Republican Presidential contender John McCain has touched down in Iraq for the eighth time. McCain’s political standing has risen and fallen depending on the status of the war, but the Congressman has stressed that this is not a political visit — he told reporters last week that he is going as a member of the Armed Services Committee. Nevertheless, the visit will shore up McCain’s foreign policy credentials, and according to The New York Times, many Iraqis are keeping a close eye on the presidential race, “some said the visit bolstered their belief that if Mr. McCain wins in November the American military will have a large presence in Iraq for a very long time.”

McCain supported going to war but was a vocal critic of how the war was conducted until an extra 30,000 troops were deployed last year as part of a new counter-insurgency strategy. This week marks the five year anniversary of the invasion, but for many Americans, the issue has fallen down the ladder of importance next to the looming threat of Recession, or make that Depression.

Looking back to the beginning: The war started with an odd bit of air turbulence just before dawn. A waffling and whining noise, ironically enough. Hardly remarkable. Anyone who wasn’t listening for it might have missed it. I had just woken up on the Kuwait-Iraq border in a sleeping bag laid out on an armored vehicle’s lowered ramp. I looked at my watch. It was 0429 hours on March 20, 2003. George W. Bush’s deadline for Saddam Hussein to quit Iraq had passed half an hour earlier. – Jules Crittenden, The Weekly Standard

Five years: At the fifth anniversary, the conflict’s staggering burden is a rebuke to any who hoped Mr. Hussein’s removal might be accomplished at acceptable cost. Back in 2003, only the most prescient could have guessed that the current “surge” would raise the American troop commitment above 160,000, the highest level since the invasion, in the war’s fifth year, or that the toll would include tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, as well nearly 4,000 American troops; or that America’s financial costs, by some recent estimates, would rise above $650 billion by 2008, on their way to perhaps $2 trillion if the commitment continues for another five years. Beyond that, there are a million or more Iraqis living as refugees in neighboring Arab countries, and the pitiful toll of fear and deprivation on Iraqi streets. — John F Burns, New York Times

Political poison: Iraq is the moral quagmire of the past quarter-century for American presidents and politicians. Every attempt by our leaders to ignore, manipulate or resolve with brute force that country’s deep conflicts has quickly come back to haunt its architect with unanticipated consequences and new, agonizing choices.
So it is no wonder that Americans are weary of having troops in such a place and are not eager to face up to the bloody dilemmas that an immediate U.S. withdrawal would spark. Iraqis have always found inventive ways to punish the indifference, cravenness or rash miscalculations that successive U.S. leaders have visited on them. — Jim Hoagland, The Washington Post

Europe does s-x scandals better: …if, as Henry Kissinger once said, power is the most powerful aphrodisiac, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s extracurricular sexual activities seem pathetic and furtive, almost adolescent, rather than deeply wicked. Resorting to prostit-tes is s-x without the trouble, uncertainty or potential humiliation attendant on attempted seduction. In other words, it’s a crude shortcut preferred by those who are uncertain of their allures unaided by financial inducements. It is p-rnography elevated — or descending — to the level of practice. — Theodore Dalrymple, Los Angeles Times

Picking up the pieces of the Republican party: The latest and perhaps last Republican ascendancy of the period 1980-2006 ends with the party incoherent over opposition to big government, illegal immigration and how to win the war against Islamic imperialism. Its legacy is the golden years of Presidents Reagan and George H. W. Bush, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Okay, maybe just the gleaming years of Ronald Reagan. — Eric Rozenman, The Washington Times

The media story behind the pastor: Politicians know a troublesome story has “broken through” the Eastern media echo chamber when Jay Leno is laughing at them. In the case of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., retiring pastor and outgoing spiritual adviser to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), it took less than 48 hours. The fracas started Thursday morning, when ABC’s “Good Morning America” ran a Brian Ross expose on Wright that included old video of him saying: “The government gives them the drugs, builds bigger prisons, passes a three-strike law and then wants us to sing ‘God bless America’? No, no, no. Not God bless America. God [expletive] America.” — Politico

A party divided: It’s unclear exactly when the primaries stopped being a joyous occasion for the Democrats. But as the weeks have ground on, the intensity between Democrats who disagree has calcified, the vitriol grown fiercer. According to exit polling in the Texas primary, 91 percent of Clinton supporters said they would be dissatisfied with Obama as the nominee; 87 percent of Obama fans said they would be dissatisfied with Clinton. Nationally, a quarter of those who back Clinton say they’d vote for John McCain if Obama won the nomination (while just 10 percent of Obama supporters would do the same if he lost). — Julia Baird, Newsweek