Arizona Sen. John McCain touted his experience and took aim at his Republican rivals for not serving in the military during campaign swings through South Carolina and Iowa last week.
“There’s a clear division between those who have a military background and experience in these issues and people like Giuliani, Romney and Thompson who don’t — who chose to do other things when this nation was fighting its wars,” McCain said on Friday in North Charleston, S.C.
McCain also blasted his opponents, particularly former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for not declaring waterboarding, or simulated drowning, torture.
“The Arizona senator’s position on an interrogation technique that simulates drowning — he says it constitutes torture and is illegal — puts him at odds with Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, who haven’t taken such a hard line,” wrote Liz Sidoti of the Associated Press.
McCain, however, has said he will vote for Attorney General nominee Michael Mukasey, who also has not said definitively that waterboarding is torture.
McCain also seemed particularly irked by comments by Giuliani and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney that they had the best experience to lead the country. In response, McCain’s campaign issued a press release Friday touting his experience.
“When it comes to experience, we think it’s pretty clear who in this race has the right kind, who uses it to make the right decisions, and who has the courage to defend their position even when it is politically unpopular at the time: John McCain,” the release said.
Following his three-day swing in South Carolina, McCain returned to Iowa Sunday for another three-day campaign trip.
During a town hall in Iowa Falls on Monday, McCain addressed the growing crisis in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf has declared a state of emergency. McCain denounced the action and said it could lead to further instability in the region.
“It would be very difficult for us to keep weapons from spreading in the region, from Afghanistan coming under enormous pressures, and make our challenges there very difficult,” McCain said.
Part of McCain’s strategy is portraying himself as the Republican candidate most likely to defeat Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York in the general election. To that end, he emailed a fake news story to supporters last week datelined Nov. 5, 2008 — the day after the election.
“Republican Senator John McCain was elected president last evening, defeating Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic nominee,” the article says. “McCain’s victory came by winning the ‘red’ states that supported President Bush in 2004, while also winning independents to capture the key battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.”
McCain also released an ad last week in New Hampshire, called “Guts.”
Looking ahead, McCain continues to stump in Iowa on Tuesday and then is scheduled to move on to Michigan for another two days of campaigning.