Sunday, July 13, 2008

McCain Campaign Conference Call On Barack Obama's Iraq Position

"There's nothing less than total confusion about where Senator Obama is on the issue of Iraq and where he's been over the course of the past several years." -- Randy Scheunemann, Senior Foreign Policy Adviser

Today, U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign held a press conference call with campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb and senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann to discuss Barack Obama's remarks on Iraq.

Campaign Spokesman Michael Goldfarb: "The peg for this call today is Senator Claire McCaskill, Obama's National Co-Chair, appearance on 'Meet the Press' today. She was asked directly about Senator Obama's 16-month timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and she said that 16 months is simply a 'goal' and she said also that it would be 'irresponsible for a commander-in-chief to set a date in stone.' Now this is directly at odds with what Senator McCaskill said just two weeks ago on MSNBC when she was read that quote by George Packer about how dramatically different things are in Iraq now and how there is some urgency for Senator Obama to recognize the new reality in Iraq and come up with a new plan. And she said at the time that Barack Obama would absolutely not be changing his position.

"Meanwhile on Senator Obama's website, he still says that he is committed, absolutely, to a 16-month timetable for getting all American troops out of Iraq. And at the same time, we saw just before July 4th that he talked about refining his policy and called a subsequent conference to clarify that he would not be refining his policy. So we're sort of left wondering where Barack Obama is on Iraq, and today an interview aired with Fareed Zakaria on CNN in which Senator Obama said that he had been 'very careful not to put numbers on what a residual force would look like.' We've heard Senator Obama talk about a strike force in the past, about a residual force in the past, he has always been very careful to make it entirely unclear what that would be about. So we have seen them all over the map in the last couple of weeks." ...

Randy Scheunemann: "It wasn't too long ago when Senator Obama called a second press conference and said that he was puzzled by the reaction of the media to his latest change of positions on Iraq and frankly I think what's puzzling is Senator Obama's position. I think the American people are puzzled about where he is. There's nothing less than total confusion about where Senator Obama is on the issue of Iraq and where he's been over the course of the past several years. In 2002, he spoke out against the war, yet in July 2004 he said he had the same position as President Bush. In August 2004 he said clearly he was against an artificial timetable. In 2005, he voted for funding for the war in Iraq. He said it would be wrong to cut off troops in the field. In January 2007, as the surge was announced, he said the surge would not be likel y to decrease sectarian violence. In fact, the reverse was more likely. In other words, he said the surge wouldn't work and it would likely lead to an increase in violence. In May 2007, he voted to cut off all funds and this is significant because he voted to cut off all funds not just for Iraq but also for Afghanistan, so had his position prevailed, in May of 2007 there would have been no funds provided for the troops in that supplemental funding bill which provides the funding for troops in the field, for all their operations, for their body armor, for their ammunition, for their fuel. He voted to cut off all funds for Iraq and Afghanistan.

"He's campaigned throughout the primary season on his 16-month withdrawal plan, a rigid, inflexible deadline. He said in September 2007 in a debate that he would disregard the advice of commanders in the field, that he would order an end to this war. He said September 2007 the time to end the war was now.

"At the same time, he's talked about reserving the right to go back into Iraq if Al-Qaeda establishes a base, while insisting the need to retreat in the face of combat with Al-Qaeda. As Michael pointed out he's talked about retaining a strike force, very vague what that means. Now apparently he's calling for a residual force, and in response to a question today, he did not deny that that residual force could leave as many as 30,000 troops in Iraq for up to 10 years.

"The reality is the confusion out of the Obama campaign is the exact opposite of what we've seen over the course of the past 4-5 years from Senator McCain. He was one of the first to call for an increase in forces and a change in strategy after his first visit to Iraq in 2003. He has been clear and consistent throughout the course of this campaign and for the years prior to this campaign pushing for a plan that now has created the conditions for success. He has always said he would put the national interest over his political interests, and what we see now is Senator Obama searching for the most politically expedient position. We're glad to see that he's going to go to Iraq. He hasn't been there for over 900 days. We're glad to see that he's going to Afghanistan. He's never been there. Senator McCain's been to Iraq eight times, he's been to Afghanistan four times, he's intimately familiar with the situation o n the ground, and perhaps when Senator Obama travels there this candidate of change will change his position once again and come to a responsible view, one that recognizes the success that's taken place in Iraq thanks to following the course advocated by Senator McCain for many years."

Listen To The Full Conference Call.

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