Is McCain’s political fate tied irrevocably to progress, or lack thereof, in Iraq? asks RealClearPolitics today. Meanwhile, the Democrats compete over who can disown NAFTA fastest, and the Man from Hope bitterly tries to talk people out of having any at all.

McCain’s political quagmire: Against that overwhelming public sentiment, McCain insists that he can see “a clear path to success in Iraq,” with American and civilian casualties declining and Iraqis assuming responsibility for their own security. The Arizona senator evidently realizes that his recent prediction of a century-long American occupation did not go over well. “All of us want out of Iraq,” he told the Associated Press on Feb. 25. “The question is how do we want out of Iraq.” Yet, even while he uttered those soothing words, the Pentagon was preparing a new deployment schedule that proves the path to success is far from clear. — Joe Consanon, RealClearPolitics

NAFTA, NAFTA, NAFTA: Manufacturing employment has declined, but not because we’re producing less: Manufacturing output has not only expanded, but has expanded far faster than it did in the decade before NAFTA. The problem is that as productivity rises, we can make more stuff with fewer people. That’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s essentially the definition of economic progress. We’re not the only country facing that phenomenon. China makes everything these days, right? But between 1995 and 2002, it lost 15 million manufacturing jobs. Even if the candidates don’t want to acknowledge the gains of the last 14 years, it’s hard to see how they can blame NAFTA for economic troubles in Ohio or elsewhere. — Steve Chapman, RealClearPolitics

Hope v ideology: Granted, the first-term Illinois senator’s lofty rhetoric of bipartisanship, unity, hope and change makes everyone feel good. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that his grand campaign rhetoric does not match his partisan, ideological record. The nonpartisan National Journal, for example, recently rated Obama the Senate’s most liberal member. That’s besting some tough competition from orthodox liberals such as Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer. John McCain’s campaign and conservative pundits have listed the numerous times in Obama’s short Senate career where he sided with the extremes in his party against broadly supported compromises on issues such as immigration, ethics reform, terrorist surveillance and war funding. Fighting on the fringe with a handful of liberals is one thing, but consider his position on an issue that passed both houses of Congress unanimously in 2002. — The Philadelphia Inquirer

The Bonnie and Clyde contest: Has anyone else out there begun to find that it is easier to make sense of the struggle between Hillary and Barack if one thinks in terms of film tragedies? Several have been unspooling in my mind these days: “All About Eve,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “A Star Is Born,” even “Bonnie and Clyde,” if one assumes the Clintons are going to either pull off this heist or go down in a blaze of bullets. — Darel Henninger, The Wall Street Journal

The Bitter half: Today’s Bill Clinton after a quadruple bypass has given up jogging in favor of long walks, and his hair is a halo of white. And he had come to deliver a very different message. Don’t fall in love, he cautioned, simply because someone tells you that “we need to turn the page in America, and we need to adopt something fresh and new — whatever that is.” It is hard to miss the irony: the man from Hope is now trying to figure out how to tamp it down. But that tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the spot in which Bill Clinton finds himself today, as his wife’s presidential campaign fights for its life in Ohio and Texas.  — Time

Getting the right on side: Certain kinds of conservatives, distrusting Richard Nixon’s ideological elasticity, rejected him — until 1973. Although it had become clear his administration was a crime wave, they embraced him because the media were his tormentors. Today such conservatives, whose political compasses are controlled, albeit negatively, by The New York Times, have embraced John McCain. He, although no stickler about social niceties (see below), should thank the Times, for two reasons. — George Will, The Washington Times

Peter Fray

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