Obama Camp: McCain's Positions On Afghanistan "Surreal" And "Confused"

Obama Camp: McCain's Positions On Afghanistan "Surreal" And "Confused"

The conventional wisdom is that any day spent discussing national security is a good day for the McCain campaign. But Barack Obama's team appears to believe Afghanistan is a winning issue for them.

Building on Tuesday's news cycle, when the campaigns' respective speeches on Afghanistan dominated headlines, the Obama camp organized an early morning conference call on Wednesday. Senior foreign policy adviser Dr. Susan Rice and communications strategist Robert Gibbs were offered up to reporters. Dr. Rice opened the proceedings by calling McCain's Tuesday speech "surreal" because of the candidate's newfound emphasis on the need for more U.S. troops in Afghanistan. (Later in the afternoon on Tuesday, after his speech, McCain appeared to be trying to take some of that back, when he noted that an increased troop level could potentially be achieved by using NATO forces.)

"Up until a few days ago, his view was that we hadn't diverted any effort and attention from Afghanistan to deal with Iraq. That there was no need for additional American forces in Afghanistan. That all, in effect, was going well," Dr. Rice said Wednesday, adding: "Yesterday, he woke up and came to the sudden conclusion that indeed Afghanistan merited more strategic focus -- something the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been saying for months -- and that we would therefore be willing to put in additional combat brigades. But then he got confused again, as to whether those needed to be American or NATO [troops] or some combination thereof."

Gibbs also had some fun with the McCain campaign's theme of consulting with commanders on the ground before forming strategy.

"Those reporters who were traveling with Senator McCain yesterday can verify whether he was consulting with the commanders on the ground in Afghanistan multiple times yesterday that would coincide with the multiple positions he seemed to take," Gibbs said.

Before the conference call began, the McCain camp sent out a blast email to reporters repeating its criticism of Obama for not holding any hearings on Afghanistan since taking over a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee last year. Rice, in turn, attempted to explain away that political barb -- also used by Sen. Hillary Clinton during the primaries -- by saying that the subcommittee would be the wrong venue for hearings on Afghanistan.

"Joe Biden has said that as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he insisted and continues to insist that hearings on Afghanistan -- such a critical issue -- be held at the full committee level, and not at the subcommittee level," Rice said. "Perhaps the McCain people will understand that and cease their senseless attack on this point." She didn't sound very optimistic.

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