- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

In Washington, nothing comes easier to some political pundits than mindless cynicism. But some politicians advocate certain policies because they believe them to be the right thing for the country, even if they don’t play tremendously well with the focus groups. In his address yesterday to cadets at the Virginia Military Institute, Sen. John McCain demonstrated that kind of genuine statesmanship — a willingness to tell unpleasant truths regardless of the political consequences.

In many ways, Mr. McCain delivered the speech on the war that President Bush should have given months ago, challenging congressional Democrats to do the right thing and approve adequate funding for the war effort without imposing conditions that will likely result in an American defeat. “Responsible political leaders, statesmen, do not add to the burden our troops carry. That is what Democrats, intentionally or not, have done by failing to provide them with the resources necessary to succeed in their mission,” Mr. McCain said. “Every day that passes without the necessary funds appropriated to sustain our troops, our chances of success in Iraq dwindle and our military readiness declines further.”

Mr. McCain also said: “What struck me upon my [recent] return from Baghdad is the enormous gulf between the harsh but hopeful realities in Iraq, where politics is for many a matter of life and death, and the fanciful and self-interested debates about Iraq that substitute … for statesmanship in Washington. In Iraq, American and Iraqi soldiers risk everything to hold the country together, to prevent it from becoming a terrorist sanctuary and the region from descending into the dangerous chaos of a widening war.”

The senator watched with regret last month when the House “voted to deny our troops the support necessary to carry out their new mission” in Iraq. He noted that “Democratic leaders smiled and cheered as the last votes were counted. What were they celebrating? Defeat? Surrender?” Politicians of both parties have the responsibility to offer support “when the right strategy is proposed and the right commanders take the field to implement it, or at the least to offer an alternative strategy that has some relationship to reality.” But instead of working with Mr. Bush to develop a winning strategy, the Democrats insist on debating whether Iraq is a “sideshow” or part of the “real war on terror,” Mr. McCain said. But “whether or not al Qaeda terrorists were a present danger in Iraq before the war, there is no disputing they are there now and their leaders recognize Iraq as the main battleground in the war on terror.”

Any voters who think that preventing defeat in Iraq should be a central concern should give Mr. McCain’s brave, defiant and wise VMI speech a careful reading.

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