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McCain unloads on Obama

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell and NBC/NJ's Carrie Dann
RENO, Nev. -- McCain went after Obama at a town hall today, asking why Obama would sit down with Iran's president but won't sit down with the leader of our troops.

McCain also hit Obama over his one visit to Iraq and says the Illinois senator has "never seized the opportunity" to meet with Gen. Petraeus except for a hearing in Washington.

McCain argued that Obama has not done enough to learn what's happening on the ground. He read from an Obama campaign statement that dismissed McCain's offer to visit Iraq together as a "political stunt."

"That is a profound misunderstanding of what's happened in Iraq and what's at stake in Iraq," McCain retorted.

McCain also picked up a Clinton attack line that Obama has held no hearings on Afghanistan as chairman of a foreign relations subcommittee. Obama is chairman of the subcommittee on European Affairs, which, Clinton argued, could hold hearings on NATO, which has troops in Afghanistan.

The McCain campaign's criticism of Obama's single pre-surge trip to Iraq originated on Sunday, when surrogate Sen. Lindsey Graham raised the issue and proposed a joint McCain-Obama trip to the region as a solution. (McCain has visited eight times to Obama's one.) 

McCain told the Associated Press on Monday that he would hope to use such a venture to "educate" Obama. Today, the Republican National Committee joined in, posting a clock of the days elapsed since the likely Democratic nominee visited Iraq.
McCain also reiterated that appeal in this gymnasium festooned with American flags, saying of the proposed trip with Obama, "I would be glad to go with him because these issues are far more important than any election. The security of this nation is far more important than any political campaign."
"I will never surrender in Iraq," he added, "I will not let that happen."

*** UPDATE *** The Obama campaign responds: "On the day after the former White House press secretary conceded that the Bush administration used deception and propaganda to take us to war, it seems odd that Senator McCain, who bought the flawed rationale for war so readily, would be lecturing others on their depth of understanding about Iraq," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said. "Senator Obama challenged the President's rationale for the war from the start, warning that it would divert resources from Afghanistan and the pursuit of Al Qaeda and mire us in an endless civil war. Senator McCain stubbornly insists on pursuing the failed Bush policy that continues to cost so much, while Senator Obama believes it's time to begin a deliberate, careful strategy to remove our troops and compel the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future."