Mission Accomplished: Five Years Later

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Since capturing the GOP's nomination, John McCain has stepped up his effort to put more distance between himself and President Bush.

Rather than simply refer to differences on troop levels with President Bush's former defense secretary as he did in a New Hampshire primary ad, McCain is now more regularly pointing to his differences with the president himself.

"I was frustrated for nearly four years as I fought against the Rumsfeld strategy, and the president's strategy in Iraq," McCain told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on April 20.

McCain's critics on the left are concerned that the Arizona senator's recitation of tactical differences with Bush is obscuring what the two Republicans share in common: a conviction in the wisdom of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and a belief that a long-term commitment of U.S. troops will stabilize the war-torn country.

Timed with the five-year anniversary of President Bush's "mission accomplished" moment, the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is launching a television ad which paints a vote for McCain as a vote for a third Bush term.

MoveOn's ad, which has $160,000 behind it, will air starting Thursday on national cable as well as on broadcast networks in Iowa and New Mexico.

View the ad here.

"We are intentionally going up in the places where McCain's ads are unopposed, and that's the key," a MoveOn spokesman told ABC News. "While Obama and Hillary beat each other up, we don't want to give him a free-ride because the media certainly is."

The Republican National Committee responded to the ad by dubbing Obama, who has been endorsed by MoveOn, as "MoveOn's Commander-in-Chief."

The RNC also charged that MoveOn's ad takes McCain's comments out of context.

"First, they quote John McCain as saying the 'end is very much in sight,' but he was clearly talking about dismantling Saddam Hussein's regime," said RNC spokesman Alex Conant in a missive to reporters. "Second, they quote John McCain on 100 years, when he was clearly referring to a peaceful support role . . ."

MoveOn counterpunched by saying that the failure of the surge to produce political reconciliation shows that U.S. troops in Iraq cannot be the stabilizing force that McCain envisions.

"Military experts who have looked at this believe that our mere presence is continuing to exacerbate tensions on the ground," MoveOn communications director Ilyse Hogue told ABC News. "There is sort of a circular logic to believing that we can keep our troops there for decades or even one hundred years when our mere presence is creating harm."

In addition to launching its anti-McCain ad, MoveOn's executive director spent Wednesday directing attention to an interview that McCain recently gave to a conservative talk radio host.

"Let me say that no one has supported President Bush on Iraq more than I have," McCain told Mike Gallagher on April 2.

Later in the interview, McCain reiterated that he has "agreed with the president on many issues," though he said "there are some issues" they have not agreed on.

Listen here.

As part of their efforts to highlight the five-year anniversary, Iraq war critics are planning to unfurl a 50 foot-long "Mission Accomplished?" banner in front of the White House at 10:30 am ET on Thursday.

TiVo Alert:

In the 8:00 am ET hour, John McCain is interviewed on FNC's "Fox and Friends," CNN's "American Morning,", and MSNBC's "Morning Joe".

Michelle Obama appears in a taped interview on NBC's "Today".

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