McCain: Romney wanted to withdraw from Iraq; Update: McCain hinted at withdrawal?

Team Mitt’s treating it as an egregious smear. Is it? Here’s the clip McCain’s playing off of, from April:

And here’s the “straight talk”:

Opening a new line of criticism in Ft. Myers as the two candidates campaigned along the state’s southwest coast, McCain told reporters about Iraq: “If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher.”

Minutes earlier, he took a slap at Romney without naming him during a question-and-answer session with Floridians, saying: “Now, one of my opponents wanted to set a date for withdrawal that would have meant disaster.”

Yeah, pretty egregious. He never said he “wanted” to withdraw or that he wanted a date set, and it’s patently clear he doesn’t want any timetables publicly announced. All he’s saying, I take it, is that Bush and Maliki should have some sense of achieving certain goals by certain dates; it doesn’t necessarily follow from that that we withdraw if those goals aren’t met, only that the strategy would have to change somehow to address the problem. If they are met and progress continues, then you can start talking — secretly — about drawing down.

In fact, here’s a clip of Mitt from June making the same point as McCain, that if we get out too soon the region’s going to melt down. An odd argument for a cut-and-runner to make, although it serves Maverick’s purposes in Florida to make it. “Straight talk” indeed.

Exit question: If the act of setting benchmarks necessarily implies a threat to withdraw if they’re not met, what do we make of this?

Update: A little more straight talk for you re: that link in the exit question.

Asked what penalty would be imposed if Iraq failed to meet his benchmarks, [McCain] said: “I think everybody knows the consequences. Haven’t met the benchmarks? Obviously, then, we’re not able to complete the mission. Then you have to examine your options.”