COLUMBUS, Ohio - Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Thursday he believes the Iraq war can be won within four years, leaving a functioning democracy there and allowing most U.S. troops to come home.
McCain conceded he cannot make the changes alone, but said he wanted to outline a specific governing style to show the accomplishments it can achieve.
"I'm not interested in partisanship that serves no other purpose than to gain a temporary advantage over our opponents. This mindless, paralyzing rancor must come to an end. We belong to different parties, not different countries," McCain said in remarks prepared for delivery in the capital city of Ohio, a general election battleground. "There is a time to campaign, and a time to govern. If I'm elected president, the era of the permanent campaign will end; the era of problem solving will begin."
The Arizona senator's Democratic rivals for the White House, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, are running on a pledge to begin bringing U.S. troops home right away and have linked McCain's policies on the unpopular war to those of President George W. Bush.
100 years in Iraq
The Democratic candidates also charge McCain wants to keep the United States entangled in Iraq for 100 years.
McCain says any decades-long presence of U.S. troops would be aimed at maintaining stability in the region and has likened it to the U.S. military presence in Japan, South Korea and Germany.
McCain wrote he had thought Obama's interest in ethics legislation "was genuine and admirable," before adding: "Thank you for disabusing me of such notions." He accused Obama of "partisan posturing."
While calling for Congress to drop mindless partisanship, McCain also chided the media — with whom he has enjoyed a generally positive relationship — for fueling contention with its campaign coverage.
"Campaigns and the media collaborated as architects of the modern presidential campaign, and we deserve equal blame for the regret we feel from time to time over its less-than-inspirational features," he said.
McCain, running in the November election to succeed Bush in 2009, described a scenario he thought he could achieve within his first four-year term.
"By January 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom," McCain said in prepared remarks he was to deliver in Columbus, Ohio.
"The Iraq war has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy, although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension. Violence still occurs, but it is spasmodic and much reduced," McCain said.
The Republican senator said that although the United States would still have a troop presence in Iraq, those soldiers would not need a "direct combat role" because Iraqi forces would be capable of providing order.
Bin Laden, the economy
McCain also predicted that al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden would be captured or killed within four years and the militant group's presence in Afghanistan would be reduced to remnants.
On the economy, he promised taxpayers the option of filing under a simpler system than the current multilayered code and said he would overhaul government spending practices that have led to "extravagantly wasted money."
Ohio is expected to be a hard-fought state in the general election and McCain's visit there came as Obama, the Democratic front-runner, got another boost by gaining the endorsement of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards.
Holding an almost unassailable lead over Clinton in delegates who will pick their party's nominee, Obama has increasingly turned his attention toward McCain.
On Iraq, McCain has argued the Democratic candidates are promising a reckless pullout, a pledge he says they would never be able to keep once they face the realities.
The unpopularity of Bush and the Iraq war has taken a toll on the political fortunes of Republicans.
One more time
In outlining potential achievements of a first term, the 71-year-old McCain implicitly was suggesting he would seek a second term, an attempt to mute suggestions he would serve only four years after being the oldest president ever to take office for a first term.
In particular, he sees a world in which:
The Taliban threat in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced.
A "League of Democracies" has supplanted a failed United Nations to apply sanctions to the Sudanese government and halt genocide in Darfur.
The United States has had "several years of robust growth," appropriations bills free of lawmakers' pet projects known as "earmarks," public education improved by charter schools, health care improved by expansion of the private market and an energy crisis stemmed through the start of construction on 20 new nuclear reactors.
Democrats are asked to serve in his administration, he holds weekly news conferences and, like the British prime minister, answers questions publicly from lawmakers.
McCain also pledges to halt a Bush administration practice of enacting laws with accompanying signing statements that exempt the president from having to enforce parts he finds objectionable.
"I will respect the responsibilities the Constitution and the American people have granted Congress," the senator said, "and will, as I often have in the past, work with anyone of either party to get things done for our country."