Even more amusing than Maverick’s savviness in forcing this choice on him is TPM straining to spin it as some sort of manifestation of principle — a standard Obama reaction whenever he weasels out of some tough decision, belied most recently by his pathetic reclamation of the flag lapel pin just in time for the general election. Spokesman Bill Burton:

John McCain’s proposal is nothing more than a political stunt, and we don’t need any more ‘Mission Accomplished’ banners or walks through Baghdad markets to know that Iraq’s leaders have not made the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge. The American people don’t want any more false promises of progress, they deserve a real debate about a war that has overstretched our military, and cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars without making us safer.

If they’re worried about the military giving them a dog-and-pony show, the answer isn’t to decline the trip but to counterpropose a more comprehensive trip than even McCain’s suggesting and turn it into a real fact-finding mission. Don’t spend two hours looking at charts with Petraeus. Take four or five days; go to Basra and Mosul. If they simply can’t suspend campaigning for that long, send a joint team of advisors from both sides. He won’t do it because he’s afraid of what he might hear, which goes back to a point I’ve been making ever since the Jamil Hussein saga: The left would have you believe Iraq hawks can’t admit that any aspect of the war might be going badly, but the opposite has always been more nearly true. For purposes of the Narrative, it’s doves who can’t admit that any aspect of the war might be going better, as if to acknowledge that the surge has helped to improve security or that the Iraqi army is performing better than expected lately or that plenty of Shiites are tired of Sadr’s crap would be to validate neoconservatism or somehow tacitly rubber-stamp an invasion of Iran. So how about it, Barry? Break the mold. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of grim news in the briefings too to help take the sting out of the reports of progress. Exit question: How on earth did we arrive at an election scenario where the hawk is trying to bait the dove into talking about Iraq?