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McCain: Obama aims to win vote, not war

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Sen. John McCain said his Democratic presidential opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, has played politics with the Iraq war, choosing his positions in order to win a political campaign rather than do what is needed to win the war.

With 100 days to go before the Nov. 4 election, and after Mr. Obama's weeklong trip to the Middle East and Europe, Mr. McCain sharpened his tone in an attempt to puncture a hole in Mr. Obama's message that he is a different type of politician.

"Senator Obama doesn't understand. He doesn't understand what's at stake here and he chose to take a political path that would have helped him get the nomination of his party," the Arizona Republican said in an interview taped Saturday and broadcast Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "I took a path that I knew was unpopular because I knew we had to win in Iraq."

Fresh off his trip, Mr. Obama defended his stance to an audience of minority journalists in Chicago, telling them he stands by his opposition to the surge of forces.

"We don't know what would have happened had we followed my plan to begin a phased withdrawal to put pressure on the Maliki government to start negotiating more effectively with some of these other parties," the Illinois Democrat said.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Mr. Obama said the troop surge in Iraq has worked but he still doesn't think it was the right decision.

"Our military is stretched extraordinarily because of trying to fight two wars at the same time, and so my job, as the next commander in chief, is going to be to make a decision what is the right war to fight and how do we fight it. And I think that we should have been focused on Afghanistan from the start," he said.

Both campaigns are taking stock of the political playing field. With the Beijing Olympics likely to absorb most attention in the middle of August, the window is narrowing to make much news before the national party conventions. Mr. Obama will accept his party's presidential nomination in Denver at the end of August, and Mr. McCain is to become the Republican nominee in St. Paul, Minn., in early September.

Speaking to reporters in Europe on Saturday, Mr. Obama said polls might show his support dropping because he was out of the country for a week.

Despite the recent focus on international issues, he said, the economy remains the top election issue. He told the Associated Press on Sunday that he will work on another economic stimulus package to have ready if he takes office in January.

In his ABC interview, Mr. McCain suggested that Mr. Obama balked at a visit with wounded U.S. troops in Germany because he couldn't bring the press with him to capture the event. The McCain campaign makes a similar implication in an advertisement that was put on the Internet and began running Saturday night in Colorado, Pennsylvania and the District.

Mr. Obama has defended his decision not to visit the wounded troops, saying he didn't want to turn it into a campaign event, that he often visits troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and that he made similar visits in Iraq and Afghanistan last week. He also said the Pentagon discouraged the visit in Germany, although Pentagon officials rejected that charge.

"The important thing is that, if I had been told by the Pentagon that I couldn't visit those troops, and I was there and wanted to be there, I guarantee you, there would have been a seismic event," Mr. McCain told ABC.

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a Republican who accompanied Mr. Obama on his overseas trip before the visit to Germany, called the McCain ad inappropriate.

"Certainly he would have been criticized by the McCain people and the press and probably should have been if on a political trip in Europe paid for by political funds - not the taxpayers - to go, essentially, then and be accused of using our wounded men and women as props for his campaign," Mr. Hagel told CBS' "Face the Nation."

Last month, Mr. Hagel said he would consider joining the Obama ticket if offered the vice-presidential nomination, although he said Sunday he didn't expect such an invitation.

On ABC, Mr. McCain defended a remark in a recent interview in which he appeared to embrace a timetable for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq. He first said he "didn't use the word timetable."

When his quote was read back to him, he changed his explanation: "Oh, well, look. Anything is a good timetable that is dictated by conditions on the ground. Anything is good," he said. "But the timetable is dictated, not by an artificial date, but by the conditions on the ground, the conditions of security."

He has criticized Mr. Obama for demanding such a timetable. Mr. Obama, in an interview with Newsweek published Saturday, said the way he will determine what forces are left in Iraq will be "entirely conditions-based."

He previously said he would not leave any combat troops in Iraq.

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