- The Washington Times - Monday, April 28, 2008

It took more than two years, but Sen. Barack Obama finally appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” where he said that he will vote to confirm Gen. David H. Petraeus as head of Central Command even though the two disagree on Iraq policy.

Mr. Obama said the leader of U.S. forces in Iraq had done a “good tactical job” there, but added he thinks the Bush administration has gotten “distracted” from problems in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan because it has a “singular focus on Iraq.”

“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace asked Mr. Obama — who had agreed to come on the show in 2006, but since then had refused all invitations — if he would replace the general if elected president and Gen. Petraeus deems the Obama Iraq plan a mistake.

“I will listen to General Petraeus … . It would be stupid of me to ignore what he has to say,” the Illinois Democrat said. “What I will do is say, ‘We have a new mission. It is my strategic assessment that we have to provide a timetable to the Iraqi government.

“I want you to tell me how best to execute this new assignment, and I am happy to listen to the tactical considerations and any ideas you have, but what I will not do is to continue to let the Iraqi government off the hook and allow them to put our foreign policy on ice while they dither about making decisions about how they’re going to cooperate with each other.’ ”

Advisers for presumptive Republican nominee Arizona Sen. John McCain criticized the Obama interview, saying the Democrat proved in his answers he “isn’t ready to deliver.”

“Are we to believe Sen. Obama has the strength to take recommendations from Gen. [Petraeus], who has advised against immediate withdrawal, when Obama has repeatedly shown that he can’t stand up to the left-wing interests in his party?” the campaign said in a statement.

During the interview, Mr. Obama also shrugged off concerns his weakness with working-class voters contributed to Tuesday’s Pennsylvania primary loss to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton. He cited exit polls that showed he won those voters in other states, including Iowa, Wisconsin and Virginia.

“The fact that they voted for her shouldn’t come as a huge surprise,” he said, noting the New York senator had been favored strongly in Pennsylvania polls. “I am confident that when you come to a general election, and we are having a debate about the future of this country … that those are voters who I will be able to appeal to.”

Mr. Obama also repeated that he will not debate Mrs. Clinton before the May 6 contests in Indiana and North Carolina.

He also pushed back against a question that he is not as bipartisan as he claims, arguing that in Washington proposed measures on hot-button topics, such as partial-birth abortion, often are not designed to get something done, but rather to polarize for political gain.

“I don’t think there’s any Republican out there who I’ve worked with who would say that I don’t listen to them, I don’t respect their ideas, I don’t understand their perspective,” he said.

Also yesterday, Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said it will be the losing candidate’s responsibility to “keep the party together.”

“We need time to heal,” Mr. Dean said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “The only thing that’s going to beat us is if we’re not unified.”

Mr. Dean wants the nearly 300 undecided superdelegates — state and local elected officials and party activists — to state their preference by the end of June to give the party time to come together before the August convention in Denver.

“If you go into the convention divided, it’s pretty likely you’ll come out of the convention divided,” he said.

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