May 30th, 2008
04:20 PM ET
15 years ago

McCain ignores Iraq troop level debate, attacks Obama

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="McCain and Obama continued to tangle over Iraq."] MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin (CNN) – Despite a day of criticism, John McCain isn't backing down from comments he made in a Milwaukee suburb Thursday night when he said troop levels in Iraq were back to where they were before January’s surge.

“I said we have withdrawn three of the five [surge] brigades, we have drawn down the Marines, the rest of them will be home by the end of July,” McCain responded Friday when asked if he had misspoken.

On Thursday, he told a Greendale, Wisconsin crowd that “I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding, we have drawn down to pre-surge levels,” adding that the Iraqi cities of Basra, Mosul and Sadr City are now “quiet.”

Even after all five surge brigades leave, experts estimate there will still be about 10,000 more troops in Iraq than there were prior to the January surge.

On a conference call with reporters, McCain’s campaign accused the Obama campaign and the press of “nitpicking” verb tenses.

“Take the worst possibility here which is that Senator McCain misspoke and that because of the specific words used what he said was not entirely accurate. So what? What does that amount to?” asked Sen. Jon Kyl, a McCain surrogate.

But rather than admit he had not been entirely accurate, McCain continued his effort to highlight Obama's relative inexperience on the ground in Iraq.

“It’s also been 873 days since Senator Obama visited Iraq,” said McCain. “Maybe he would have reached different conclusions about the surge if he had taken the opportunity to go over there and talk to troops on the ground.”

In prepared remarks for a speech in Great Falls, Montana Friday night, Obama is slated to swing back at McCain yet again. “He’s been proposing a joint trip to Iraq that’s nothing more than a political stunt," he is planning to say, according to advance remarks released by his campaign. "He’s even been using it to raise a few dollars for his campaign. But it seems like Senator McCain’s a lot more interested in my travel plans than the facts.”

A McCain spokesman has already responded to the yet-to-be-delivered speech. “If Barack Obama wants facts, we're happy to have a debate based in fact: the fact is Barack Obama has refused to have a one-on-one meeting with General Petraeus, and has avoided a fact-finding visit to Iraq for over 872 days,” a campaign spokesman responded. “The fact is, he fails to grasp that a reckless withdrawal, while it may elevate his political aspirations, it will lead to chaos, danger and increased Iranian influence in the region.”

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Eric in CA

    This is troubling to me. Both sides are arguing over semantics and campaign tactics, but no one is getting down to the real issues about the war. Democrats still want to argue about how we got into the war (an interesting topic, but completely irrelevant to how we proceed) and Republicans want to "win" (though they have failed to really define what winning even means).

    We're in the process of losing two wars and no one wants to talk about it. Obama and Hillary have no relevant experience and McCain is seeming increasingly out of touch with reality. Will we never have a President who gets it?

    May 30, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  2. bill for barack

    What does it matter if McCain "misspoke" ?
    How many times can he "misspeak" before it becomes painfully obvious that the man doesn't hane a clue unless he has Joe Leiberman whispering the answers in his ear.
    It's quite obvious that McCain wants to fight a war he knows nothing about, wants to run an economy he knows nothing about, and rule a country he knows nothing about.
    Maybe, just maybe, he should stick to what he knows best – marrying for money and making a fool of himself on S.N.L.

    May 30, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  3. PCS / North Carolina

    Yes, to all Obama haters who says "If not Hillary I will vote McCain"- The Jersaldine Ferraro type democrats.

    This was on another thread. Read this carefully and cast your vote for McCain for another 100yrs in Iraq and for the Draft. Good luck.

    Army Veteran Against McCain May 30th, 2008 4:20 pm ET

    Reasons why Veterans, active duty personell, and anyone who cares about them should not vote for McCain:

    *AWOL for May 22nd vote on GI Bill. Expressed opposition to bill saying "it was too generous to Veterans".

    *Voted against Bill in September that would have mandated adequate rest for troops between combat deployments.

    *Voted No on $1.5-billion increase for Veteran Medical services (money would have come from closing corporate tax loophole).

    *Voted No on establishing a trust fund to bolster underfunded Veteran Hospitals.

    *Voted No in May 2006 against $20-billion allotment for expanding Veteran Medical Facilities.

    *Voted No in April 2006 to increase Veteran Outpatient care.

    *Voted No in March 2004 another $1.8-billion reserve for Veteran Medical care (again funded by closing corporate tax loopholes).

    Bottomline, McCain is more interested in taking care of big business then the men and women he wrongly sent to fight in Iraq.

    May 30, 2008 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  4. Brian

    McCain is just like Bush they don't want to hear criticism EVER.

    May 30, 2008 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  5. Frank, CA

    "and has avoided a fact-finding visit to Iraq for over 872 days".....Sen Obama, you don' have to go to Iraq and you don't have to sit with Gen Petraeus to understand whats going on in Iraq. This war started a little over 5 years ago and is poised to last at least another five and cost as many American lives.....A war that should never have been authorized...While major combat operations are over, there is an ongoing civil strife which we cannot stop unless the Iraquis themselves come to a serious political compromise with all factions. even the mere threat of Obama becoming president and immediately withdrawing our troop plays a significant role in presurring the Iraquis to improve and fix their matters.Mccain basically offers a blank check to Nouriki and opes o emerge the winner in the cat and mouse game with the insurgents and Al quaida. It is a game that the U.S cannot win.

    May 30, 2008 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  6. king from toronto

    this is what mcinsane always do.and the media lets him get away with it.we need to speak up.

    May 30, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  7. Conservative Buyer- CA

    McCain can't be serious about troop levels. If he insist Iraq is paradise and he can walk around without vest or up armored protection he's crazy.

    He's also forgeting his comments he made about having a stroll through downtown Baghdad like if it was Sunday in Central Park. Surely these are signs of Alzeihmer's disease.

    May 30, 2008 09:07 pm at 9:07 pm |
  8. Chuck, Democrats United We Stand

    Well if there will still be 10,000 above the pre-surge level then we obviously have not returned to the pre-surge level have we. Someone needs to get the story straight. Either we are at pre-surge levels or we are 10k above. Which is it?

    May 30, 2008 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  9. Vig

    All of a sudden Obama is taking an interest in going to Iraq? This guy does whatever benefits him politically, whether it's responding to criticism or not. The more I hear, watch and read about him, the less authentic he becomes.

    May 30, 2008 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |


    May 30, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  11. Alphonse Moneau

    American leadership is not about just Iraq. It is about the leading the world. Senator McCain's narrow Iraq-agenda is not what America needs now at the time the world is looking up to America to lead again. One does not need to go to Iraq to know that American people want our men and women in uniform to return home as soon as possible. Senator McCain can travel to Iraq every day, but his narrow belligerent view will not solve Iraqi’s complex socio-cultural-politico-religious problems. There is no military solution to the Iraqi problems. America needs to rally and lead the world to help the Iraqi people solve their problems at their pace. The person that has the charisma and the leadership to rally America and the world to tackle world problems including Iraq with a refreshed perspective is senator Obama.

    May 30, 2008 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  12. RB

    "Even after all five surge brigades leave, experts estimate there will still be about 10,000 more troops in Iraq than there were prior to the January surge.

    On a conference call with reporters, McCain’s campaign accused the Obama campaign and the press of “nitpicking” verb tenses."


    May 30, 2008 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  13. Peace

    Beware People, the Devil is truly busy these days. His mission is to destroy us. Please stop the divisiveness.

    May 30, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  14. lil

    Why would Sen obama want to travel to iraq with you Mccain You have
    already had your photo opportunity, that had to be what you acomplished because you came back as confused as you were before you left!

    May 30, 2008 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  15. marine1

    People please DO NOT listen to this crazy old guy and his warmonger people. I repeat no soldier wants to be or ever wanted to be in IRAQ...........

    May 30, 2008 09:16 pm at 9:16 pm |
  16. Toby 4 Obama 08

    Good news. Congrats Prez Obama!

    May 30, 2008 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  17. Nodak

    I think everyone is opposed to war...what upsets me is that Obama is usng it for his political is just words people...he has proven that.

    May 30, 2008 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  18. mel

    Can mccain talk issues here a home and the war.Every time
    he open his mouth it is about Iraq. What about the american peoples
    needs here in ours country. Please Mccain talk about what you are
    going to do here at home with economy the way it is.

    May 30, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  19. Eric

    There is no need to make an issue of Sen Obama going to visit the troops in Iraq, HE WILL SEE THEM WHEN HE BRINGS THEM HOME AS PRESIDENT OBAMA!

    May 30, 2008 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  20. Trulove

    This old man does not even know the fundamental principle that military personnel should not be involved in politics! What then is the use of his military experience? Definitely experience does not mean good judgment!
    Shame on you Maccain!

    May 30, 2008 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  21. Ray jay

    I bet you got a far better treatment when you got back from Vet Nam. That was then and this is now, so why are you fighting against improving the benifits for the troops today.
    You disgrace the uniform you wore with this kind of position on the better benifits. I lost family in our uniforms in stupid wars and you push for it to go on and on.
    Just finish it and stop with this surrender crap. We trade with Vet nam and we didn't surrender , we just got out after 50,000 + dead. Don't wait, we lost too meny of our youth
    God Bless All Of Them

    May 30, 2008 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  22. Kathy

    While I too want the troops home as soon as possible-I want them home with the honor they deserve. 4000+lost lives and thousands more severely injured is worth the honor and respect of a grateful nation. In this matter, as an independent, I trust McCain to do this correctly-not OBama. There is no better person, than one who himself has been in a war to recognize both the sacrifice and the honor--Obama is a hopeless case of say anything to get elected. Obama is a bag of wind, who thinks he appeals to the conscience of Americans when he chants change-yes we can. Should he become the anointed nominee of the party, millions like myself with either vote McCain, or will not vote at all. The DNC party chairs have got to be more than stupid not to see this. him against McCain, and you folks will be looking for yet ANOTHER candidate to win come 2012.
    Clinton has a much better credentials to challenge McCain, and even then it will be a brutal battle, but at least she has a better chance to win-not OBama

    May 30, 2008 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  23. What if?

    Brian Knoxville, TN
    So honestly you are already a Republican, and will vote Republican as you always have.

    Some of us have to stick to the issues that we have to live with because of our own selfish needs, issues important to us is gas, health care, SS, Employment. We were for Clinton but she didn't win the nominee, so some of us put aside our selfish wants and will vote for our democratic nominee. To those of you that are rich like the Clinton's and McCain, I already know you care nothing about my lack of riches. When she encouraged her supporters to lobby tomorrow, that showed me she cared nothing about my daily task and that is to figure out how to afford gas to look for a job, health benefits and ect....

    I never want to be a token just for bragging rights for their own selfish agenda, no way. It made me realize that she is the one out of touch with the average Americanas. Every cent I get has to be used wisely, not to travel to Washington to protest and then have to figure out how my family is going to eat afterwards. I guess it is true......the rich always feel they are entitled to be in Power of something...look at Bush & Chaney.....already had money, thanks to Congress they have added to their billions from the gas and oil since the war. If I’m not mistaken I do believe the Clintons also profited during this time.

    May 30, 2008 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
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