- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 19, 2008

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. | Sen. Barack Obama on Monday blasted his Republican rival for falling back on attacks and said veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will play a prominent role at next week’s Democratic convention.

“We shouldn’t be surprised; they’ve been doing this every election,” Mr. Obama said. “That’s what they do. That’s their politics. They don’t know how to govern, but they know how to run a negative campaign.”

Mr. Obama’s comments came after Sen. John McCain, addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Florida, said he “would rather lose an election than lose a war,” and suggested Mr. Obama feels the opposite way because of his “ambition to be president.”

During a town hall here, Mr. Obama cited the McCain remark: “John McCain himself personally said that I would rather lose a war so I could win an election.” The enthusiastic crowd booed at the mention of the Republican.

Mr. McCain, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who endured torture as a prisoner of war, also attacked Mr. Obama’s opposition to the surge of troops to Iraq in 2007.

“A lot of people are still trying to square Senator Obama’s varying positions on the surge in Iraq,” he said at the convention in Orlando, Florida. “Not content to merely predict failure in Iraq, my opponent tried to legislate failure.”

He said the decision whether to support the surge “was a moment when political self-interest and the national interest parted ways,” noted that supporting it was, for him, “an easy call,” and said Mr. Obama is a flip-flopper for now acknowledging the surge has helped reduce violence.

“Senator Obama still cannot quite bring himself to admit his own failure in judgment,” Mr. McCain said. “Senator Obama commits the greater error of insisting that even in hindsight, he would oppose the surge. Even in retrospect, he would choose the path of retreat and failure for America over the path of success and victory. In short, 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 opined that the reason for Mr. Obama’s shift was “the ambition to be president,” but said, “what’s less apparent is the judgment to be commander in chief.”

Mr. Obama regularly says he had the good judgment to oppose the war back in October 2002.

Mr. Obama, who held two events here Monday before heading to Florida for his own speech to the VFW on Tuesday, announced a new collective of supporters - veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“Next Generation Veterans for Obama” will stump for the Democrat across the country, according to the campaign.

A Center for Responsive Politics analysis last week found Mr. Obama had received far more campaign contributions from active military - by a ratio of 6 to 1.

Team Obama also hit back at the McCain VFW speech, calling it “bluster.”

“It is hard to understand how Senator McCain can at once proclaim his support for the sovereign government of Iraq and then stubbornly defy their expressed support for a timeline to remove our combat brigades from their country,” Obama spokesman Bill Burton said. “The difference in this race is that John McCain is intent on spending $10 billion a month on an open-ended war, while Barack Obama thinks we should bring this war to a responsible end and invest in our pressing needs here at home.”

Though he received a warm welcome in New Mexico, Mr. Obama faced some critics who worry he may not deliver what he promises.

Dallas Timmons, a ward leader for the local Democratic Party, told the candidate she at first liked his anti-war position, but now thinks, “You backpedaled and compromised a little bit.”

She said she did not like that he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan and that he voted for the Bush administration’s wiretapping bill.

“Are you going to set an agenda of change or one of compromise” with Republicans, she asked.

Mr. Obama said he disagreed with her and noted his early Iraq opposition: “Part of the reason I opposed it is we had distracted ourselves from the war that has to be won in Afghanistan.”

But Mr. Obama aimed his jabs Monday - after being introduced by potential vice presidential pick Gov. Bill Richardson - at Mr. McCain and his ties to President Bush.

“The same guys that brought you George Bush are now trying to package John McCain,” he said.

He brought up for the first time in public the Jerome Corsi book “The Obama Nation,” saying it “may not be directly affiliated with the campaign” but noted the best-seller tries to suggest, “I’m a nut.”

“They can’t win an argument on ideas so … they try to attack me,” he said.

He also accused Mr. McCain as having “facilitated and worked with George Bush on this disaster,” in Iraq.

The Obama campaign Monday afternoon flew to Orlando in advance of the VFW speech, despite the incoming Tropical Storm Fay threatening to build into a hurricane.



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