The Note: Patriot Games

What else is he looking for? "I don't think John McCain gains anything from anymore foreign trips," Matthew Dowd told ABC's David Wright on "Good Morning America" Monday. "I think that he's got that credential. I think that what he has to do is demonstrate that he has a voice on the economy and healthcare."

With foreign travel and affairs as backdrop, a new line of attack from Democrats. Retired Gen. Wesley Clark questions McCain's military record: "He hasn't held executive responsibility. That large squadron in the Navy that he commanded -- that wasn't a wartime squadron," Clark said on CBS' "Face the Nation." "I don't think getting in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to become president."

Said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers: "If Barack Obama's campaign wants to question John McCain's military service, that's their right. But let's please drop the pretense that Barack Obama stands for a new type of politics."

Politico's Ben Smith has intriguing details to take the storyline a bit further: "Farther to the left -- and among some of McCain's conservative enemies as well -- harsher attacks are circulating. Critics have accused McCain of war crimes for bombing targets in Hanoi in the 1960s. Sunday, a widely read liberal blog accused McCain of 'disloyalty' during his captivity in Vietnam for his coerced participation in propaganda films and interviews after he'd been tortured."

Obama gets his foreign turn next month: He "will travel to Iraq, Afghanistan, Israel, Jordan, the United Kingdom, France and Germany," ABC's Jake Tapper reports. "He will be visiting Iraq and Afghanistan this time along with a congressional delegation, and will follow those visits with a separate international sojourn to the other countries," Tapper writes.

But he's not doing it entirely on his own terms. "Why have foreign affairs become the central battleground in the presidential race?" ABC's John Hendren reports. "For McCain, the answer is simple: The candidate who's acknowledged that economics aren't his strong suit is a veteran, a prisoner of war and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who's been to Iraq eight times. For Obama, there was little choice. He's been hammered repeatedly by McCain."

GOP operatives have been mocking Obama for how long it's been since he last visited Iraq -- and how does he win by going? If he acknowledges security gains, how does he not acknowledge that his plans for troop withdrawal may need to be altered? And if he doesn't, how does he not sound like a partisan?

"With the general election four months away, Obama's rhetoric on the topic [of Iraq] now seems outdated and out of touch, and the nominee-apparent may have a political problem concerning the very issue that did so much to bring him this far," George Packer writes in The New Yorker. "He doubtless realizes that his original plan, if implemented now, could revive the badly wounded Al Qaeda in Iraq, reënergize the Sunni insurgency, embolden Moqtada al-Sadr to recoup his militia's recent losses to the Iraqi Army, and return the central government to a state of collapse."

One McCain adviser tells The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder: "He is in a bad place. Caught between his promise to his base and the reality on the ground. Immediate withdrawal isn't a good place to be."

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