Obama Gives McCain a History Lesson on Al Qaeda in Iraq
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About half-way through last night's debate in Cleveland, Tim Russert asked Barack Obama if he reserved the right, as president, to "go back into Iraq, once you have withdrawn, with sizable troops in order to quell any kind of insurrection or civil war?"
After wrapping up a previous point in relation to Afghanistan, Obama responded:
"Now, I always reserve the right for the president -- as commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad. So that is true, I think, not just in Iraq, but that's true in other places. That's part of my argument with respect to Pakistan.
"I think we should always cooperate with our allies and sovereign nations in making sure that we are rooting out terrorist organizations, but if they are planning attacks on Americans, like what happened in 9/11, it is my job -- it will be my job as president to make sure that we are hunting them down."
This didn't strike me as especially controversial, but John McCain thinks he can capitalize on what sounded like a reasonable response.
Republican presidential hopeful John McCain mocked Democrat Barack Obama on Wednesday for saying he would take action as president "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."
"When you examine that statement, it's pretty remarkable," McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas.
"I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It's called 'al-Qaida in Iraq,'" McCain said, drawing laughter at Obama's expense.
Is this really the debate McCain wants to have? Because, by any reasonable measure, he's arguing from a position of extreme weakness.
Indeed, Obama, to his credit, didn't miss a beat in firing right back with "some news" for McCain.
Steve Benen is a freelance writer/researcher and creator of The Carpetbagger Report. In addition, he is the lead editor of Salon.com's Blog Report, and has been a contributor to Talking Points Memo, Washington Monthly, Crooks & Liars, The American Prospect, and the Guardian.