ABC News’s Bret Hovell reports: Sen. John McCain sarcastically complimented his likely rival for the White House Thursday at a rally in Stockdale, Calif., pointing up what he called Sen. Barack Obama’s “lack of experience.”
“I have the knowledge and the experience and the judgment to lead this nation," McCain said. "My opponent does not.”
He went on to praise facetiously praise Obama.
“I admire and respect Sen. Obama,” McCain said. “For a young man with very little experience, he’s done very well. I appreciate his very great lack of experience and knowledge of the issues. He’s been very successful.”
McCain has regularly said that he believes he has more experience than Obama, particularly on foreign affairs, but he has never before called him “young” or drawn such a sharp contrast on the issue of age. McCain is 71.
McCain continued, somewhat repetitively: “So don’t get me wrong, I admire and respect Sen. Obama. But he does not have the knowledge, background or judgment to lead this nation in these difficult and challenging times. And I do. And I will keep this nation prosperous and secure.”
McCain’s remarks were also notable as the first time the Arizona Republican referred to Obama as “my opponent” without at least mentioning Sen. Hillary Clinton, who, though unlikely to win the Democratic nomination, remains in the race.
The comments came at a boisterous rally in an airport hanger here in north central California. Twice, McCain was interrupted by anti-war protestors, and twice he had to stop when supporters did not settle down, chanting, “We want Mac.”
Earlier in the day, in a paper statement released by his campaign, McCain attacked Obama for not having served in the military, in response to comments Obama made on the floor of the Senate criticizing McCain for not voting on a bill designed to help veterans.
Speaking with reporters after the rally in California, McCain stood by his statement, but did not repeat it as explicitly as he had on paper.
“I don’t know if the American people will judge Sen. Obama as to whether he has military experience or not, but I think that they may judge him as to whether he has experience and knowledge to make the kind of judgment necessary to care for our veterans,” McCain said.
McCain and Obama have traded barbs all week about how to conduct diplomacy with regimes unfriendly to the United States. McCain has used those opportunities to criticize Obama for saying he would sit down with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He said the American people would take into account his judgment and compare it to Obama’s.
“I strongly believe that my experience and knowledge and judgment will be a deciding factor in this race in keeping this nation, returning it to prosperity and keeping it secure.”