From NBC's Mark Murray and NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
Obama isn't expected to speak until 7:45 pm ET at a rally in Great Falls, MT. But his campaign has released excerpts of his remarks, which go right after McCain's "pre-surge levels" misstatement yesterday. They also invoke Scott McClellan's new book.
"There are honest differences about how to move forward in Iraq, just like there were honest differences about whether or not we should go to war," Obama is supposed to say. "John McCain was for the invasion of Iraq; I opposed it. John McCain wants to continue George Bush's war in Iraq indefinitely; I want to end it. So there's going to be a clear choice for the American people this November."
"But that's not what John McCain's been talking about the last few days. He's been proposing a joint trip to Iraq that's nothing more than a political stunt. He's even been using it to raise a few dollars for his campaign. But it seems like Sen. McCain's a lot more interested in my travel plans than the facts, because yesterday – in his continued effort to put the best light on a failed policy – he stood up in Wisconsin and said, 'We have drawn down to pre-surge levels' in Iraq."
"That's not true, and anyone running for commander-in-chief should know better. As the saying goes, you're entitled to your own view, but not your own facts. We've got around 150,000 troops in Iraq -- 20,000 more than we had before the surge. We have plans to get down to around 140,000 later this summer -- that's still more troops than we had in Iraq before the surge. And today, Sen. McCain refused to correct his mistake. Just like George Bush, when he was presented with the truth, he just dug in and refused to admit his mistake. His campaign said it amounts to 'nitpicking.'"
"Well, I don't think tens of thousands of American troops amounts to nitpicking. Tell that to the young men and women who are serving bravely and brilliantly under our flag. Tell that to the families who have seen their loved ones fight tour after tour after tour of duty in a war that should've never been authorized and never been waged."
"It's time for a debate that's based on the truth, and I can't think of anything more important than how many Americans are in harm's way. It's time for a debate that's based on how we're going to end this war -- not a debate that's based on raising a few dollars for John McCain's campaign."
"The American people have had enough spin. Just this week, we were reminded by President Bush's own former spokesman of how it was deception -- not straight talk -- that misled the American people into war. It's time to cut through the tough talk so that we can be straight with the American people about a war that's cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars without making us safer. It's time to end the political game-playing so that we can finally end this war. That's what I'll do in this campaign. And that's what I'll do when I'm President of the United States."
*** UPDATE *** McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds released this statement: "We agree with Barack Obama about one thing -- with troops on battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, we should have an honest, respectful debate about the best way forward. And if Barack Obama wants facts, we're happy to have a debate based in fact: the fact is Barack Obama has refused to have a one on one meeting with General Petraeus, and has avoided a fact-finding visit to Iraq for over 872 days. The fact is, Barack Obama has voted against bullets and body armor for our troops while they've been fighting extremists abroad. The fact is, Senator Obama has been critical, but failed to hold a single oversight hearing on our mission in Afghanistan despite his position in the Senate. The fact is, he fails to grasp that a reckless withdrawal, while it may elevate his political aspirations, it will lead to chaos, danger and increased Iranian influence in the region. The reality is Barack Obama's lack of action amounts to weak leadership, and shows he is just not ready to be our commander in chief."