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McCain Highlights Differences with Obama Over Iraq


As Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama continues his highly publicized overseas tour, his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, is doing all he can to remain part of the election debate. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more on the McCain campaign from Washington.

Senator McCain's strategy going into the week was to focus on domestic economic issues, which the polls say are the top concerns of voters this year.

But with all the attention focused on Senator Obama's trip to the Middle East and Europe, Senator McCain finds himself in reaction mode as he comments on what Obama is doing on his travels.

The war in Iraq continues to be at the center of their disagreements. At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire Tuesday, McCain reminded his audience that he was one of the few members of Congress to speak out in support of President Bush's surge strategy in Iraq at a time when the war effort was not going well.

McCain added that Obama has yet to say that the surge has been a success.

"We would never have succeeded and we would have had defeat, and my friends, that would have been a catastrophe for the United States of America," he said. "He was wrong then, he is wrong now and he still fails to acknowledge that the surge succeeded. Remarkable. Remarkable."

McCain opposes setting a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Senator Obama has vowed to remove most combat troops within 16 months of taking office. Obama got a boost of sorts Monday when an Iraqi government spokesman said he would like to see U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of 2010, roughly within Obama's proposed timeline.

Senator McCain told supporters in New Hampshire he looks forward to U.S. troops coming home, but only as a result of success on the ground in Iraq, and not pre-set withdrawal timetables.

"And we will be coming home, my friends," he said. "Our troops will be withdrawing, but they will come home with honor and victory. They will not come home in defeat. They will come home with honor and victory!"

Obama has enjoyed a bonanza of news coverage during his trip so far. He visited Iraq and Afghanistan with two fellow senators, Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska.

Obama spoke about his plans for Iraq at a news conference in Amman, Jordan.

"All three of us, I think, we struck by both the peril and the promise of this moment," he said. "If we responsibly end the war in Iraq, we can strengthen our military, step up our efforts to finish the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan, and succeed in leaving Iraq to a sovereign government that can take responsibility for its own future. In short, we can seize this moment to make America more secure."

Obama says there has been security progress in Iraq, but that the focus now must be on a political solution.

Obama also acknowledged that the U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, opposes the idea of a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops.

McCain strategists are trying different ways to gain attention while Obama is on his overseas trip. The McCain campaign has launched an Internet video critical of the news media for what it believes is overly positive coverage of Obama's run for the White House.

"The media's love affair with Barack Obama is all-consuming," states McCain's ad.

Reporters traveling with Senator McCain have also noted speculation that the presumptive Republican nominee might announce his vice presidential running mate this week to draw attention away from the Obama trip. But so far there has been no official indication from the McCain campaign that they are close to making any announcements on that.