Peter Feaver, the political scientist-cum-Bush-White-House Iraq guru, has some pretty explicit advice for John McCain: you say you want an honest debate about Iraq? Do not ignore the origins of the war.
Feaver and his colleagues have evidence that voters chose Pres. Bush in 2004 in part because they still believed that the origins of the war were just. So they reason that in 2008, with a compelling majority having retrospectively changed their minds -- a very difficult cognitive reversal for a body of public opinion -- McCain must find a way to explain his vote.
McCain seems to ignore, for example, the near-supermajority of American adults who believe that the administration lied -- as in intentionally misled -- the public.
Feaver further argues that the case for war is stronger than the leftists who control the public discourse now would have everyone believe. And he argues that McCain's failure to explain his own thinking allows, say, Barack Obama, to get away with a lapse in reasoning:
Finally, the failure to defend the historical case has allowed Democrats to avoid answering tough questions about their own stances. Senator Obama, for instance, loves to praise his own judgment in coming out against the Iraq war in 2002, favoring instead containing Saddam Hussein with a vigorous weapons inspections regime. What Obama has never explained is how he thought the United States could reconstitute the containment/inspections regime absent a credible threat of force. When Obama gave his 2002 speech, there were no inspectors on the ground in Iraq and the U.N. sanctions were falling apart. It was the U.S. threat of force--the very threat Obama was protesting--that reinvigorated the Security Council and reestablished the inspections regime.
Randy Scheunemann and other McCain policy advisers have almost certainly read and digested this article as it appeared in the Weekly Standard, McCain's house organ. Perhaps it was a subtle message from them (the Standard) to him.