Obama on McCain’s Troop Level Comment: ‘We’ve Seen This Movie Before’

May 31, 2008 2:31pm

ABC News’ Sunlen Miller reports: Sen. Barack Obama called Sen. John McCain’s refusal to admit he misspoke about troop levels in Iraq "disturbing" and cast his actions as the sequel to the Bush administration’s refusal to admit their own mistakes.

"We’ve seen this movie before," Obama said at a town hall in Rapid City, S.D. "A leader who pursues the wrong course, who is unwilling to change course, who ignores the evidence. Now, just like George Bush, John McCain is refusing to admit that he’s made a mistake."

Obama explained to the crowd of 2,700 that McCain had said on Friday that the United States had drawn down to pre-surge troop levels in Iraq.

"John McCain was wrong, and he was wrong on the most important question that any commander-in-chief faces," Obama said. "We have not drawn down to pre-surge levels. We have about 20,000 more troops in Iraq today than we had before the surge. Even after we finish rotating more troops out later this summer, we’ll still have thousands more of Americans in Iraq than we had before the surge. Those are the facts."

Today marks Obama’s second day of criticisms of McCain over these remarks — but today Obama went further — saying that McCain’s refusal to admit a misstatement will be indicative of his presidency and a continuation of the Bush administration’s Patten.

"Now we all misspeak sometimes. I’ve done it myself. So on such a basic, factual error, you’d think that John McCain would just say, ‘Oh, I misspoke, I made a mistake’ — and then move on. But he couldn’t do that. Instead, he dug in," Obama said and connected it to Bush’s handling of the Iraq war, "We all know this president refused to admit that he made a mistake. That’s the leadership that we’ve had enough of over the last eight years."

The McCain campaign pushed back, defending McCain’s original remarks.

"Barack Obama is ignoring facts, he irresponsibly refuses credible evidence on the ground proving American troops have surged toward significant gains in Iraq and it proves he is just not ready to be commander-in-chief," McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds wrote. "For over 874 days, which includes the entirety of the ‘Surge’ strategy, Barack Obama has refused to visit Iraq, see the conditions on the ground, and meet with General Petraeus and it raises questions about whether his campaign is based on conceding defeat in Iraq, no matter what progress our troops make there."

Obama, within his remarks, spent most of his time focusing on the presumptive Republican nominee — sighting differences on the GI bill, and the gas tax holiday among the foreign policy criticisms. By comparison, Obama mentioned his opponent on the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Clinton, only once. He told the audience she has run an outstanding campaign, and "She is going to be working on behalf of the Democratic Party as I will be."

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