McCain Conference Call
Senator John McCain held a conference call this afternoon with some invited bloggers (Ana Marie Cox got a question in toward the end, so it apparently wasn’t limited to conservatives) to discuss his recent trip to Iraq and the recent setbacks in his campaign. As one might expect, he was rather bleak on both counts.
I got the second question, which turned into a rather long back-and-forth. I asked that, given the recent reports confirming that the Maliki government is making next to no progress in unifying the country and making needed reforms, why he had any hope at all that this would change.
Like me, he’s incredibly “frustrated” by this situation. He discussed this with Maliki personally and essentially got no response. He thinks there’s “still an opportunity” that with “hard work” Ambassador Crocker and others can convince them of the urgency of reform. He hopes that we can convince them that they are “staring at the abyss” and things will get even worse if they don’t get it turned around.
In response to his earlier statement that he didn’t think we’d lost yet, I asked him how we’d know if we had. He admits he really doesn’t know. He thinks that we’ll probably know by the time we get the September progress report and that we can see whether there has been enough progress on key points. Unfortunately, as he later noted in response to a question from John Hinderaker, it’s quite likely that the enemy will redouble their efforts “around Labor Day” to make sure things are bad in September.
Like me, he’s holding out hope that we can fix things without much evidence because, quite frankly, the consequences of admitting failure and withdrawing our forces may well be catastrophic. It’s more likely than not, though, that we’re just delaying the inevitable.