The McCain campaign just responded, with a conference call, to Barack Obama’s rearticulated plan for an end to the war in Iraq by arguing that Obama’s intention to withdraw troops, despite the security improvements, amounts to political posturing, and that he is more concerned with winning the presidential election than winning the war.
Senator Lindsey Graham, one of McCain’s chief surrogates, said that Obama was sending this message to American soldiers returning from Iraq: “Appreciate your service, but you didn’t do any good.”
Obama has always carefully couched his calls for withdrawal from Iraq with talk of the heroism of American troops, and has blamed a lack of political progress in Iraq, which is what the surge was supposed to accomplish, for many of the country’s problems.
The McCain campaign argued that American voters–who listen simultaneously to Obama’s praise for the soldiers, his recognition of the progress in security it has yielded, and his renewed calls for withdrawal–“Should remain puzzled about what his actual position really is.”
Randy Scheunemann, senior foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign, picked up on that theme to argue that Obama’s chief concern was protecting his flank politically. He also suggested that the Illinois Senator actually wanted to lose the war for his own political benefit.
“Senator Obama seems to think losing a war will help him win an election,” said Scheunemann, arguing that Obama’s position runs contrary to Iraqi interests.
But Obama’s calls for withdrawal seemed to have support in the highest levels of Iraqi government. Recently, a statement from the office of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki said that negotiations with the United States on a Status of Forces Agreement would need to include “a memorandum of understanding on their evacuation, or a memorandum of understanding on a timetable for their withdrawal.”
(A BBC report, just sent to reporters by the R.N.C., points out that Maliki himself used the words “understanding on programming their presence” and that the withdrawal phrase was “inserted into a statement by his office.”)
Nevertheless, Graham argued in the call that any talk of Amercia’s departure from Iraq was a positive sign made possible by the surge that Obama opposed.
“The time horizons that Maliki is talking about is welcomed news to me,” said Graham, but he argued that did not mean a precipitous withdrawal but “at the end of the day it is going to be a collaborative agreement.”
The McCain foreign policy advisers also questioned Obama’s plan to move more American forces to Afghanistan, saying that Iraq remained a central front in the war on terror, and that the breakdown in security in Afghanistan “can’t be laid at out feet” because NATO was in charge of the mission and “should have sent more troops.”