Thursday, February 28, 2008

On al Qaeda in Iraq, it's Obama 1, McCain 0

From Salon's Blog Report.

On al Qaeda in Iraq, it's Obama 1, McCain 0: Frontrunners square off on Iraq policy, with the Democrat getting the better of the fight - Yesterday’s exchanges between Barack Obama and John McCain over al Qaeda in Iraq offered the political world much of what it craves: a fairly substantive back-and-forth between leading candidates from both parties on the year’s biggest issue. As a result, what was a relatively routine dust-up literally became front-page news. Now, as far as I can tell, Obama didn’t start yesterday’s fight, but he certainly ended it. McCain’s criticism was rather foolish, while Obama’s response was not only quick, it was accurate and tied McCain to Bush’s failures. Given the outcome, I suspect the Obama campaign is sitting around this morning thinking, “What can we do to get McCain to go after us again today?”

What McCain and Obama said:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) accused Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) of making ill-informed comments about Iraq and al-Qaeda in Tuesday night's Democratic presidential debate, signaling that a general-election brawl between the colleagues would center in part on who has the foreign policy experience to lead a country at war.

Despite McCain's war-hero status and years of foreign policy experience, Obama made it clear that he will not back down from such a fight, issuing a quick rebuke of McCain that linked him to President Bush and the war in Iraq.

The spat began when McCain seized on a comment by Obama that he would reserve the right to return to Iraq after withdrawing troops "if al-Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq."

"I have some news," McCain told voters at a rally here Wednesday morning. "Al-Qaeda is in Iraq. Al-Qaeda is called 'al-Qaeda in Iraq.' My friends, if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base. . . . they would be taking a country. I will not allow that to happen, my friends. I will not surrender." . . .

"McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying, 'Well let me give you some news, Barack, al-Qaeda is in Iraq.' Like I wasn't reading the papers, like I didn't know what was going on. I said, 'Well, first of all, I do know that al-Qaeda is in Iraq; that's why I've said we should continue to strike al-Qaeda targets.

"I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al-Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq." The crowd roared its approval. "I've got some news for John McCain. He took us into a war along with George Bush that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged. They took their eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11, and that would be al-Qaeda in Afghanistan that is stronger now than at any time since 2001.

"So John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell, but so far all he's done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that's cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars." . . .

WaPo story here (emphasis added).

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