This is nothing more or less than his “100 years” line in another form, reiterating the point that it’s not a troop presence overseas that Americans really object to (or else they’d be pounding the table about Okinawa) but troop casualties. Perfectly clear, even to those not necessarily inclined to defend Republicans from Democratic attacks, but no matter. The demagoguery has already begun, transparently as a way of pushing the Narrative away from the inconvenient details about casualties being down and the surge working better than the Sage of Chicago, for all his supposed judgment on Iraq, foresaw. Can’t knock the Dems for seizing on it: Even the most recent opinion polls on Iraq are basically impervious to news of progress and the timing is fortuitous for them given the reports about some members of the Iraqi government playing hardball in negotiating the extent of the American troop presence next year. (“Maliki’s advisors are now asking aloud whether the American presence creates more trouble for Iraq with its Arab and Iranian neighbors or whether it safeguards the country’s sovereignty, the Western official explained.”) Credit to Harry Reid, though, for having the stones to punctuate his own statement blasting McCain with a nod at the “intractable civil war” that’s supposedly still raging, even though the only reason some of those Iraqi officials are willing and able to play hardball right now is because there is no civil war. Stay on message, Dingy. (Senate seats!)

Exit question: How does Maverick change the subject? Exit answer: By playing the old standards.

Update: The eternal question — how much of the imperviousness of those polls is due to insufficient coverage of the progress made? Scenes from an intractable civil war:

ABC News correspondent Terry McCarthy says the drop in violence gets less attention. “A drip, drip story that’s getting a little bit better day by day doesn’t make a headline,” he says. “We have to struggle to get more stories on the air. We have to do more feature-type stuff. The news of the day is not really here anymore.”

Despite having “more room to report,” because of the drop in violence, it doesn’t necessarily translate to more room in the newscasts.

“I was walking around the city doing interviews, without any kind of security protection or back up at all. That felt great,” says NBC correspondent Richard Engel. “People are getting out more. You see more people on the streets going to markets. When I go to do interviews, I can stay longer.”