Just got off a 30-minute bloggers conference call with John McCain. He said he intends to hold such calls regularly, and in the future make himself available for an hour at a time. The conservative blogosphere has been especially harsh terrain for McCain over the years, so it’s a good idea for him to be reaching out.
Most of the discussion focused on Iraq, which is one issue that (from a hawk’s perspective), he’s been rock solid on. McCain said that the surge is showing signs of “significant progress,” even with only two of the expected five brigades in Baghdad. He spoke of normal life returning to some of the capital’s neighborhoods, reports that religious leaders in Anbar province are aligning themselves with us, and Iraqi soldiers being imbedded with our own. He blasted the Democratic plan, saying, “The consequences of failure are catastrophic, we will be back, the sponsors of this legislation don’t tell us what’s gonna happen when we ‘withdraw.'”
He said of the Democrats that, “They’re being driven by Move.org. They’ve overreached.” McCain also said he hopes that when President Bush announces his expected veto of the legislation, he describes the $20 billion of pork projects that were tacked on.
I asked McCain whether he was worried that if the surge shows early signs of progress, people in Washington would see that as an opportunity to declare victory and come home, even before the surge is able to be fully effective. He responded that it was his second biggest fear, after the surge not being given a chance in the first place. “I continually hear people in the administration, and even in the military, say ‘three months, six months, well, maybe six months…It took us four years to get into this state we’re in, and here we are after two months expecting miracles.”
On other matters, he was asked about the tough criticism he has received from conservatives, especially relative to Rudy Giuliani, and McCain joked, “life isn’t fair.” He said there have been a lot of stories out that he’s “too old, too tired” and that he panders, and said that’s why he’s getting back on the bus, attending town hall meetings, and taking his case directly to voters. He was complimentary toward Giuliani: “Rudy Giuliani with great justification is very highly regarded by American people because of his obvious great carrying out of his duties on 9/11.”
He also took the opportunity to once again lower expectations about his campaign’s fundraising efforts: “I’m unhappy with my performance in fundraising, which is my fault, because I don’t like asking people for money. I’m trying to get over that.”
UPDATE: More from James Joyner, Matt Lewis, Ryan Sager, K-Lo, Soren Dayton, Fausta, and David All.