ABC News’ Bret Hovell and Sunlen Miller Report: Senator John McCain started campaigning Wednesday with derision for a remark Senator Barack Obama made in Tuesday night’s Democratic debate.
"I am not embarrassed to tell you that I did not watch the Democrat debate last night," McCain said at the beginning of a town hall meeting in Tyler, Texas.
"But I am told that Senator Obama made the statement that if Al Qaeda came back to Iraq after he withdraws, after American troops are withdrawn, then he would send military troops back if Al Qaeda established a base in Iraq."
McCain, R-Ariz., paused for a beat before continuing on with a hint of sarcasm.
"I have some news," he said. "Al Qaeda is in Iraq! It’s called Al Qaeda in Iraq."
He continued, "If we left, they wouldn’t be establishing a base. They wouldn’t be establishing a base, they’d be taking a country. And I am not going to let that happen, my friends."
Watch McCain’s comment HERE.
During last night’s debate, Obama responded to a question by moderator Tim Russert who asked him a hypothetical question about whether he would go back into Iraq after withdrawing a sizeable amount of troops to quell insurrection or civil war.
As part of his answer Obama responded," 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 that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad."
Speaking with reporters after the town hall meeting today, McCain would not expand on his criticism of Obama to include a general naivete on foreign policy.
"I don’t make that judgment," he said. "I just question as strongly as possible the premise that somehow you could leave Iraq and defeat the entire purpose of this strategy we’re not employing, which is now succeeding, and then say that you would go back."
At a rally in Columbus, Ohio today, Senator Obama responded to McCain’s comments: "I said well I would always reserve the right to go in and strike against al Qaeda if they were in Iraq, so ya know, this is how politics works. McCain thought that he could make a clever point by saying ‘well let me give you some news Barack, al Qaeda IS in Iraq,’ like I wasn’t reading the papers, like I — like I didn’t know what was going on," Obama said.
He then launched into a strong retort, "Well, first of all, I DO know that al Qaeda is in Iraq, that’s€™s why I’ve said we should continue to strike al Qaeda targets. But I have some news for John McCain, and that is that there was no such thing as al Qaeda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq!" he said.
"I’ve got some news for John McCain: he took us into war along with George bush that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged."
Obama finished, "I’ve been paying attention, John McCain! That’s the news. So John McCain may like to say he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell but so far all he’s done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that’s cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars," he said.
"I intend to bring [it] to an end so that we can actually start going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the hills of Pakistan like we should have been doing in the first place!That’s the news John McCain!"