In a week when America observed the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, General David Petraeus reported to Congress on the "surge," and President Bush told Americans that their character is at issue in Iraq, the occupation of Iraq was the unavoidable topic — for the five presidential candidates who sat across from Petraeus at the Senate hearings, and for the bloggers sizing them up.
Many lefty bloggers know the Iraq answer they want to hear: U.S. troops out, quickly and fully.
"Especially in a Democratic primary. Why on earth would I line up behind a candidate as the "progressive" choice if he or she wants to keep American troops in Iraq?" Chris Bowers writes at OpenLeft. "There is no way to end the Iraq war as long as there are American troops on Iraqi soil. … So why on earth would I, in a primary election, when the whole point is to fight for what you believe instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, line up behind a candidate espousing a policy that is contrary to my most important issue?"
So who meets the test? It depends on who's blogging.
Bowers picks New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, with John Edwards close and Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton not making the grade. Siun at Firedoglake parses the candidates' statements and judges all except Richardson to be "pretending you'll end the war."
Todd Beeton at MyDD finds Obama's Sept. 12 speech on Iraq fuzzy on the issue of leaving behind "residual forces" and gives credit to Sen. Chris Dodd for insisting that funding for the U.S. occupation of Iraq come with an enforceable deadline for redeploying U.S. troops. At TheAtlantic, Matthew Yglesias says Sen. Joseph Biden's statement at the opening of the Petraeus hearing, calling for a soft partition of Iraq, "was really pretty great." Jeff Dinelli at The Leftcoaster writes that Clinton bested Obama at the Petraeus hearing: "She did a very good job in appearing properly critical, respectful, well-informed, and clear that Petraeus didn't create these problems, he's simply the one struggling with a doomed policy."
And then there's Iowa blogger Connor Anderson, who actually attended Obama's Iraq speech in (where else?) Clinton, Iowa. His judgment? "Good speech. Rational, and as many have said, there are no good choices left in Iraq any more. Only bad choices and worse choices. A lot of this is straight out of the Iraq Study Group proposals from last year. The rest just common sense."
Common sense in politics? Isn't that cheating?
While bloggers on the left try to figure out which Democrat is right on Iraq, the right blogosphere has fewer distinctions to sort out in a Republican presidential field that, with the exception of Rep. Ron Paul, backs the Bush surge in Iraq. The surge that's getting the most notice, though, belongs to Sen. John McCain.
Given up for dead early in the summer by bloggers and the press alike, McCain is getting renewed respect. Rich Lowry at The Corner hands McCain the victory in the Sept. 5 Republican debate in New Hampshire. "His answers on Iraq and Iran were passionate and deeply informed."
Steve Weigel at Reason’s Hit & Run blog notes McCain's close identification with Bush and Iraq: "John McCain's campaign has made it known that they want their candidate to own the Iraq War, betting that Republican voters still support it (true) and that the surge will show obvious progress (somewhat true), turning public opinion around (not yet)." Weigel doubts McCain's bet will ultimately pay off. "If you're a Republican donor or voter, do you want to head into November with some wiggle room in case the surge peters out in March and we still have an overtaxed military presence heading into election day? Or do you want to go all in with John?"
But as Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit notes, McCain is "up nine points — that's pretty big."
Even in the blogosphere, it apparently can't be a presidential campaign unless there's a Comeback Kid.