Presidential candidate Barack Obama said Wednesday that he and other leading congressional Democrats were seeking ways to “ratchet up the pressure” on President Bush to set a timetable to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq.
“The American people have said ‘enough,’” Obama, the junior senator from Illinois, said in an interview with NBC News’ David Gregory on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” A new indicates that a majority of Americans believed going to war in Iraq was a mistake.
The House and the Senate have passed different versions of bills to fund the military campaign in Iraq and Afghanistan, both of which seek to limit the U.S. deployment. The Senate version would urge, but not mandate, that most troops be withdrawn by March 31, while the House version would set a hard deadline to pull them out by Sept. 1, 2008.
Obama’s comments were in reaction to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a GOP presidential contender who said earlier Wednesday that and that anti-war Democratic candidates were “reckless.”
“In Iraq, only our enemies were cheering” when the Democratic-led House approved a timetable to withdraw U.S. troops, McCain said in a speech at Virginia Military Institute.
Obama: McCain misquoted me
McCain specifically called on Democrats to “heed the advice of one of their leading candidates for president, Senator Obama, and immediately pass a new bill to provide support to our troops in Iraq without substituting their partisan interests for those of our troops and our country.”
Obama accused McCain of distorting his position, complaining that “I wasn’t quite quoted properly there.”
“It’s the president who has decided to make this an issue” by threatening to veto the Senate spending bill with its suggested deadline, Obama said, calling it a “responsible, well-thought-through piece of legislation.”
If Bush does veto the legislation, “we will continue to try to find ways to ratchet up the pressure on him and do so in a way that’s responsible to make sure our troops come home safely,” he said.
The appearance on “Hardball” gave Obama his second opportunity of the day to take a swipe at McCain, who was criticized after his highly publicized trip to Baghdad last week for saying he saw signs of progress, even though he wore a heavy military guard to tour the Iraqi capital.
“No matter how much this administration wishes it to be true, the idea that the situation in Iraq is improving because it only takes a security detail of 100 soldiers, three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships to walk through a market in the middle of Baghdad is simply not credible or reflective of the facts on the ground,” Obama said in a statement.
He went further in the televised interview.
“I think John has been mistaken consistently in his approach,” Obama said, accusing McCain of supporting “what has been a fundamentally failed strategy.”
“I think that John McCain is a genuine American hero who has made enormous sacrifices on behalf of the American people,” he said. “I leave it up to the judgment of the American people to decide who is more credible on this issue.”