Dueling media calls between the Obama and McCain camps took place today. The subject: Barack Obama’s New York Times op-ed. The gist is here and the complete McCain call is here. The McCain spokespeople, led by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and McCain foreign policy advisers Randy Scheunemann and Kori Schake, essentially made three arguments.
First, Graham and Scheuneman pressed home the point that Obama is “brazen” in his attempt to rewrite the past, he opposed the surge, and he made it harder for the surge to be implemented. And they contend that all of this — most especially his decision to “pull out” — would have left Iraq in chaos. Upping the ante, they accused Obama of playing politics at the expense of the country. Second, the McCain team claims that Obama still doesn’t get it. Graham was especially harsh, contending that Obama still doesn’t see that Iraqis a major battleground in the war on terror. Finally, the McCain team went after Obama for, as Scheunemann put it, “trying to have it both ways.” As Peter and I have pointed out, Obama’s ope-ed is a mix of denial, feigned shifts, status quo and opaqueness. What does he really mean and is he still sticking to his withdrawal at all costs plan?
On the Democratic side, the response seems to be: forget all that, McCain voted for the war. Before you point out that this is not relevant to the current discussion and doesn’t excuse Obama’s poor judgment and obfuscation, remember that the war is still not popular. And for those not following closely, that line may be fairly effective. (Not surprisingly the McCain team hit Obama spokesman Joe Biden for his determined advocacy for one of the worst ideas of the war: forcible partition of Iraq.)
The McCain team is doing all it can to turn Iraq (both on the merits and on Obama’s reaction to the surge’s success) into a broader issue of judgment, credibility and ultimately devotion to country above party. Scheunemann came right out and said it: Obama was banking on losing a war to win an election. Strong stuff.