WASHINGTON – Sen. John McCain is treading a treacherous path as he heads into 2008 as a presidential candidate who supports President Bush's controversial troop surge plan.
Yet, the Arizona Republican's thoughts on one of his most emotional links to the war — his Marine son who is about to head to Iraq for the first time — remain largely a secret.
In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, McCain said failures in Iraq lay largely at the feet of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other members of the administration for their unwillingness to fight the battles with a larger troop presence, among many other things.
"It wasn't just not enough troops. ... It was the firing of everybody in the Army, it was allowing the looting from the beginning, it was 'de-Baathification," McCain told the Florida newspaper.
McCain declined to discuss Pvt. Jimmy McCain, the senator's 18-year-old son who recently graduated from the Naval Academy. McCain briefly mentioned his thoughts on his son's military experience last year with Time magazine, saying he was "understandably nervous" about possible future deployments, but has since gone silent on the subject.
Political observers said the senator's stance on the troop deployments put him in the precarious position of being seen as supporting a failed war policy. But a former POW with McCain — who like McCain also has a son serving in the military — tells the paper that McCain likely will suffer anguish.
McCain also could draw on previous family experience as his son reports for duty, likely sometime this summer. While the senator was being held and tortured by the Vietnamese, his father, Adm. John McCain, was U.S. commander for the Pacific.