The Note: Welcoming Gifts

Unless Maliki reverses himself, McCain is left jousting "with two prominent politicians over when and how to pull troops out of Iraq: Barack Obama and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki," USA Today's David Jackson reports.

(And the venue for McCain's counter-messaging Monday places him squarely in the midst of the Bush legacy. At least he got his baseball right Sunday.)

McCain, on ABC's "Good Morning America" Monday, kept the focus on the surge: "I know that he'll have the opportunity to see the success of the surge," McCain told Diane Sawyer. "He was wrong about the surge. It is succeeding, and we are winning. . . . You don't have to choose to lose in Iraq in order to succeed in Afghanistan."

He added: "If we abandon Iraq and have specific dates for withdrawal -- we would have been out last March, this previous March, if we had done what Sen. Obama wanted to do. He was wrong then, he is wrong now."

On the huge press coverage his rival is receiving, McCain said: "It is what it is."

Obama's luck may not last the week. In Iraq on Monday -- his visits to Baghdad and Basra come 925 days after his last visit to the country -- is doing no harm the same as doing himself some good? (Does that change when the national press corps joins him, later in the day in Jordan?)

On Monday, "Obama was scheduled to meet senior U.S. and Iraqi leaders here, including Gen. David H. Petraeus and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki," per Sudarsan Raghavan of The Washington Post.

"Iraqi leaders are expected to press Obama for more clarity on his long-term vision," the AP's Brian Murphy writes. "Such discussions have added importance since Iraq and U.S. negotiators appear stalled in efforts to reach a long-range pact to define future U.S. military presence and obligations."

Maliki's comments ease the way for the meeting, since they "appear to undercut a key argument from Senator McCain and other Republicans," per the New York Sun's Eli Lake.

"But Mr. Maliki's latest position could present a problem for the Obama campaign, as well," Lake continues. "The senator's plan to withdraw all American combat troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office has never before been tied to negotiations with the Iraqi government. Should Mr. Maliki revise or refine his remarks to Der Spiegel, the Obama campaign would be faced with an uncomfortable choice: give up its preferred withdrawal plan or tell Iraq's government that as president Mr. Obama would disregard its positions when formulating his Iraq policy."

McCain gets a boost of his own American military leaders. Peter Nicholas and M. Karim Faiez of the Los Angeles Times: "Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in an appearance on 'Fox News Sunday' that setting a two-year deadline to pull all troops out of Iraq would not be advisable. 'I think the consequences could be very dangerous in that regard,' Mullen said. 'I'm convinced at this point in time that making reductions based on conditions on the ground are very important.' "

Obama heads from Iraq to Amman, Jordan, on Monday, where he'll be met by members of the national press corps. The media made an overnight journey on the new campaign plane -- "CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN" painted on both sides -- and touched down in Ireland for refueling early Monday, en route to Jordan.

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