John McCain took an opportunity to hit Barack Obama where he feels the Democrat is vulnerable: Iraq. If that seems like a contradiction, the McCain campaign thinks that Obama’s lack of immersion in Iraq makes him look inexperienced and weak, especially since Obama hasn’t visited Iraq for over two years, well before the surge reversed American fortunes. Yesterday, McCain challenged Obama to accompany him on a visit:
Republican John McCain on Monday sharply criticized Democratic rival Barack Obama for not having been to Iraq since 2006, and said they should visit the war zone together.
“Look at what happened in the last two years since Senator Obama visited and declared the war lost,” the GOP nominee-in-waiting told The Associated Press in an interview, noting that the Illinois senator’s last trip to Iraq came before the military buildup that is credited with curbing violence.
“He really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq and he has wanted to surrender for a long time,” the Arizona senator added. “If there was any other issue before the American people, and you hadn’t had anything to do with it in a couple of years, I think the American people would judge that very harshly.”
McCain, a Navy veteran and Vietnam prisoner of war, frequently argues that he’s the most qualified candidate to be a wartime commander in chief. In recent weeks, he has sought portray Obama, a first-term senator, as naive on foreign policy and not as qualified to lead the military.
This was the criticism that prompted the ignorant and hypocritical response from the Obama campaign about political posturing and the meaning of Memorial Day. Obama spent the day criticizing Bush administration policy on Iraq, but then eschewed “political posturing” on Memorial Day, a “day to honor our nation’s veterans” — when in fact Obama did plenty of political posturing yesterday and the day honors our war dead, not living veterans, who have Veterans Day to honor them.
McCain’s surrogate Lindsey Graham proposed a trip together by both nominees for a joint briefing by CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus. McCain has traveled repeatedly to Iraq during the course of operations, receiving briefings from commanders on the ground, while Obama has not received any briefings at all. The media asked McCain about this proposal, as the McCain campaign desired, and McCain endorsed the idea of a joint briefing. As political traps go, this one got telegraphed but still worked rather effectively.
The challenge allows McCain to set a bigger trap for Obama than just a holiday headline. If Obama refuses, McCain can openly question how Obama came to his conclusions about Iraq when he won’t listen to the people running the operation now. It also calls into question Obama’s testicular fortitude; if McCain goes there regularly, why won’t the younger and more energetic Obama? If Obama does go, McCain will publicize the briefing and call on Obama to reconsider his position in light of the new data that Obama received.
The optics of this are priceless. If Obama goes, he risks his standing with the hard-Left haters of the military and exposes himself to the optimistic findings in the briefing. If he doesn’t go, McCain can openly wonder why Obama wants to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and not David Petraeus. The commercials practically write themselves.