Discuss as:

100 years?

From NBC/NJ's Aswini Anburajan
Does McCain really want troops in iraq for one hundred years? According to Obama the answer is yes.

In a back and forth at today's press conference, Obama insisted he was not taking out of context McCain's comments about keeping troops in Iraq for 100 years. Asked if his attack was disingenous, Obama had the following to say:

"I don't think it's unfair at all," Obama said. "John McCain, I mean, we can run the YouTube spot, has said that we will stay there as long as it takes. And if it takes another 100 years, he's up for that commitment and that implies that there is some criteria by which we would understand how long it takes.

"John McCain has not been clear about what exactly would lead him to decide it's time to pull out. And so, you know, the problem that we've had both with John McCain and George Bush is that there's no clear definition of success. There never was, and that's why this has been such a profound strategic error. And you know, I think it is entirely fair to suggest that unless he's got some criteria where by, at some point, we would be able to pull out our troops. For him to argue that, which he has repeatedly, that any suggestion that we withdraw troops is surrender. That implies that we will be there as long as he thinks it's necessary for us to be there."

Obama was told that McCain had said the presence would be similar to what the United States had done with Germany and Japan in World War II. Obama seemed to agree with that notion but pointed to the costs of the war as a reason to avoid that type of engagement.

"Well we've been in South Korea for for 50 years," Obama said, "and he's used that as an example as George Bush has. And that is decades, and we're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq right now, which means that John McCain is willing to sign up for the prospect of spending as much as $150 billion or more each year for who knows how long. That is something that the US can't afford, and I think that is going to be a debate we are going to have in the general election should I be the nominee."

The RNC has pushed back hard on the issue. Today, it writes this:
"Yes, Barack Obama is misusing John McCain's words. Today, Obama as much as acknowledged he has misrepresented McCain's positions on Iraq.  Even though it's well documented that there is no truth to the statement that Senator McCain wants to fight the Iraq war for another 100 years, Obama has continued to intentionally misrepresent McCain's position. Following Senator Obama's admission today that John McCain's comments are in the spirit of our military presence in South Korea, we expect he will stop using this shameless political distortion to try and score points with the base of his party.
 
"During today's press conference, Obama again failed to condemn Chairman Dean's outrageous comments slandering Senator McCain as a 'blatant opportunist' for discussing his record of military service with the American people. Failing to heed his own call to reject negative politics is no way to establish credibility with voters looking for sincere leadership."

For context, the "100 years" comment came up when McCain responded to questioner in a town hall, "Make it a 100," about the U.S.'s potential committment in Iraq. He added, "We've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so. … That would be fine with me...."

But what's left out often is what he said next...  "as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. … It's fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world."

Here's McCain's response on this to Tim Russert on Meet the Press.