Months ago, McCain called on Obama to go to Iraq to educate himself on the ground situation, in a mark of criticism against his 16-month withdrawal plan. He probably hoepd to put Obama in a double-bind: if Obama did not go, he could be painted as ignoring facts. If he did, he might be painted as admitting ignorance.
Obama went with the second option, and the plan has backfired for McCain in ways he could not have previously imagined.
Contrary to my previous thoughts on the subject, it looks like Bush and al-Maliki are actually in a very deep row over the status of American troops in Iraq.
Obama has visited Iraq, and met with Gen. Petreaus and top Iraqi officials. In open acknowledgment that "the Surge worked," the Iraqis have shortened their proposed timeline from 2012 to 2010--right in line with Mr. Obama's 16-month withdrawal plan. The quick change is a bit surprising, but it's possible the Iraqi government is actually trying to use its own fate as a bolster for Obama (Mr. Obama has found himself quite a warm welcome in Iraq so far, and they may be looking forward to 8 years of working with him). In addition, a photo-op by General Petraeus' side is just what Obama needed to extend his run to the center.
The last few days have been a crippling defeat to McCain, whose Iraq policy centered on being a practical solution for Iraqi security, even if it was tough on Americans. But now, with the Iraqis siding with Mr. Obama, even McCain has to give a bit: he has admitted he could imagine US troops in Iraq for only 2 more years.
Now Mr. Obama has won the initiative on foreign policy--an area that he has seemed weak, before. Such a victory is likely to win him key undecided moderates and make Mr. McCain's bid for the White House become a long shot.
Obama's race towards the center is likely to work for him, as long as he is able to shake from his tail his involvement with the American ultra-left: