From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -- Usually the political response to a new message from Osama bin Laden is one of universal condemnation, but at a VFW hall in Chula Vista here yesterday, John McCain announced his agreement with an aspect of a recent bin Laden message.
"General Petraeus is correct when he says that the central battleground in the struggle against Al Qaeda is Iraq, and Osama bin Laden just confirmed that again with his comments last week," McCain said before quoting a line from a recent audio recording of bin Laden calling for support of the Mujahadeen in Iraq.
McCain told reporters after his town hall, "General Petraeus and I and Osama bin Laden are in agreement. It is hard to understand why Senator Clinton and Senator Obama do not understand that [Iraq is the central battleground]. I don't know if it is naiveté or what the problem is but it's obvious that they're dead wrong, and they're wrong when they say that we should leave Iraq immediately… and it's time that they acknowledge that the surge is succeeding and the benefits of success in Iraq will spread throughout the entire Middle East."
Although the sentiments of his comments are not new, by asking why Clinton and Obama disagree with Osama bin Laden, Gen. Petraeus and himself, McCain selected some strange bedfellows. Like his statement that American troops could be in Iraq for more than 100 years, this sound bite seems ripe for Democratic criticism or at least advertised exaggeration.
While calling on Clinton and Obama to get with the program on acknowledging the importance of the current battle in Iraq, McCain also called on Clinton to apologize for statements she made in September that believing the surge was succeeding would require a "willing suspension of disbelief."
"I don't think I would change the strategy [in Iraq] now unless General Petraeus recommended it," McCain said. "But I would also argue that when Sen. Clinton said that you'd have to suspend -- a willing suspension of disbelief in order to believe that the surge was succeeding, I'm wondering when she's going to apologize for that statement. I'm wondering when they're going to stop advocating a date for withdrawal when we are succeeding in Iraq."