Speaking to a small crowd in Maine on Monday, McCain spoke about the success of the surge. "He said [the surge] would fail and he refuses to this day to acknowledge it's succeeded. And my friends, that's what judgment is about. That's why I'm qualified to lead and I don't need any on the job training," McCain said to applause.
Obama said that, after being sworn in, he would give U.S. military commanders a new mission: "for us to begin a phased redeployment at a pace of one to two brigades per month, at which point we would have our combat troops out in 16 months. That's the goal that I'm setting."
The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee met with Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of American troops in Iraq, and the architect of the troop surge strategy that Obama has opposed.
Obama and Petraeus have also staked out opposing positions on whether there should be a timetable for withdrawing American forces.
Obama said that in his meeting with Petraeus, the general discussed his "deep concerns" about "a timetable that doesn't take into account what they anticipate might be a change in conditions."
"My job is to think about the national security interests as a whole and to weigh and balance risks in Afghanistan and Iraq," Obama said. "Their job is just to get the job done here, and I completely understand that.
"I think it is indisputable that, because of great work that they have done, as well as the unbelievable work that the troops have done, we've made significant progress in terms of reducing violence in Iraq," he said.
However, Obama would not attribute the decreased violence entirely to the troop surge, which he opposed, instead saying that it was the result of "political factors inside Iraq that came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops. Had those political factors not occurred, my assessment would be correct. ... The point I was making at the time was the political dynamic was the driving force in that sectarian violence."
Speaking about his support for a timetable for troop withdrawal, Obama said he wasn't changing his position by saying he would take into account the assessment of military commanders on the ground.
"What I will refuse to do is to get boxed in into what I consider two false choices," he said. "Either I have a rigid timeline, come hell or high water, and I am blind to anything that happens in the intervening 16 months, or, alternatively, I am completely deferring to whatever the commanders on the ground say, which is what George Bush says he's doing, in which case I'm not doing my job as commander in chief. I'm essentially, simply rubber-stamping decisions that are made on the ground.
"I think that there is some convergence where not only the [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] government, but even the Bush administration suggested that, well, we need to have some time horizon. ... There was a sense that we need to start pointing to an end game here."
Obama cited the $10 billion being spent monthly on the war during a time of economic struggle as justification for a timetable.
"If we're spending 10 billion a month over the next four or five years, that's 10 billion a month we're not using to rebuild the U.S., or drawing down our national debt, or making sure that families have health care," he said. "So, these are all trade-offs the next president is going to have to make."