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Obama, McCain Talk Economy, Iraq on the Campaign Trail

June 16, 2008 at 6:20 PM EDT
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Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain hit the campaign trail yesterday to discuss their views on economic policy and Iraq. Kwame Holman reports on the state of the campaign.

GWEN IFILL: The presumptive nominees for president were back on the campaign trail today, each making his case for how to best tackle the struggling economy and the war in Iraq. Kwame Holman has our report.

KWAME HOLMAN: For the second time in a month, Barack Obama was in the key battleground state of Michigan today. He unveiled his plans for making the U.S. more competitive in the global economy.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: It’s time for new policies that create the new jobs and the new opportunities of the future. It’s time for a competitiveness agenda built around education and energy, innovation and infrastructure, fair trade and reform.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama’s proposal calls for investing $150 billion in a green energy sector over 10 years, which he said would create 5 million new jobs.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: When I’m president, we will invest in research and development of every form of alternative energy, solar, wind and biofuels, as well as technologies that can make coal burn cleanly and nuclear power safe.

We will provide incentives to businesses and consumers to save energy and make buildings more efficient. That’s how we’re going to create jobs that pay well and can’t be outsourced. That’s how we’re going to win back control of our destiny from oil-rich dictators.

And that’s how we’ll solve the problem of $4-a-gallon gas, not with another Washington gimmick, like John McCain’s gas tax holiday that would pad oil company profits, while draining away the highway fund that Michigan depends on.

KWAME HOLMAN: Meanwhile, John McCain also talked about energy today, touting his plans for dealing with the rising cost of fuel. He spoke at a news conference in Virginia.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: Tomorrow, I’ll call for lifting the federal moratorium for states that choose to permit exploration. I think that this and perhaps providing additional incentives for states to permit exploration off their coasts would be very helpful in the short term in resolving our energy crisis.

And I will repeat my advocacy of a gas tax holiday, which would be — which is impacting low-income Americans on a fixed income, who are driving automobiles that consume gasoline at a greater rate, and they’re driving further. And I think they deserve a break.

Candidates spar on Iraq

KWAME HOLMAN: In recent weeks, the two presumptive nominees have challenged each other's prescriptions for the economy. Today, they differed on Iraq.

McCain's criticism of Obama comes after the Arizona senator met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari yesterday in Washington.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: The surge is succeeding. We are winning in Iraq. And the whole debate in this campaign should be about whether we're going to allow that surge to continue to succeed or we are again going to do what Senator Obama wanted to do, and that is to set a date for withdrawal long ago, without giving the surge a chance to succeed.

He was wrong when he said that the surge would not succeed. He was wrong when he said that we were failing in Iraq as a result of it. And he's wrong today when he continues to acknowledge the success that we have experienced.

KWAME HOLMAN: In fact, Obama spoke by phone with Zebari today. Afterward, he acknowledged being encouraged by the reduction of violence in Iraq, but said nonetheless, as president, he would move to withdraw U.S. combat forces.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: What I've said is the need for withdrawal is twofold. One is to spur more action out of the Iraqis. And what we haven't yet seen is more significant political accommodations.

I'm encouraged by some of the actions in the south and in Sadr City, but that then shouldn't argue for a longer commitment there. That argues for the fact that they have the capacity where they have the will to act more effectively than they have in the past.

But the second reason for withdrawal is the fact that we're spending $10 billion to $12 billion a month in Iraq. And the people here in Flint, Michigan, who I'm going to be talking to, would like to see some of that investment made here at home.

KWAME HOLMAN: Obama also confirmed that he would visit Iraq and Afghanistan before the November election. John McCain repeatedly has called on Obama to visit both countries.