. Triumph says:

    Im not a Huffie fan, but I don’t necessarily disagree with her analysis. McCain is the only Republican front-runner with any foreign policy “experience” and has cultivated his entire national reputation as a military authority.

    He also has been the only major candidate to unequivocally comment on Iraq. Romney has said idiotic things like the UN weapons inspectors were barred from the country, pre-invasion. Giuliani has not given any detail on his approach, calling it a problem for “other people.”

    Since McCain has given several high-profile speeches specifically on Iraq while his main competitors have remained largely mum, it is understandable that when the policy he loudly advocates is a failure, he becomes a less attractive candidate.

    Of course, Huffington is neither a social scientist nor a policy maker so the impact of her analytical failings are relatively benign.

    We should probably be more concerned about McCain/Bush whose analytical failings are creating more and more actual problems in Iraq.

  4. McCain’s problems winning the GOP nomination have virtually nothing to do with Iraq. From his “Straight Talk Express” that maximized his approval by Big Media at the expense of traditional conservatives, to McCain-Feingold, to immigration, his odds have always been slim to none. Now, if the representatives of Big Media weren’t 90% Democrats, perhaps enough of them could vote in GOP primaries to actually help McCain out here.

    On another note, not everyone unhappy with McCain or Bush about Iraq thinks we should get out. There are some who believe we haven’t been aggresive or assertive enough, though that seems to be changing with the surge. Of course, this position is usually characterized as “more rubble, less trouble,” but that isn’t necessarily what is meant by it. We had any number of good reasons to depose Saddam Hussein and, unfortunately, to do so required a war. War is brutal and it cannot be made otherwise. Trying to dance around this tends to prolong wars, which is the real tragedy.

    Now I will wait patiently while all manner of advocating atrocitites is attributed to me.

  5. Pug says:

    War is brutal and it cannot be made otherwise.

    Surely can’t disagree with that statement, but it is also relevant that Republican Colin Powell is the author of the so-called Powell Doctrine. That doctrine calls for overwhelming force, a clear mission and an exit strategy.

    Rumsfeld, Cheney and Bush thought they knew better and they went to war with none of the above. They were wrong.

    They are the ones who have prolonged the war by not listening to people like Colin Powell and Gen. Shinseki.