ABC News’ Jennifer Duck reports: Sen. John McCain touted his judgment and experience to a small crowd in Maine as his opponent traveled to Iraq and met with top Iraqi leaders.
Speaking on Sen. Obama’s past judgment on the surge, McCain assured the crowd he has the qualifications needed to be president. "He said it 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.
The crowd gathered at a picnic held at the Maine Military Museum. Both American and P.O.W. flags flanked a small platform where McCain stood. A sign reading "country first" on the podium tied into McCain’s theme.
"This is what my campaign is about. Putting country first," McCain told the crowd reiterating his constant backing of the surge since day one. "I’m proud that I was right. I’m proud that we could defeat this evil. I was proud that we can bring our troops home with honor and prevent a wider war. An increased Iranian influence and the risk of having to send our brave young Americans back."
Before the public event, the presumptive republican nominee met privately with Former President George H.W. Bush at his compound in Kennebunkport, Maine. At a press avail with both men, McCain was asked if comments made over the weekend from the Iraqi spokesman and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki undercut the McCain message against Obama.
"It doesn’t in the slightest undercut that it is based on conditions on the ground," McCain responded. "And I also agree with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who said it would be very dangerous not –to do what Senator Obama has advocated. I hope we’ll pay attention to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Particularly someone that has no military experience whatsoever."
The former president chose to stay away from the policy debate saying he was "very happy" sitting by the ocean watching the tide come in and out but added he was "so strongly supportive of him [McCain] and his background to be for the right positions on matters of nation security."
When pressed on troops being withdrawn fully in two years, McCain said, "Oh I think they could be largely withdrawn. As I have said we have succeeded. This strategy is not succeeding, we have succeeded. And of course as we all know it has to be based on conditions on the ground."
McCain added, "I am confident we have just removed the- or are moving the last of five brigades that were part of the surge and I am confident as long as we maintain the progress we have made and it’s fragile but it’s there but it has to be based on conditions on the ground. But whenever you win wars, and we are winning, then we will be able to come home."
With a lot of attention deflected to his opponent overseas, McCain was asked about "equal attention."
"I don’t know, but we continue to hard campaign, we’ll do the town hall meetings," McCain said. " You know, it is what it is. I’m confident we’ll do very well and we’ll succeed, so, but, it is what it is."