Video: McCain starts distancing himself from Iraq (Update: GOP issues "research briefing" -- on Kos)

Karol sneers, calls him a liar, then vows to support him if he’s the nominee. I can’t take too much umbrage. My boy Rudy’s going to have to serve up some war caveats eventually, too. Just a fact of political life in summer ’06.

This dance has two steps. Click here to watch him tell Tim Russert on MTP that he has no confidence in Rumsfeld, then click below and watch him put the boots to Cheney. Both clips are short.

Time eschews the obvious explanation for the more daring “calculated maverickness” theory:

McCain’s aides know the senator’s reputation for independence and integrity is his most valuable political asset. They monitor its health closely. They knew that McCain’s efforts to ingratiate himself with the party establishment would lead to stories suggesting the Senator had compromised his principles in order to appease conservatives… “John didn’t say anything he hasn’t said before — he’s always been critical of the way the war’s been handled even though he supports the war and thinks we have to win,” an adviser told this morning. “But sometimes it’s a good idea to remind people that he’s still John McCain, telling it like it is.”

Meanwhile, Liebs’s independent bid just got certified. The latest poll puts him two slim points up on the Freshmaker, with fully 11% undecided. Geraghty and A.J. Strata crunched the numbers and came away optimistic, but I’m less sanguine: Democrats outnumber Republicans 33-24, and Lamont’s already huge lead among the former is likely to widen as perceptions that Lieberman is the de facto Republican candidate take hold. Independents will have to break hard for Joementum, and I don’t see that happening unless there’s some sort of major terror scare. Which, for the record, I hope there isn’t.

Hillary and the Freshmaker will be meeting on Friday to kiss each other’s rings and swear eternal loyalty. The Times ran a piece this morning wondering why the fightin’ nutroots hasn’t gone after her with the same enthusiasm they’ve shown going after Lieberman. Kos plays dumb:

Markos Moulitsas, whose blog, the Daily Kos, championed Mr. Lamont, was more blunt in explaining why he had not taken up Mr. Tasini’s banner.

“I fed off the excitement and energy Lamont created amongst Connecticut activists and bloggers,” Mr. Moulitsas wrote in an e-mail message. “I see none of that energy or excitement for Tasini.”

Others know better:

To many antiwar partisans and liberal groups, Mr. Tasini is also not enough of a threat to Mrs. Clinton to be useful in pressuring her over Iraq. They say that instead of intervening in the primary race, it is more important to keep Mrs. Clinton as an ally and try to influence her foreign policy in friendly ways, since she could well become a presidential candidate in 2008. Otherwise, some fear, she might freeze them out.

What would a Hillary thread be without gratuitous mockery? Not much, my friends. Not much.

One more poll to mention: Rasmussen predicts that the GOP will hold on to the Senate — barely. Greg Tinti has video of Chairman Dean-o targeting one prominent Republican incumbent in particular. At this point, I’m not sure I disagree with him.

Update: In case there was any doubt, Kos has officially arrived. Read the “research briefing” for yourself. It’s a PDF compilation of all his greatest hits.