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McCain Criticizes Clinton's 'White Flag'

By Juliet Eilperin
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.--Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) forcefully attacked Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) today for suggesting during Monday's Democratic debate that she would set a 60-day timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq if elected president.

"For the first time in American political history, a candidate for president has called for surrender and raised the white flag," McCain told reporters. "I think that's terrible."

During a town hall with voters here McCain made the same point, arguing that one of the reasons he decided to pursue his candidacy even when his campaign was floundering over the summer was because he wanted to block the Democrats' push for withdrawal from Iraq. When a voter questioned him on whether President Bush was negotiating a pact with Iraq to keep American forces there for years to come, McCain defended the idea of having an extended U.S. presence there, along the lines of what exists in other countries where we have engaged in military conflicts.

"It's not the American presence in Iraq people care about, it's American casualties," he said, noting the U.S. still stations troops in Kuwait. "Does that bother you?" He added, "I haven't seen anybody demonstrating to get our troops out of Bosnia, I don't see anybody demonstrating to get our troops out of Kuwait, or South Korea."

Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson, however, defended the senator's pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq shortly upon taking office.

"Senator Clinton and Senator McCain disagree," Wolfson wrote in an e-mail to the Post's Anne Kornblut. "Senator McCain says it would be fine with him if our troops were in Iraq for 100 years. Senator Clinton wants to end the war and will bring our troops home quickly and responsibly. That's the best way to defend our nation and protect our national security interests."

By Washington Post editors  |  January 24, 2008; 2:54 PM ET
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Calling McCain a war hero is like calling the captain of the Titanic a naval genius. He is determined to finish the destruction of America Bush started.

Posted by: rabbitman | January 25, 2008 11:13 AM | Report abuse

This is not McCain just attacking Clinton because she's a strong nominee-- he knows full well that one of his own top advisors, Mark McKinnon will support Obama against him in a general election. No, McCain truly believes Clinton would be a terrible President, not least because she's flopped from supporting the war to opposing it but also opposing timetables, then flipped to a first-term timetable, then flopped to a one year timetable, then flipped to a four month timetable, even though a full evacuation will take at last ten months, according to the military planners.

Obama opposed the war from the beginning, but has always been honest with us in that it won't be as easy to get out as it was to get in. He supports a timetable, but one that gives the Iraqi government one last chance to govern. He could have walked away with the nomination if he were willing to make the same empty promises we've heard from Senator Clinton.

Posted by: arbite1 | January 24, 2008 8:49 PM | Report abuse

At first I thought Senator McCain was jumping the gun for criticizing Hillary before the primary season is even in full swing, since it's to the GOP's advantage to be running against her and not Obama this fall. Why weaken her so soon and possibly help Obama? But then I realized that McCain's remarks are likely to provoke the knee-jerk Hillary supporters to close ranks and "defend" her from another "attack" by a "male bully." So ultimately McCain's white-flag speech will likely *help* Hillary in the primaries rather than hurt her.

Ah, politics...

Posted by: whatmeregister | January 24, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The comments on The Trail and other political blogs the Post features become more hateful, more irrational, and increasingly vehicles for fanatic supporters of various candidates.
Unfortunately, this will drive more and more of those readers away who look for useful discourse. Most of us have our ideological and partisan preferences; most of us prefer one of the candidates.
But why engaging in mudslinging?
As far as the candidates are concerned, robust debate is useful, personal attacks are not.
The media need to be more even-handed as well in their coverage of various candidates. 8 years ago, George W. Bush charmed the reporters covering him. This time around it is John McCain.

Posted by: bn1123 | January 24, 2008 3:49 PM | Report abuse

"For the first time in American political history, a candidate for president has called for surrender and raised the white flag," McCain told reporters.

That's not quite true. That's not even true for this campaign. Bill Richardson said he'd bring the troops home on day one of his administration.

Having said that, Senator McCain should stick with the talking point & perhaps note that Sen Clinton is changing her story on what to do in Iraq. I wonder what changed her mind?

Posted by: bsimon | January 24, 2008 3:36 PM | Report abuse

I always find it amusing that the other Clinton sees pulling out of Iraq as the best way to defend our Nation. Why not Afghanistan? Why not the whole war on these Islamic Extremists? Forget it, why'll we're at it lets dismantle the entire US military like Bubba tried to do.

You have no honor Mr. and Mrs. Clinton.

Posted by: USSAILOR | January 24, 2008 3:23 PM | Report abuse

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