By Daniel Larison
Speaking of the "surge," I heartily recommend my TAC colleague Kelley Vlahos' post on the "surge"-as-Republican loyalty test, but I would just add that there is nothing terribly new about this test. From the moment that the plan was announced, it became an article of faith among the tiresome enforcers of movement and party purity that any elected Republican who expressed any doubts or qualifications of support, no matter what they were, were to be denounced and targeted for primary challenges. Hugh Hewitt was only the most vocal and obnoxious of the movement conservatives who insisted on applying this strangest of litmus tests in the wake of the '06 electoral debacle in an effort to make the GOP more or less unequivocally a party identified with the Iraq war and with nothing else.
Back then, even such reliable pro-war Senators as John Warner and Sam Brownback were chastised for advocating surrender, and it was during this phase when Chuck Hagel (who had voted to authorize the war and had kept his complaints about the war muted until the midterms) was declared to be persona non grata at the White House. Even Romney's modest wait-and-see approach for most of 2007 was turned into a liability for him on the eve of the Florida primary, when McCain shamelessly lied about what Romney's position had been. Something that I think most analysts of the recent debate over the "surge" have missed is why McCain is sticking so doggedly to arguing over who was right a year and a half ago: it was his use of the "surge" to break Romney in the primaries that paved the way for his nomination, and I expect that he believes that he can ride this issue all the way through the general election by using it just as unscrupulously against Obama as he did against his main primary rival. The press will allow this to happen, because it is now commonly accepted wisdom that "McCain was right about the surge," which somehow gives him license to distort his opponents' views while officially retaining credibility on matters of national security.
Cross-posted at Eunomia