McCain Suggests Obama Will Shift Iraq Position After Petraeus Meeting

By Jennifer Parker

Jul 9, 2008 5:35pm

ABC News’ Jennifer Parker Reports: Sen. John McCain Wednesday suggested Sen. Barack Obama may alter his promise to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months after meeting with US. General David Petraeus, the commander of US forces in Iraq.

"I’m glad that he [Obama] is, for the first time, asking for a sit down briefing with Gen. Petraeus and I’ll be very interested in what his position on Iraq is when he returns," McCain said during a satellite interview with ABC News’ Charlie Gibson Wednesday from Pittsburgh.

Watch part of Sen. McCain’s interview with Charles Gibson on ABC’s World News tonight at 6:30pmET.

"On the issue of Iraq, I am glad he’s going for the first time in 900 days," McCain told Gibson, chiding Obama for visiting Iraq once since the war started compared to his eight visits.

In what some see as a politically risky move, Obama has announced plans to visit Iraq and Afghanistan this summer, but angered his anti-war political base last Thursday when he said he would "refine" his Iraq policy after speaking to generals on the ground. He later clarified his comments, repeating his promise to withdraw troops from Iraq at a pace of one to two brigades per month over 16 months if elected president.

"I have been as crystal clear now as I was a year ago, as I was six months ago that we will get out of Iraq carefully, deliberately, at a pace that is safe for our troops," Obama told ABC’s Diane Sawyer Wednesday on "Good Morning America."

While Obama has long said he would consult with US generals in Iraq, he emphasized Wednesday his view that the role of US generals in Iraq is to "execute" the president’s strategy.

"My position has not changed at all and what I have repeatedly said is that as Commander-in-Chief, obviously I’d be listening to recommendations of generals on the ground," Obama said, "but it is my job as Commander-in-Chief to set up a strategy, it’s their job to execute tactics."

Petraeus told ABC News’ Jonathan Karl Tuesday that if Obama visits Iraq later this month, commanders there will outline for him, in detail, the dangers of withdrawing too quickly. Petraeus said top commanders remain concerned that the gains are reversible and that withdrawing troops too quickly would be a mistake.

Taking a page from the 2004 GOP playbook against Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Republican Party has attempted to portray Obama as a flip flopper on issues, sending an email Wednesday accusing Obama of a "shift" in his position on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Chiming in today, McCain accused Obama of shifting his position on key issues.

"The fact is he’s changed his opinion on FISA, on public financing, on his agreement that he said he’d go anyplace anytime to sit down for a town hall meeting with me," McCain said, referring to the collapse of negotiations between the rivaling campaigns over town-hall style debates.

McCain challenged Obama to a series of ten town hall meetings this summer but talks fell apart when Obama counter-offered two town-hall meetings this summer in addition to three network debates in the Fall.

"We were before the same organization yesterday, we could have just stood there together and answered their questions," McCain told Gibson. "He said that he would take public financing for the general election if I did as well and said that he agreed to it but those things will be judged by the American people buy I won’t hesitate to point them out," McCain said, laughing.

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