Ostensibly this is a gotcha aimed at showing that Maverick found the “Mission Accomplished” banner itself to be peachy keen, contrary to what he said on the stump today. In reality, it’s yet another attempt to prove that McCain thought the war would be a cakewalk through and through. Watch the clip, then read on.

Why the cut in the middle? I couldn’t find a transcript of that episode of Cavuto online, but I did find a transcript of this particular exchange at — wait for it — Media Matters. Here’s the reason for the edit:

NEIL CAVUTO (host): Senator — after a conflict means after the conflict, and many argue the conflict isn’t over.

McCAIN: Well, then why was there a banner that said mission accomplished on the aircraft carrier?

Look, the –I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long, difficult process, but the conflict — the major conflict is over, the regime change has been accomplished, and it’s very appropriate. In two weeks, General Franks is going to come before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and we’re going to have his overall assessment of the conflict. I think that’s entirely appropriate because we’ll be — we’ll be taking up the needs of the Defense Department and the men and women in the military on the Armed Services Committee.

But I’m looking for an overall review of the conflict, what we did right, what we did wrong, and what the needs are, including the issue of weapons of mass destruction. I remain confident that we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

They excised the boldfaced part, for obvious reasons. Here’s another tidbit in the same vein from Wolf Blitzer’s show in January 2003, per the GOP’s fact sheet on this subject: “[W]e will instill a democracy in Iraq. It won’t be easy. It will be long. It will be difficult and it will be expensive but it will be an example to other nations in the region, including the Saudi Arabians.” The RNC’s not going to dig up the footage of that exchange and make a rebuttal ad out of it lest it remind people of just how long and difficult the war’s been, so it’s up to the media (and bloggers, natch) to call the Dems on this. They did a surprisingly good job with Obama’s distortion of his “100 years” comment. Let’s see how they do with this tomorrow.