While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton continue their mud fight this week, John McCain is on a six-day campaign trip to the Mideast and Europe--at taxpayer expense--polishing his image as a warrior-statesman.
As ranking Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, the candidate will be accompanied by the Iraq Rover Boys, Senate colleagues Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham, to help him "understand and keep up to date, particularly where young Americans may be in harm's way."
The trip is a perfect metaphor for our situation in Iraq. Humvees, tanks and helicopters will be protecting the politicians as they preen for the TV cameras while the bleeding goes on out of sight. Even the Democrats' tower of jello Harry Reid has politely pointed out that he wouldn't make such a trip himself, preferring to stay "more focused on the eight soldiers killed yesterday."
It won't all be waste. Graham may get another good buy on an Oriental rug as he did last spring when McCain staged his heavily fortified stroll in a Baghdad market and, in the European stage of the trip, there will be time to pose with European prime ministers and attend a $1000-a-plate fundraising lunch at the ancestral home of Princess Diana's family.
But all is not sunny in McCain's world view. Before leaving, he told Pennsylvania voters he is worried that al Qaeda might stage spectacular attacks in Iraq to tilt the election against him.
"We have achieved enormous success," he said, "but they are still a very viable and tough enemy. There is no doubt in my mind that the surge is succeeding. Thank God for Gen. Petraeus, one of the greatest generals in American history."
Later today, in Baghdad, McCain will be able to tell Petraeus in person and pose for pictures that won't do his campaign any harm.