Credit Katie Couric and CBS for making a big effort here to restore some balance to the Barack Obama World Tour, in two key ways.  First, the fact that they bothered to give John McCain any face time at all, let alone equal time, says that CBS may have absorbed the way the mainstream media has been perceived by Americans as they follow Obama like groupies on a rock tour.  Secondly, Couric got tough with Obama, which opened the door for McCain’s response:

Couric threw out the following questions to Obama, who clearly looks uncomfortable with the scrutiny:

All that may be true. But do you not give the surge any credit for reducing violence in Iraq?

But yet you’re saying … given what you know now, you still wouldn’t support it … so I’m just trying to understand this.

And I really don’t mean to belabor this, Senator, because I’m really, I’m trying … to figure out your position. Do you think the level of security in Iraq would exist today without the surge?

If you believe, Senator, Afghanistan is, in fact, the central front in the war on terror, why was this your first trip there? And why didn’t you hold a single hearing as chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the fighting force there?

You said not too long ago that Jerusalem should remain undivided. And then you backtracked on that statement. Does that play into the argument that some believe that someone more experienced would not have made that kind of mistake?

Those weren’t softballs that Couric threw yesterday, and they had Obama a bit flummoxed, as Allahpundit noted in the post last night. His answers were contradictory, and Obama still refused to admit the obvious — that the present security situation would not have been possible without the surge, and Obama predicted an exact opposite result in January 2007.

McCain drills this point home in his part of the interview:

Couric: Sen. Obama describes Afghanistan as the central front on the war on terror. That is where, after all, Senator, 9/11 was plotted. And now the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan seems to be a hot bed of al Qaeda activity. Why do you believe Iraq is the central front in the war on terror?

McCain: Well, one reason is because that’s what Osama Bin Laden said that it was. He said, “Go to the country of the two rivers.” That’s what General Petraeus says, who I think is extremely knowledgeable. That it is the central battleground. And Afghanistan is very tough. And there’s a number of great challenges there. And we have to employ the same strategy there that succeeded in Iraq. And we can succeed there. We’ve got the problems on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

We’ve got the poppy problems. We’ve got a weak government there in Kabul. But we can and will succeed there. And if we hadn’t succeeded in Iraq, then the complications would have been incredibly more severe. And the chances of succeeding in Afghanistan would have been greatly diminished. Now that we’ve succeeded in Iraq, obviously, we will be freeing up troops to go to Afghanistan. And we will urge our NATO allies to send more troops and be more involved as well. We can succeed.

Couric: Do you agree with Sen. Obama’s contention that up to three additional brigades should be deployed to Afghanistan?

McCain: I’ve said that for a long time. But, you see, Sen. Obama doesn’t understand it’s not just troops. It’s an overall strategy. The kind that we employed in Iraq, which he said couldn’t succeed, and wouldn’t succeed, and still doesn’t acknowledge as having succeeded incredibly.

That’s the same strategy that will work in Afghanistan. So it’s not just troops, it’s hold and build. It’s working and building up the Afghan army. It’s combating the poppy crop. It’s a stronger government of Afghanistan. It’s a resettling and addressing the issue over the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan. So, it’s an overall strategy. It’s not just two or three brigades. It is also increased engagement on the part of our NATO allies. But I guarantee you, if we had failed in Iraq, and been defeated in Iraq, our challenges in Afghanistan would have been dramatically complicated and worse.

Obama continues his attempts to square a circle on the surge. He got it dramatically wrong, predicting further chaos from the addition of more American troops, and proposed that we abandon Iraq in order to drive political reconciliation, which proved absurd. For some reason, though, he has taken the opposite (and correct) approach to Afghanistan. If American troops prove so destabilizing in Muslim nations, why does Obama want more in Afghanistan? And if retreat provides the impetus for national reconciliation, why doesn’t he propose a retreat from Afghanistan?