On the December 17 editions of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show and NBC's Meet the Press, New York Times columnist David Brooks suggested that no matter what happens in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is expected to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, will gain politically. On The Chris Matthews Show, after host Chris Matthews said that "[n]ew signs suggest that President Bush might actually increase the troops in Iraq, a step John McCain has long called for," Brooks said that even if McCain's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq "do[es]n't do the job," McCain would gain politically because "people look at his convictions." As the weblog Think Progress noted, when asked by Matthews if McCain would be "disproven" if "it turns out more troops don't do the job," Brooks said: "Not at this late date." Brooks added that in such a scenario, McCain will say, "with a lot of justice, it is too late." Similarly, on the same day's edition of Meet the Press, Brooks said that in 2008, "it's more likely than not that Iraq will be a complete mess, that Iran will be very close to nuclear weapons, that a government like Jordan or Syria or Lebanon could be falling." Brooks added: "It's going to look pretty nasty, I think. And I think that really raises [former New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani (R) and John McCain's record."
Brooks' assertion that McCain will benefit even if his plan makes Iraq worse offers another example of a tendency on the part of many in the media to interpret any event as positive for Republicans.
From the December 17 broadcast of the NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: Escalation. New signs suggest that President Bush might actually increase the troops in Iraq, a step John McCain has long called for.
McCAIN (video clip): The situation, in my view, remains serious. It requires us to have an injection of additional troops on the ground in order to bring the situation under control, in order that the political process may proceed.
MATTHEWS: So let's say it happens. We get more troops into Iraq early next year, but the violence and the killing continue over there. If the troop surge doesn't turn things around, what would that do to McCain's political chances? I was thinking, by the way, of those old Road Runner cartoons where one guy chases the other guy, and then realizes he's off the cliff.
We put it to the "Matthews Meter" -- would a troop surge actually hurt or help John McCain? By 7-to-5, the meter says it helps and sets McCain up to lead the country. David, you think if Bush moves for more troops, following the Army's advice, McCain's on board, in fact his biggest booster. That's a doubling down for the bet for both those guys. What does it do to McCain's future?
BROOKS: Well, I think people look at his conviction. I mean, if you look at every analysis of the war, every book that's been written about it, it all comes back to three words: not enough troops. And John McCain has been saying that for three years. And the White House did not listen to him for three years. And people are going to remember that, I think.
MATTHEWS: But if it turns out that more troops don't do the job, is he disproven?
BROOKS: Right -- well, not at this late date -- I mean, then they'll just say, and I think he'll say with a lot of justice, it is too late. And he said that even this week. One more surge, and then we have to look at a new reality --
From the December 17 edition of NBC's Meet the Press:
TIM RUSSERT (host): How about the Republican side? John McCain; Rudy Giuliani; Mitt Romney, governor of Massachusetts; Newt Gingrich, who was just seated here. What do you think?
BROOKS: Well, I think they're -- they're -- the first three in particular are -- are strong. And I -- I just look at what the world's going to look like in 2008. I personally think it's more likely than not that Iraq will be a complete mess, that Iran will be very close to nuclear weapons, that a government like Jordan or Syria or Lebanon could be falling. It's going to look pretty nasty, I think. And I think that really raises Rudy Giuliani and John McCain's record.