While Barack Obama tries to cast John McCain’s invitation to tour Iraq into a “political stunt”, Hillary Clinton recalls with fondness her trips with McCain to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Hillary apparently sees the same opening for attack against Obama’s lack of interest in the actual ground situations in both countries and has no hesitancy in exploiting it. She doesn’t mind giving McCain a little boost at the same time:

McCain, who has visited Iraq eight times, has used the issue to criticize Obama’s foreign policy credentials. Obama, he says, “does not have the knowledge or the experience to make the judgments. Presidents have to listen and learn. Presidents have to make judgments no matter how popular or unpopular they may be.”

In her campaign stops, Clinton customarily pauses to praise McCain for his service to the country before going on to criticize his policy positions and cast them as a continuation of the Bush administration. But as she campaigns in South Dakota in advance of its Tuesday primary, Clinton added an extra recollection to her intro. “I have the highest respect and regard for Sen. McCain, he and I have actually gone to Iraq and Afghanistan together,” she said. “And I honor his service to our country and his patriotism.”

At her second stop of the day, she again reminded the audience of her journeys to conflict zones with the Arizona senator. As for her thoughts on Obama, Clinton continued on her current course — saying nothing.

Obama has a problem brewing on this front. His rhetoric last year on Iraq matched the tone of the press coverage — despondent, angry, and pessimistic. With Iraq stabilizing and Maliki gaining control of the north and south, the situation has obviously changed tremendously, and the American media is even reporting it. Obama’s rhetoric hasn’t adapted to the new reality at all; it’s as if he’s arguing from, say, January 2006.

His initial refusal to go to Iraq to meet with General David Petraeus made him appear irrationally close-minded. He modified that stance to say that he would go on his own, making it seem as though McCain presented some sort of obstacle to getting a clear idea of the situation. Hillary’s jab strips him of that excuse, and reminds voters that she found it essential to get her own information on both Iraq and Afghanistan to reach her own conclusions, and not that of her handlers and the military geniuses at MoveOn and International ANSWER.

Oh, and has Obama held a subcommittee meeting on Afghanistan yet? No? Why not?

Hillary’s slam will put even more pressure on Obama to hold a meeting in Iraq with Petraeus, probably this summer. He will want that as private as possible, to preserve the maximum latitude of spin available afterwards. Expect John McCain to go immediately before or after Obama’s trip to pre-empt the spin.