When John McCain challenged Barack Obama to visit our war zones, neither of them expected Obama to win his biggest endorsement yet. But that's pretty much what he got from Iraq's prime minister. Nouri al-Maliki told the German magazine DerSpiegel that U.S. troops ought to leave Iraq "as soon as possible, as far as we're concerned." And he continued, "U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right time frame for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes."
Senator McCain half-jokingly calls reporters "you jerks." Imagine what he must be calling Maliki. This after all is the guy who was able to sign the death warrant of his mortal enemy, Saddam Hussein, only because America prosecuted a war that McCain supported and Obama opposed. This is the guy whose democratically elected government by now probably would have been overrun by Al Qaeda in Iraq, or Iranian-backed Shiite militias, or both, but for the U.S. troop surge that McCain supported and Obama opposed.
So why did Maliki kneecap one of his chief benefactors? Several possibilities:
1. McCain spoke of keeping U.S. troops in Iraq for 100 years. Democrats twist that statement to mean our troops should keep fighting for a century. McCain actually said exactly the opposite: that troops might remain as peacekeepers based in Iraq, as they did in Germany, Japan and South Korea, once fighting ceased. But under pressure from Iraqi nationalists facing provincial elections, Maliki might still be sore at the GOP standard bearer.
2. Iraqis are, to put it mildly, ambivalent about Bush and his allies, both because of all that Iraq has suffered in this war but also because of all it owes to the Republicans. That, sadly, seems to be human nature. Now that Iraq's democracy is relatively secure, it wants the same "change" that so many Americans are demanding.
3. Or, Maliki may just be betting that Obama will win in November.
But if McCain winds up winning, expect his inaugural address to begin, "My fellow Americans... and you jerk."