( NYT: Democrats criticize McCain on Iraq strategy. )
You can see the video where McCain describes when the troops come home as "not too important" here
But as I've always said, it's all about context. What's the actual exchange?
TODAY: If it's working, Senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?
MCCAIN: No, but that's not too important. What's important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany — that's all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw... we will be able to withdraw. General Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are. But the key to is that we don't want any more Americans in harm's way. And that way they will be safe, and serve our country, and come home with honor, and victory. Not in defeat, which is what Senator Obama's proposal would have done.
Right now what he's saying is actually correct: it's not so much the fact that Americans are in Iraq that's the real
problem... after all, as he points out, American troops are all over the world. It's that they are dying.
The very presence of American troops in Iraq is a problem, though, in terms of resources, in terms of military necessity, in terms of wastage, but at the end of the day, the human response wouldn't be as strong if they were not in danger. So he's right. It's not as important. What might be a bit off his his insistence on withdrawal with honor... which may lead to those casualties he says he's trying to avoid.
I'm no fan of the Republicans, as is obvious, but I don't think it's really fair to jump on McCain in this particular instance: there've been greater misstatements and more egregious positions he's taken. The new G.I. Bill, for instance...