The New York Times' Zeleny notes that yesterday's Memorial Day speeches by McCain and Obama in New Mexico provided a glimpse of the fall debate on Iraq. "Will the Iraq war and the nation's security once again be the chief concern to voters in the general election? In a 20-minute speech, with the flags of all branches of the armed forces at his back, Mr. McCain made 14 references to Iraq. Later, he invited Mr. Obama to join him on a tour of Iraq. (Mr. Obama did not immediately say whether he would accept.) 'As long as there is a reasonable prospect for succeeding in this war,' Mr. McCain said, 'then we must not choose to lose it.'"
"Or will economic anxieties at home and a fierce disapproval over the direction of the country be of higher concern to voters? In 10 minutes of prepared remarks, Mr. Obama did not mention Iraq, only raising it when someone in the audience spoke critically of the war in a 30-minute question-and-answer session. 'It's going to take some work,' Mr. Obama said, ticking through a lengthy list of domestic challenges awaiting the next president, including health care and improving the quality of life for veterans. 'It might even take two terms.'"
Per NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann, John McCain didn't mention Barack Obama in his remarks in Albuquerque yesterday, despite a bruising back-and-forth last week over Obama's lack of military experience. But in the afternoon, in an interview with the AP, McCain criticized Obama for failing to visit Iraq since 2006. Asked about comments by Sen. Lindsey Graham, a chief surrogate who criticized Obama yesterday for his lack of understanding of post-surge Iraq, McCain dismissed his rival as an amateur in his understanding and involvement in the conflict. Noting that Obama has not visited the region since before the surge, he said, "He really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq. And he has wanted to surrender for a long time."
McCain agreed with Graham's assessment on Sunday's Face the Nation program that he and Obama could visit Iraq together in the coming months. "Sure, it would be fine," he said of a proposed trip to the region together. "I go back every few months because things are changing in Iraq," he said. "I would also seize the opportunity to educate Sen. Obama along the way."
In his critique, McCain also referenced Obama's plan for a calendar to draw down troop presence, painting it as an unjustifiable and uninformed move. "For him to talk about dates for withdrawal -- which basically is surrender -- in Iraq after we're succeeding so well is I think really inexcusable," he said.
Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki responded with this comment: "Sen. Obama thinks Memorial Day is a day to honor our nation's veterans, not a day for political posturing." Yet the Obama campaign also said it didn't make sense for McCain to criticize Obama for wanting a timetable for withdrawal while McCain envisions having most US troops out of Iraq by 2013.
Also, the McCain campaign continues to pounce on what it believes is Obama backtracking on meeting with Iran's Ahmadinejad. Obama and his surrogates have taken pains over the last few weeks to emphasize they wouldn't meet with Ahmadinejad because he's not the actual leader of Iran. It's an interesting attempt at parsing that Obama's folks are hoping neutralizes the McCain/RNC attacks.
This morning, the McCain campaign notes that Obama -- at a September 2007 press conference -- said he'd meet with Ahmadinejad specifically.