He now has two positions
1) John McCain advocated a surge before the surge, and deserves credit for the results of the surge, while Barack Obama opposed the surge.
2) "the surge" doesn't mean what everyone else means when they say "the surge" it means "the surge and the shift to following the counterinsurgency field manual when trying to counter an insurgency plus making a deal with the people we were fighting in which they get money without accepting the Iraqi central government and well just everything that changed within a year of the improvement in the security situation."
Claim 2 alone is enough to show he is dishonest and grasping at straws, but the debate point winning response is to note the equivocation.
Only if "the surge" means the increase in troop levels is it true that McCain advocated it and Obama opposed it. Obama never argued against the counterinsurgency field manual. I don't think McCain proposed offering a super sweet deal to most of our adversaries in Iraq. If the surge is everything that the US tried since Sept 2006, then Obama did *not* oppose all of the surge and McCain did not advocate it. The point of disagreement between the two was US troop levels. If that is not key to "the surge" then McCain's whole campaign is based on a bait and switch equivocation.
update: This post was originally a comment here. As usual, I posted my comment and then began reading the comment thread (don't you hate it when people comment without reading the thread. I sure do). I see that badmoodman made a vastly superior version of my comment
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
OK to find a better phrasing of my argument in an ultra-centenarian book for children puts me in a bad mood, but I am *not* badmoodman.
I would have edited the last line to
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be
What a badcommentman I am.
update II: Great minds think alike. Smarter ones know how to make the point succinctly. (oooh that smarts he just writes better). Actually Yglesias made the point succinctly twice (does that mean double succinctness of half succinctness)
In fact, McCain has shown an extraordinary unwillingness to accept or understand the US choices which helped awaken the Iraqi Sunnis. Hell then and now he was pretending that we were and are fighting mostly al Qaeda in Iraq (to the point of claiming 3 times in 2 days the third in response to a challenge to the second that Iran is providing training to AQI terrorists). The key strategic insight behind the Sunni awakening is that we could separate the Iraqi controlled Sunni insurgents from the foreigner commanded (mostly Iraqi born) AQI fighters. Now this was not a new idea, the US had been negotiating with the Sunni insurgents for years, but it is one that McCain still can't grasp and refuses to recognize.