- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 10, 2008

— (AP) Republican Sen. John McCain on Saturday issued a scathing critique of Sen. Barack Obama’s judgment and readiness to be commander in chief, telling a veterans’ group his Democratic rival had tried to “legislate failure” in Iraq and placed his own ambition ahead of military success there.

Addressing the Disabled American Veterans convention here, Mr. McCain mocked Mr. Obama’s varying positions on the Bush administration’s decision to send an additional 30,000 troops to Iraq last year.

The Republican hopeful had long pushed the so-called “surge” strategy and a change in counterinsurgency tactics, even as polls showed most voters opposed sending more troops into combat at the time.

In his speech, Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama had not only predicted the troop increase would not succeed but had taken steps to ensure its failure, saying Mr. Obama had tried to prevent needed funding for it.

“Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure,” Mr. McCain said.

Mr. Obama voted against a major military appropriations bill in May 2007 as the surge strategy was starting to be implemented, because the bill didn’t include a troop-withdrawal timetable.

“Enough is enough,” he said at the time, adding that President Bush should not get “a blank check to continue down this same, disastrous path.”

Mr. Obama spoke out against the original invasion as an Illinois state senator, strongly opposed the subsequent troop increase in the U.S. Senate and on the campaign trail, and distinguished himself from several Democratic primary rivals by emphasizing his war stance.

Since then, the surge has been credited with helping stabilize Iraq and reduce violence there. Mr. Obama has argued that it has not brought about the political reconciliation between rival Sunni and Shia factions needed to create lasting peace in the country.

But in a tacit acknowledgment that his original assessment of the troop increase may have proven incorrect, Mr. Obama’s campaign removed criticisms of the strategy from its Web site last month.

Narrowly trailing Mr. Obama in national and many battleground state polls, Mr. McCain, a 71-year-old decorated Navy veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has increasingly tried to portray the 47-year-old first-term senator as lacking the experience and judgment to lead the country in a dangerous world.

Mr. McCain also renewed his criticism of Mr. Obama’s call for a timeline to remove troops from Iraq, even as the U.S. and Iraq are near an agreement to pull American combat troops from the country by October 2010.

“Both candidates in this election pledge to end this war and bring our troops home. The great difference is that I intend to win it first,” Mr. McCain said.

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