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Clinton, Obama Talk Iraq

Asked whether the situation on the ground will impact their previously stated positions to begin removing troops from Iraq as soon as they are elected president, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.) said it would not.

"The president sets the mission, the generals and our troops carry out that mission," said Obama, offering a criticism of President Bush's reliance on the advice of Gen. David Petraeus in planning for America' future in Iraq.

Clinton sounded a similar sentiment, insisting that the only way for the Iraqis to stand up in the long term is for America to stand down.

"Only through our commitment to withdraw will the Iraqis begin to do what they have failed to do all of these years," said Clinton. "We don't know what will happen if we withdraw. We know what won't happen if we don't."

While those positions are sure to win Clinton and Obama plaudits within their own party, it's easy to see how Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) and the Republican National Committee will play the issue in the fall. You can imagine the RNC press release now: "Democrats Prepared To Reject General's Advice".

Polling consistently shows that a majority of voters no longer believe the war was worth fighting and believe the U.S. should begin to withdraw. But, McCain will focus much of his campaign on the idea that regardless of how this country got to where it is in Iraq, we must stay until the job is done.

It is a stark -- and fundamental -- difference between the two sides. Only seven more months until the general election!

By Chris Cillizza  |  April 16, 2008; 9:20 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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