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McCain turns Bush on Iraq war surge
Since then, Mr. McCain has painted his unwavering support for the surge as evidence of his ability to be commander in chief. He cites Mr. Obama’s yearlong denial of American success in Iraq as evidence that Mr. Obama lacks the steadiness, foresight and judgment to make an effective commander in chief.
This summer, the Republican and his allies sharpened their attacks on Mr. Obama, questioning why he took just a single trip to Iraq before opposing the surge. “If the only time you had been to Iraq was in January 2006 and you’re thinking about running for president as a Democrat, you heard what you wanted to hear,” Mr. Graham said, echoing a now-common attack on Mr. Obama. “He saw what he wanted to see, he came back, and declared the war lost.”
An exchange between Mr. Obama and Katie Couric of CBS News, conducted in Amman, Jordan, in the midst of his extensive overseas trip to the Middle East and Europe in July, illustrates the presumptive Democratic nominee’s difficulty in addressing the surge now that it has worked.
“You raised a lot of eyebrows on this trip, saying, even knowing what you know now, you still would not have supported the surge,” Mrs. Couric told him. “People may be scratching their heads and saying, ‘Why?’”
When Mr. Obama deflected the question, she broke in: “But didn’t the surge - ”
“Let me finish, Katie,” he said.
She did, but later broke in again, trying to pin down a direct answer.
“Katie, as … you’ve asked me three different times, and I have said repeatedly that there is no doubt that our troops helped to reduce violence. There’s no doubt.”
Mrs. Couric persisted. “But yet you’re saying, given what you know now, you still wouldn’t support it, so I’m just trying to understand this. … I really don’t mean to belabor this, senator, because I’m really, I’m trying to figure out your position. Do you think the level of security in Iraq … would exist today without the surge?”
His impatience showing, Mr. Obama replied: “Katie, I have no idea what would have happened had we applied my approach, which was to put more pressure on the Iraqis to arrive at a political reconciliation. So this is all hypotheticals. What I can say is that there’s no doubt that our U.S. troops have contributed to a reduction of violence in Iraq.”
Minutes later, Mr. McCain sat for an interview with the CBS anchor, blasting his presidential opponent and setting out what is at stake in the November election.
“Senator Obama has indicated by his failure to acknowledge the success of the surge that he would rather lose a war than lose a campaign,” he said. “Senator Obama does not understand the challenges we face and he did not understand the need for the surge, and the fact that he did not understand that and still denies that it has succeeded, I think the American people will make a judgement.”
By Tom Harris and Madhav Khandekar
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