McCain: A 'Pretty Good Timetable'
July 25, 2008, 7:24 pm
McCain: A ‘Pretty Good Timetable’
By Michael Cooper
First the Iraqi government gave Senator Barack Obama a boost by seeming to embrace his proposal for a 16-month timetable for withdrawing American troops from Iraq. But could Senator John McCain, who built his candidacy in large part on his opposition to a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, possibly be following suit?
“I think it’s a pretty good timetable,” Mr. McCain said Friday in an interview on CNN’s “The Situation Room,’’ before adding that it should be based “on the conditions on the ground.’’
For months Mr. McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, has railed against setting timetables for withdrawing from Iraq, and has criticized Mr. Obama, his Democratic rival, for suggesting one. But in recent days the debate has shifted as Iraqi officials, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, moved closer to Mr. Obama’s position.
In the interview on CNN Mr. McCain first seemed to downplay any possibility that Mr. Maliki would actually ask for the United States to withdraw its troops in the next 16 months to two years. “He won’t,’’ he said, explaining that he knows Mr. Maliki well.
Then, asked why he thinks Mr. Maliki had called 16 months a pretty good timetable, Mr. McCain gave his enigmatic answer.
“He said it’s a pretty good timetable based on conditions on the ground,’’ Mr. McCain said. “I think it’s a pretty good timetable, as we should — or horizons for withdrawal. But they have to be based on conditions on the ground. This success is very fragile. It’s incredibly impressive, but very fragile. So we know, those of us who have been involved in it for many years, know that if we reverse this, by setting a date for withdrawal, all of the hard-won victory can be reversed.’’
Democrats exulted, sending around the statement to reporters to suggest he was coming around to Mr. Obama’s way of thinking. The McCain campaign did not explain the timetable remark, but said that Mr. McCain’s position remained that he wants the troops to withdraw based on conditions on the ground.