McCain obviously believes that his experience as a naval pilot, a P.O.W. in Vietnam and a foreign police expert in Congress gives him a big advantage over a relatively untested political newcomer, Obama, on the issues of war and peace and fighting terrorism. And Wednesday, with one eye on the nomination battle and the other on a possible match-up against Obama in the general election campaign, McCain mocked the Democratic frontrunner's comment during Tuesday night's Democratic debate about going after al Qaeda in Iraq.
Barack Obama was back on the campaign trail in Columbus, Ohio, Wednesday, but the Democratic frontrunner was also clashing cross-country with the likely Republican nominee, John McCain, over Obama's comment during Tuesday's debate with Hillary Clinton about what he would do about an al Qaeda build-up in Iraq after U.S. troops have withdrawn.
In the debate, Obama said, "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 which secures the American homeland and our interests abroad."
Hillary Clinton's campaign said Wednesday morning that Obama's all words and no action. pointing out that a foreign policy subcommittee chaired by Obama hasn't had a single substantive meeting. And Republican John McCain took a more sarcastic and mocking approach Wednesday morning when he talked about Obama's al Qaeda comments at a campaign stop in Texas.
"I have some news. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. It's called al Qaeda in Iraq. And, my friends, if we left they wouldn't be establishing a base. They wouldn't be establishing a base. They would be taking a country. And I'm not going to allow that to happen, my friends. I will not surrender to al Qaeda," said McCain.
Obama's campaign answered with a statement that said, "So I heard that Senator McCain said this morning that he had some news for me. Al Qaeda is in Iraq. Well, first of all, I know that, and that's why I've said we should continue to strike al Qaeda targets. But I've got some news for him. There was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain took us into a war that should never have been authorized and never been waged. They took our eyes off the people who were responsible for 9/11, and that would be al Qaeda in Afghanistan, that is now stronger now than at any time since 2001."
The tough talk on terror comes as all of the candidates get ready for critical showdowns, next week in the giant states of Ohio and Texas, and smaller battlegrounds in Vermont and Rhode Island. McCain can wrap up the GOP nomination next week. And Obama can take a commanding lead over Hillary Clinton by winning at least one of the big states.
Obama picked up a key endorsement Wednesday from Alabama Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, and a super-delegate, who had been committed to Hillary Clinton. Lewis calls Obama's campaign "a movement that can't be ignored," saying his defection from Hillary Clinton was harder than the bloody March in Selma 40 years ago.