(CNN) – Top Obama foreign policy advisors Susan Rice and Richard Clarke said Wednesday that John McCain had a tendency to “shoot first and ask questions later” – accusing him of “itching for war” with Iran and Syria, and alleging that he pushed for U.S. military involvement in Iraq long before the Bush administration did.
The comments came after John McCain said Wednesday that he had not been questioning Barack Obama’s patriotism, as the Democrat’s campaign had charged, but his judgment. “Senator Obama has made it clear that he values withdrawal from Iraq above victory in Iraq, even today with victory in sight,” McCain said on the campaign trail in New Mexico. “Over and over again, he has advocated unconditional withdrawal – regardless of the facts on the ground.”
Rice shot back on a conference call with reporters that McCain was in fact attacking Obama’s integrity and patriotism with “Karl Rove ‘say anything, do anything’ gutter politics.”
She called McCain’s remarks “the height of hypocrisy” since “McCain has a long track record of supporting a reckless and extreme foreign policy. His tendency is to shoot first and ask questions later.”
Listen: Rice and Clarke slam McCain
Former White House counterterrorism chief Clarke accused McCain of calling for war in Iraq before 9/11, “even before the beginning,” saying McCain and his “extreme neo-conservative” advisors are one of the main reasons the administration invaded the Iraq.
Clarke added that McCain is arguing that the surge is “responsible for everything that has gone well in Iraq” but that overall judgment on Iraq was wrong.
“The greatest tests of national security judgment in the last decade have been what do you do about Iraq and what do you do about Afghanistan? And John McCain failed both of those two tests, the two most critical tests of national security judgment in the last decade.”
McCain’s campaign responded to the call repeating his words from earlier that Obama is pushing for withdrawal in Iarq “with victory in sight” and criticized Obama for voting against troop funding.
“Barack Obama’s own campaign is the only one talking about his patriotism,” spokesman Tucker Bounds wrote in an e-mail to reporters. “Criticizing these positions isn’t a question of Barack Obama’s patriotism, it’s a question of his judgment.”