From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- On the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war, Obama renewed his argument that those with long-term experience in Washington lacked the wisdom to properly bring the war to an end and claimed that Democrats could not win in November if they ran on claims of experience against McCain.
Pointing to Clinton's argument that both she and McCain had passed the "commander-in-chief test," Obama argued that the argument was more focused on years spent in Washington than it was on the judgments made in those years.
"There is a security gap in this country -- a gap between the rhetoric of those who claim to be tough on national security, and the reality of growing insecurity caused by their decisions. A gap between Washington experience, and the wisdom of Washington's judgments. A gap between the rhetoric of those who tout their support for our troops, and the overburdened state of our military," he said.
Obama targeted as many of his remarks against McCain as he did Clinton, a tacit acknowledgment that an overriding concern for Democrats is who is best able to beat the Republican nominee in November. Obama openly said that Clinton's emphasis on experience as an overriding factor in choosing a president would lead Democrats to failure.
"It is time to have a debate with John McCain about the future of our national security. And the way to win that debate is not to compete with John McCain over who has more experience in Washington, because that's a contest that he'll win," he said.
Clinton spokesman Phil Singer emailed this response to Obama's speech: "The reality is that Senator Obama took practically no action to end the war until he started his White House run while Senator Clinton has been a consistent critic of Iraq for many years."
Obama's Iraq speech offered little in the way of new policies, but it had an "I told you so" tone. Obama pointed to his summer 2007 speech in Pakistan as an example of where he was criticized for his judgment. But then that judgment, he claims, was adopted by McCain, Clinton and President Bush.
"If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot. Sen. Clinton, Sen. McCain, and President Bush have all distorted and derided this position, suggesting that I would invade or bomb Pakistan. This is politics, pure and simple. My position, in fact, is the same pragmatic policy that all three of them have belatedly -- if tacitly -- acknowledged is one we should pursue."
Obama went on to say that after he had called for a stronger line against Pakistan, a top al Qaeda leader had been taken out by American aircraft in Pakistan in a targeted strike. "And remember that the same three individuals who now criticize me for supporting a targeted strike on the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks, are the same three individuals that supported an invasion of Iraq -- a country that had nothing to do with 9/11," he added.
He also provided stronger language on one of his underlying themes for how to address international terrorism, arguing that it was individuals not states who held the power to threaten the United States and that was why US policy should emphasize a battle to win the hearts of minds of the Muslim world.
He called for expanding aid by USAID, doubling the Peace Corps, and creating an America Voice Corps to spread positive messages about the country. He also called for engaging with China and Russia, but argued that the United States had to be a strong voice for human rights, saying that the United States should start by "speaking out for religious freedom for the people of Tibet."
The speech drew some laughs as well, as Obama poked fun at McCain's statements on Iraq. "That's why this Administration cannot answer the simple question posed by Sen. John Warner in hearings last year: Are we safer because of this war? And that is why Sen. McCain can argue -- as he did last year -- that we couldn't leave Iraq because violence was up, and then argue this year that we can't leave Iraq because violence is down."
And Obama touched on McCain's gaffe in Iraq yesterday. "Just yesterday, we heard Sen. McCain confuse Sunni and Shiite, Iran and al Qaeda. Maybe that is why he voted to go to war with a country that had no al Qaeda ties," he said as the audience chuckled.
Obama's speech today will be followed by another address on Iraq tomorrow and how it has impacted the economy.