In particular, this comment struck me as particularly apt as it dovetails nicely with my own views on the topic:
Speaking as bluntly as I have heard in some time, he acknowledged the credibility deficit of the Pentagon and White House on the war. Saying that “too often, we misled the American people in the past” about deadenders, mission accomplished, and so on, McCain said that the press has become too reluctant to report actual progress in Iraq. He feels that bloggers and radio hosts can help get real information to the American people and help encourage the nation to remain tenacious.
Who does he blame for the credibility gap? McCain pointed out that President Bush has to accept the ultimate responsibility for that as well as for the faulty strategy used up to this year in attempting to pacify the insurgencies. The Senator says that he is pleased with the direction the White House has taken this year and the energy with which they have pursued it. He faulted the White House for not having regular press conferences dedicated to discussing the progress in Iraq in clear and objective terms, which McCain feels would have disarmed much of the criticism, especially this year.
Ultimately, though, he blames Donald Rumsfeld for shrinking the military and using too light of a footprint in post-invasion Iraq -- a position McCain has consistently maintained for over three years. He also blames Generals Casey and Sanchez for their roles in supporting Rumsfeld's strategies. He believes that General Petraeus, a "charismatic" commander, has the right approach and the skills to succeed in Iraq. McCain also praised Rumsfeld's replacement, Robert Gates, and told us that Pentagon morale has increased substantially since Rumsfeld's departure.
I also found this point amusing in the comments:
... bashing McCain on this is kind of like stoning Cassandra when the Greeks landed outside the walls of Troy. No one listened to her either.
... You may have legitimate beefs with McCain, but the GWOT is not one of them - if he doesn't cave like everyone else but continues to back the war, we may look back and say he sacrificed his campaign by backing Gates and Petraeus and the new strategy on Iraq, instead of pandering to the winds of public or party opinion (lots of the GOP, and lots of bloggers/commenters wouldn't entertain any criticism of Rumsfeld or Bush in '04 or '05 - like it's a good idea if I see you about to shoot yourself in the foot but I don't say anything for fear of appearing disloyal).
I think that the absence of any real constructive criticism from anyone but McCain and Lieberman from 2003 to present is one of the things that really hindered the progress of the war effort, though Bush's weaknesses have not helped. The GOP supported Bush and trusted him to manage the war, while most of the opposition was rooting for defeat or practically unhinged. I think that we're on the right track now because the McCain-Lieberman view has basically been adopted by the administration as their own, but since most the American public has yet to understand our shift in strategy apart from the fact that we now have more troops.
On the political front, I would suggest to conservatives favoring Giuliani over McCain on the grounds that the former is stronger on the war on terrorism take a look at Jonah Goldberg's column on the subject. Whatever one thinks of McCain, I don't think that Giuliani's apparent strategy of hedging his bets on Iraq is showing much of his vaunted leadership on the war on terrorism. While Lowry notes that Romney has taken a similar position, Romney's entire campaign is not heavily dependent on his ability to conduct the war on terrorism. Giuliani has defined a lot of his campaign around the view that conservatives should ignore his social views because he will provide leadership when it comes to the war on terrorism. And as practical political matter, any of the major GOP candidates is smoking some serious crack if they believe that failure in Iraq will allow for the election of a Republican candidate in 2008 short of an al-Qaeda and Iranian orchestrated Khmer Rouge-style genocide immediately following our withdrawl. Then again, that happened post-Vietnam and we still got saddled with Jimmy Carter for four years.