By Ben Volen, Gary Tiratsuyan, John Wayhausen, and Courtney Shannon
The Iraq War is sure to be a major topic of debate during the course of the 2008 Presidential election, and it has already taken center stage among the issues the candidates are discussing. The Republican candidates are likely to have slightly different opinions on how to go forward with the war as they try to distinguish their campaigns from their primary opponents. In some ways this has already begun. According to the February 14, 2007 New York Times article, "Giuliani's Iraq Views May Provide Cover," by Richard Perez-Pena, Giuliani has set himself apart from opponents John McCain and Mitt Romney by stating that the deployment of 21,500 additional troops to Iraq may not work, and that neither victory nor defeat in Iraq will determine our overall success in the war against terrorism. However, he does support the war itself. In contrast, front-runner Sen. John McCain has taken a very strong stand supporting the Iraq War in an attempt to gain the support of conservative Republican primary voters. According to the February 18, 2007 New York Times article, “No Retreat on Iraq Stance, McCain Insists,” by Adam Nagourney, McCain has been strongly emphasizing his support for the war while campaigning in Iowa for the caucus there. So while McCain has made the war a central part of his campaign, Giuliani has been focusing his message on the long-term war on terror. One thing is certain - new developments in the Iraq War will undoubtedly have a major impact on the campaigns of all of the Republican candidates.
Rudy Giuliani on Iraq
Rudy Giuliani strongly believed and still believes that the War in Iraq was necessary and right. He does not believe however, that President Bush handled the situation correctly. The former Mayor of New York City believes that a quick pulling of our troops from Iraq will result in more terrorist attacks at home and abroad. Rudy Giuliani believes that the liberation of the Iraqi people is something that all Americans should be proud of doing. Removing an evil dictator was the right thing to do. As we all know, Rudy Giuliani became the face of New York and some even say the entire nation for at least two to three days after the attacks of September 11th. Rudy Giuliani said he would personally execute Osama Bin Laden for the attacks. It is because of this attitude and the image that clung to him that Giuliani can gain the votes of the conservatives. If the main issue in 2008 is Iraq, then Giuliani can stress how it was he who took care of New York and it will be he who can successfully complete the mission at hand and bring home our troops. Giuliani favored the recent call by President Bush to increase the number of troops in Iraq. As the Presidential race for 2008 approaches, Giuliani is going to have a tough time proving that staying in Iraq is the right decision when all Democrats are going to stress is immediate withdrawal.
Rudy Giuliani and the Election
However, Rudy Giuliani faces a significant amount of difficulty in the up-coming election. His social policies are not inline with the majority of the Republican party, and are certainly too liberal for those who vote in the primaries. His extra marital affairs and three wives lead some to believe that he is immoral. He may be liked here in New York, and perhaps most of the North East, but how is he going to successfully appeal to Republican voters in the Bible Belt?
Secondly, he did a lot for New York City during 9/11 (especially considering the actions of President Bush), but many who were once grateful of Giuliani’s actions now see him as an opportunist. He is capitalizing on the events of 9/11. His approval and popularity rose significantly after the attacks, and now he is using the events of September 11, 2001 as his political platform.
Giuliani is going to have to put up a tough fight if he is even going to get past the Republican Primaries.
John McCain on Iraq
Senator McCain has taken the stance in his campaign very early on, that if we desire to have long-term success in Iraq, we must invest in more troops. McCain lists in his website,More troops are necessary to clear and hold insurgent strongholds; to provide security for rebuilding local institutions and economies; to halt sectarian violence in Baghdad and disarm Sunni and Shia militias; to dismantle al Qaeda; to train the Iraqi Army; and to embed American personnel in Iraqi police units." McCain seems to be a very "militarily aware" candidate as he specifically voices on his website. He discussed on the site that the military should create a better counter insurgency strategy, including the concentration of troops where there are the greatest populations of the citizens.
McCain also believes that we as the United States have the responsibility of strengthening the Iraqi military and police forces. He believes that, "Ultimately, Iraq's future lies in the hands of its people, government, and armed forces, and strengthening them is an essential requirement for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq."
Recently during the 2007 "State of the Union" speech, President Bush asked Congress for the addition of 21,500 American troops to deploy to Iraq. Most of the Congressional members were highly critical and against Bush's new strategy. However, John McCain defended it, stating that it would be "difficult but necessary."
Senator McCain may be one of few political leaders who support the troop escalation, but he stands firm. In and interview with Larry King he boldly declared, "I would much rather lose an election than lose a war." Senator McCain believes that a triumphant win may not be an option, but success in Iraq is certainly not something he is willing to compromise.
John McCain and the Election
Is John McCain’s plan wise? Recent polling suggests that an overwhelming majority of Americans do not support a troop surge. Iraq is a very serious and significant issue, but Senator McCain is making it his only issue. He is isolating himself from swing voters and isolating himself from the GOP with his stance on other issues. He supported a state ban on gay marriage, but did not support a Constitutional amendment. He does not think that immigration laws should force illegal aliens to leave the country. He did not support a White House backed tax cut policy, and singed a campaign finance reform act many of his cohorts do not agree with. His moderate views do not appeal to the majority of Republicans, nor his opponents.
His critics now hold many political offices, particularly in Maricopa County. An article in the New York Times, by Jennifer Steinhauer says,
“Their passion about the immigration issue, their flirtations with other candidates and their persistent harping underscore the skepticism about Mr. McCain that already exists among many hard-line conservatives here and around the nation” (February 17, 2007).
Clearly, if McCain seeks to gain the full support of his party he is going to have to work much harder to dispel beliefs that he is too much of a centrist.