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On the March 28 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News political director Chuck Todd asserted: "It would be easy for" Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "to criticize the war. The maverick thing to do is to actually take the unpopular stand." But, while McCain has supported President Bush's decision to increase U.S. troop levels in Iraq, he has also recently touted himself as "the greatest critic of the conduct of the war and one of the earliest," as Media Matters for America noted. Similarly, in a March 21 article, the Concord Monitor (New Hampshire) reported that McCain said, "I was the greatest critic of the way the war was being conducted." Moreover, McCain joined 45 of the 48 other Senate Republicans in voting to strike a provision in the Senate emergency military funding bill that Bush opposes, which says that Bush "shall commence the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, with the goal of redeploying, by March 31, 2008." Bush called a similar provision in the House version of the bill an "an artificial timetable for withdrawal" and said he was "not going" to "accept" it. After the Senate vote, Bush announced that he was "disappointed."
This is not the first time Todd has described as "maverick" McCain's support for Bush. As Media Matters noted, on the March 13, 2006, edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews noted that McCain urged attendees at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference to vote for Bush in a straw poll of potential 2008 presidential candidates. Matthews also highlighted McCain's defense of the Bush administration's decision to allow a company owned by the government of Dubai to take over port operations in six U.S. cities. Todd responded that for McCain "right now, rallying around the president is the maverick thing to do."
From the March 28 edition of NBC's Today:
NORAH O'DONNELL (MSNBC's chief Washington correspondent): Republican Senator John McCain left the campaign trail to try to defeat the Democratic proposal.
McCAIN: What we must not do is to give up just at the moment we're starting to turn things around.
O'DONNELL: But McCain admits his support for the president's Iraq policy has hurt him with support and fundraising.
TODD: It would be easy for him to criticize the war. The maverick thing to do is to actually take the unpopular stand.
O'DONNELL: McCain's chief rivals for the Republican nomination, [former Massachusetts Gov.] Mitt Romney and [former New York City Mayor] Rudy Giuliani, also oppose a timeline for withdrawal and support a surge of U.S. troop strength.