Wall Street Journal Editorial: McCain's Finest Hour

Wall Street Journal Editorial: McCain's Finest Hour

April 11, 2007

These columns have had more than one disagreement with John McCain over the years ... Yet now that he is under attack from his erstwhile media "base" for refusing to repudiate the war in Iraq, we think he deserves some covering fire. The word for what he's demonstrating is character.

It's too soon to say if Mr. McCain's interview Sunday with Scott Pelley of CBS's "60 Minutes" will be equally defining. But it certainly illuminated the chasm that distinguishes Mr. McCain from the Beltway media that used to adore him.

Later Mr. Pelley observed that Mr. McCain was betting his entire campaign on the success of the current "surge" strategy in Baghdad. The Senator replied that he'd "rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

The difference is not merely of consistency but of conviction. Mr. McCain is making clear he understands that leadership is often by nature unpopular. He has been equally clear about the consequences of U.S. withdrawal from Iraq -- "chaos" and "genocide" were among the scenarios he painted for Mr. Pelley.

He has also shown that he understands the moral obligation his vote authorizing the war entailed, which was to see it through to victory, or at least until the conclusion becomes inescapable that victory is impossible.

Later today, Mr. McCain will deliver a speech at the Virginia Military Institute about how the war in Iraq can be won. Along with many Americans, we will listen with interest and respect, not because we always agree with Mr. McCain, but because he has demonstrated that his views on the subject are serious and born of belief, not of polls. That's more than can be said for most of our political and chattering classes, and a reason to admire a politician whose newfound unpopularity coincides with his finest political hour.