Republican presidential contender John McCain questioned Democratic candidate Barack Obama's fitness to be commander in chief Friday. McCain made the remarks to a veteran's group in Colorado not long after Obama met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris as part of his trip to Europe and the Middle East. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
Senator McCain has found it difficult this week to gain much media attention given the avalanche of coverage for Senator Obama's overseas trip.
On Friday, McCain continued to hammer away at Obama on the Iraq war, noting that Obama opposed the Bush administration's surge strategy of increased troop strengths in Iraq, a strategy that was initially championed by McCain and only a handful of others in Congress.
"In Iraq, we are no longer on the doorstep of defeat, but on the road to victory," he said. "Senator Obama said this week that even knowing what he knows today that he still would have opposed the surge. In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chose failure. I cannot conceive of a commander-in-chief making that choice."
McCain says he is confident that he could dramatically reduce the number of combat troops in Iraq during his first term as president. But the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican Party presidential nominee remains opposed to Obama's proposal for a timetable to pull out most U.S. troops within 16 months of taking office.
"We can withdraw when we have secured the peace, and the gains we have sacrificed so much to achieve are safe," said McCain. "Or we can follow Senator Obama's unconditional withdrawal and risk losing the peace, even if that results in spreading violence and a third Iraq war. Senator Obama has suggested he would consider sending troops back if that happened. When I bring them home in victory and with honor, they are staying home.
Obama was in France Friday, the latest leg of a trip that has taken him to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, Israel and Germany.
Obama told a news conference in Paris that improved security in Iraq has set the stage for a gradual pullout of some U.S. troops.
"My trip to Iraq confirmed that the security situation has greatly improved, that our troops have performed an extraordinary service, and that the Iraqi government is ready to take more responsibility, and that will free up our capacity then to begin withdrawing our troops at a steady, prudent pace," he said.
Obama and McCain have conducted an international sparring session on Iraq all week.
McCain told the veterans group Friday he would rather lose the election than see the United States lose the war in Iraq.
At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire earlier in the week, McCain said it seemed to him that Obama would be willing to lose in Iraq in order to win the election.
Obama was asked to respond to McCain's charge in an interview with NBC News.
"I have never questioned that he wants to make America safer, and for him to suggest that I don't, for him to suggest that somehow I am less concerned about the safety of my wife and daughter than he is, I think, was unfortunate," said Obama.
Public opinion polls suggest more Americans believe McCain would do a better job of handling the Iraq conflict. But those same surveys also show that voters are more concerned with the weakening economy and rising fuel prices, and, as of now, prefer Obama's approach on those issues.