McCain on War Support, Rudy's Lead

John McCain thinks that if the war in Iraq drags on too long, the public support that remains for any possible military presence could evaporate entirely.

“The American people may get so frustrated, no matter what the other options are, they may say ‘get out of it,’” McCain said at a fund-raiser last night at the Hudson Theater in midtown.

The theater was full of men and women in business suits who bought tickets for $1,000 or $2,300 to hear Mr. McCain’s views on foreign and domestic issues. From a small stage, he addressed his unpopular position on the war in Iraq (“I read the polls more than you do”) and defended himself against accusations of pandering by pointing out his support of stem cell research. “That’s not pandering to the right,” he said.

After addressing the donors, he met with the press, whose questions centered on Rudy Giuliani’s lead in the polls.

When asked why Giuliani was so far ahead, given the fact that the two candidates had similar positions on the war, McCain said “I don’t know the answer to that. If I did it would be a lot closer.”

During the forum, moderated by Walter Isaacson, McCain took several subtle shots at President Bush. He seemed to mock Bush’s soul-gazing into Russian President Vladmir Putin’s eyes by saying of “Vlad” that the country needed to “look into his eyes again.”

Speaking about how to succeed in Iraq, he said, “It’s tough.”

He added, “It took three and a half years to screw it up this way.”

He named Brent Scowcroft, Robert Kagan, George Schultz, Bill Kristol, Larry Eagleburger and Bob Zelick as his foreign policy advisors, and acknowledged Hillary Clinton by saying, “I do believe the president has a right to pick his or her team. Her team – you get it?”

–Jason Horowitz