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Candidates Tout Views on Iraq, Afghan Troop Levels

September 9, 2008 at 6:25 PM EST
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Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama campaigned Tuesday in the critical swing state of Ohio and addressed plans for troop levels in Iraq. Judy Woodruff reports on the latest developments from the campaign trail.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: Barack Obama was in Riverside, Ohio, today to give what his campaign said was a major address on education reform. But his focus quickly shifted to today’s news that President Bush would reduce only slightly the number of U.S. troops in Iraq. Obama said, that plan doesn’t go far enough.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), Presidential Nominee: the fact that you’ve seen some progress in Iraqi security forces taking on more responsibility, coupled with reductions in violence, and the fact that you’ve seen Prime Minister Maliki suggest that a time frame is appropriate, means that we should have a comprehensive strategy for bringing this war to a close, and not what we’ve heard from the president today, which is essentially some tinkering around the edges and kicking the can down the road to the next president.

You know, at this point what it appears is, is that the next president will inherit a status quo that is still unstable. And what’s going to be required is a comprehensive strategy. That’s what I have been offering for the last two years.

Attacking John McCain on Iraq

JUDY WOODRUFF: Obama also used the president's announcement to again link John McCain to the Bush administration.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA: John McCain has been talking a lot about change, but he's running for four more years of the same foreign policy that we've had under George Bush.

Sen. McCain will continue the overwhelming focus on Iraq that has taken our eye off the terrorists who actually attacked us on 9/11. Sen. McCain goes even further than President Bush in opposing the sovereign Iraqi government's own support for a timetable to redeploy our troops, while offering no plan to press the Iraqis to reconcile.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Obama's running mate, Joe Biden, campaigned in Missouri today. He also singled out McCain's position on Iraq.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Barack Obama was right, and John McCain was wrong, especially when you consider -- especially when you consider we continue to spend $10 billion a month, when the Iraqis have a $79 billion surplus because of the high price of oil.

Ladies and gentlemen, I don't want to punish the Iraqis, but, hey, you pay to rebuild your country. Don't continue to ask us.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN: You pay. You have got the money. We will help you. You pay to rebuild your country. We have got enough problems here for American taxpayers.

Returning jabs about Obama

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), Presidential Nominee: Thank you.

JUDY WOODRUFF: John McCain, like Obama, was in Ohio today, underscoring how crucial the battleground state and its 20 electoral votes will be in November.

In Lebanon, McCain, too, discussed the war in Iraq, telling the crowd that victory was in sight.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: My friends, these are tough times. But the fact is also that we have succeeded in Iraq. And we are winning and our troops will come home with victory and honor. They will come home with victory and honor.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: If Sen. Obama had had his way, we would have suffered defeat, Iranian influence would have increased, and we would face greater chaos in the region.

Sen. Obama has refused to acknowledge that he was wrong about the surge. He said it wouldn't succeed. Thanks to Gen. David Petraeus and these brave young Americans, we are winning in Iraq.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: And we will come home with honor.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: Sen. Obama was wrong about Iran. He was wrong about Iraq. He was wrong about Russia. He's wrong about America's national security challenges in the future. And he has no experience. And, more importantly, he lacks the judgment to lead this country.

Palin, McCain campaign together

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Arizona senator later released a statement, saying he supported the president's decision on troop withdrawals, and that it offered further proof of the success of the surge strategy.

And, like he has almost every day since his party's convention, McCain again said he was the best candidate to reform Washington.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: I have fought corruption. And it didn't matter if the culprits were Democrats or Republicans. I fought big spenders who waste your money on things you neither need more want. I want to ensure you again I will take this old ink pen and every single pork barrel earmark bill that comes across my desk as president, I will veto it. I will make them famous and you will know their names. You will know their names.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN: You will know their names.

Now, Sen. Obama says that he is the agent of change, my friends. Tell me one time he has taken on his party. Never. I have taken on my party every time when it's necessary for the good of the American people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, was by his side again today. She repeated her claim that she helped kill a controversial plan to allocate federal money for a bridge to a remote island in Alaska.

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), Vice Presidential Nominee: We championed in Alaska reform of the old earmark process. I told Congress, thanks, but no thanks for that Bridge to Nowhere up in Alaska. If our state wanted a bridge, we were going to build it ourselves.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But several news organizations, as well as the Obama campaign, have reported that Palin actually supported the bridge proposal before she came out against it.

The candidates will have one more day on the trail tomorrow, before halting campaign activities on Thursday, to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.