WASHINGTON--GOP White House hopeful John McCain, under fire for saying the lives of soldiers killed in Iraq were "wasted," is getting sympathy on Thursday from Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. Earlier this month, Obama, at the first press conference of his presidential campaign, retreated after using the same word to describe the deaths of troops in Iraq.
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McCain, the Arizona Republican, stepped in it during an appearence Wednesday with David Letterman on the CBS "Late Show" where he announced what everyone knew, that he will make his second run for president. He got in trouble when he told Letterman, " We wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives over there."
The Democratic National Committee pounced, sending out a demand (see text below) for a McCain apology in the name of DNC communication chief Karen Finney who said in a statement, "Senator McCain should apologize immediately for his comments," said DNC Communications Director Karen Finney. "McCain should also explain this poll-driven change in his tune. How is it that John McCain now believes American lives are being wasted, yet he so stubbornly supports the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq and put more American lives in harm's way? Clearly in looking at his sinking poll numbers, he really will do or say just about anything to win."
McCain, a war hero aiming to give the episode a short shelf life, issued a statement (see text below) where he said he should have used the word "sacrifice."
Enter Obama, who is asked about the MCain "wasted" at the end of a press conference in the Senate Radio-TV gallery where he talked about legislation he is drafting dealing with the sorry state of out-patient treatment at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here.
Before you read what Obama had to say, know this:
Obama, during his first press conference as a presidential candidate at Iowa State University, discussing his opposition to the Iraq war, said the war "should have never been authorized, and should have never been waged, and on which we've now spent $400 billion, and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted.''
Obama, wanting to douse a fire, retreated from his "wasted" remark two days later in New Hampshire, "Well as I said, it is not at all what I intended to say, and I would absolutely apologize if any of them felt that in some ways it had diminished the enormous courage and sacrifice that they'd shown. You know, and if you look at all the other speeches that I've made, that is always the starting point in my view of this war.''
So this bring us back to Thursday, on why it was so on point to ask Obama about McCain's use of the word "wasted."
Obama replied, "Well,you know, as somebody who has had the same phrase in a speech -- you know, I think that nobody would question Senator McCain's dedication to our veterans.
And I think that, you know, it -- what both he and I have simply tried to express is that when you give a mission to our extraordinarily brave soldiers that's not thought through, it's a failure of civilian leadership. And we have a duty, a sacred duty to make sure that we are honoring their sacrifice by giving them missions in which they can succeed. I'm positive that was the intent in which he meant it. It was the same intent that I had when I made my statement.
You know, John McCain and I may have disagreements. The one area that I don't think he can be questioned is his dedication to American troops. He's been there, he's done that."
This from McCain....
Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator John McCain today released the following
statement regarding U.S.troops in Iraq:
"Last evening, I referred to American casualties in Iraq as wasted. I
should have used the word, sacrificed, as I have in the past. No one
appreciates and honors more than I do the selfless patriotism of
American servicemen and women in the Iraq War. We owe them a debt we
can never fully repay. And America's leaders owe them, as well as the
American people, our best judgment and honest appraisal of the progress
of the war, in which they continue to sacrifice.
This from the DNC.....
DNC Calls on McCain to Apologize to Troops
Washington, DC - The Democratic National Committee called on John McCain to apologize to American troops and their families who've served in Iraq for telling David Letterman on the Late Show last night that "American lives" are being "wasted" there.
McCain's sudden shift of rhetoric no doubt reflects his drop in support among moderates and Independents as a result of his staunch support of the war. As the Washington Post pointed out today, McCain now trails in the Republican presidential primary 44 percent to 21 percent, a further slide from the 34 percent to 27 percent disadvantage he held a month ago. [Washington Post, 3/1/2007]
McCain's attempt to have it both ways, however, is hindered by the fact that just last November he asserted that it would be "immoral" to have troops dying in Iraq "for a failed policy." If he now says that troops' lives are being "wasted," then in addition to insulting our brave troops and their families who are making the ultimate sacrifice, it further undermines his questionable effort to help the Bush Administration send over 20,000 more American troops into the Iraqi civil war. [CBS Late Show, 2/28/07; ABC News, 11/19/06]
"Senator McCain should apologize immediately for his comments," said DNC Communications Director Karen Finney. "McCain should also explain this poll-driven change in his tune. How is it that John McCain now believes American lives are being 'wasted,' yet he so stubbornly supports the President's plan to escalate the war in Iraq and put more American lives in harm's way? Clearly in looking at his sinking poll numbers, he really will do or say just about anything to win."
McCain Now Says Troops Lives Have Been "Wasted". On the Late Show with David Letterman John McCain said, "American[s] are very frustrated and they have every right to be. We wasted a lot of our most precious treasure, which is American lives over there." [CBS Late Show, 2/28/07]
But McCain Said It Was "Immoral" To Keep Troops In Iraq "Fighting and Dying for a Failed Policy." When asked, "by your own standards, isn't it currently immoral to keep marines and soldiers, other service people in Iraq," McCain agreed saying there weren't enough troops currently to win. McCain said, "Yes, it is, and we've got to ask some questions, one, are we winning and I think the answer is no...Do we have enough troops to do all that? No, we do not." McCain went on to say of our fighting force in Iraq, "they're fighting and dying for a failed policy." [ABC News, 11/19/06]
And Even Called a Short Surge the "Worst Of All Worlds." Speaking before the American Enterprise Institute, John McCain emphasized the importance of a sustained troop increase in Iraq, as opposed to a short term surge in forces. McCain noted that "there are two keys" to a troops surge, saying, "to be a value the surge must be substantial and it must be sustained." McCain called for a "large number of troops," calling for an additional 3-5 brigades in Baghdad and one brigade in Anbar province as the "minimum" necessary. McCain added that the increase in troops can only be reduced with mission completion, not a timetable, criticizing a short surge, saying, "the presence of additional brigades should be tied to completion of their mission rather than to some arbitrary deadline. The worst of all worlds would be a small, short surge of U.S. Forces." McCain believes a sustained force increase is necessary to reach an end in Iraq, noting that "by controlling the violence be we can pave the way for a political settlement." [McCain, AEI Speech, 1/5/07]