McCain Challenges Obama on Iraq
by Wall Street Journal Blogs
Overshadowed by news of the staffing shakeup in John McCain’s campaign is its role in a methodically waged attack on Democratic opponent Barack Obama.
For months, Republicans have gone after Obama’s Iraq policy, everything from his scheduled visit there to his timetable for troop withdrawal. It’s in their best interest to keep the topic of conversation on foreign policy and tout their candidate’s military credentials.
In recent weeks, McCain and his campaign sounded the drumbeat for Obama to travel to Iraq. McCain mentioned it at nearly every town hall meeting. The Republican National Committee went so far as to add a clock to its Web site, ticking off the time since Obama last set foot in Iraq (It currently stands at 908 days, about two and a half years.)
At the end of June, word broke that the junior senator from Illinois would head to the war zone. So last week the McCain campaign offered a new critique: that the visit is nothing more than a photo-op. The McCain campaign held a conference call Wednesday to jump on remarks of Claire McCaskill, a senator from Missouri and an Obama national co-chair, who said that Obama would not change his Iraq policy before November.
“I guess the question is, if indeed he’s going to go to Iraq and nothing that he sees will change or impact his decision-making on this, then why is he going?” said Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman.
A day later, Obama told reporters he would be open to refining his 16-month withdrawal timetable, something the McCain campaign has urged him to do for awhile.
But even then, the McCain campaign found a way to attack. “Since announcing his campaign in 2007, the central premise of Barack Obama’s candidacy was his commitment to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq immediately,” Rogers said in a statement. “Today, Barack Obama reversed that position, proving once again that his words do not matter.”
Obama held a second press conference Thursday to clarify his remarks. “Apparently, I wasn’t clear enough this morning on my position with respect to the war in Iraq,” he said.
All went quiet on the Fourth of July holiday, but expect the argument to flare up many times through November.