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McCain Attacks on Troop Issue

UPDATE, Sunday 11:45 am: Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a former close ally of John McCain, isn't doing his friend much good in the debate over Barack Obama's canceled trip to visit wounded soldiers.

On CBS' "Face the Nation" this morning, Hagel said that a stop to visit wounded troops by Obama during the campaign portion of his trip "would be totally inappropriate" and added: "So I think he probably, based on what I know, he did the right thing."

As for McCain's ad attacking Obama for not making the trip, Hagel said that it was not "appropriate."

ORIGINAL POST

Seeking to keep Barack Obama's much-discussed decision to skip a visit to American troops abroad in the news, John McCain's campaign launched a new television ad on the subject.

The ad begins with a litany of familiar allegations launched by the McCain campaign against Obama -- that the Illinois Senator never held a hearing on Afghanistan, had not visited Iraq in years, and voted against funding for the troops -- and then hammers home the dagger:

"And now, he made time to go to the gym, but canceled a visit with wounded troops. Seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras."

The ad pivots to highlight the new "country first" slogan that McCain's campaign seems to have settled on in recent weeks.

Obama's campaign quickly responded. "John McCain is an honorable man who is running an increasingly dishonorable campaign," said spokesman Tommy Vietor. "Senator McCain knows full well that Senator Obama strongly supports and honors our troops, which is what makes this attack so disingenuous."

The unveiling of the new McCain ad comes less than 24 hours after the Arizona Senator blasted Obama for the "audacity of hopelessness" in a speech to Hispanic veterans in Denver.

The twin developments signal a ratcheting up of rhetoric surrounding military matters (including the war in Iraq) by the McCain campaign.

In an election where voters trust Democrats more than Republicans on nearly ever issues, McCain -- and his chief strategists -- clearly believe that their best chance to beat Obama is to turn the race into a referendum on who has the experience and judgment to lead the United States in a dangerous time.

Obama, unlike past Democrats, appears ready to fight back -- insisting that McCain's represents a continuation of the Bush Administration's approach to Iraq.

Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), one of Obama's most ardent spokesman on military issues, issued a statement this evening along those lines. "Just as Senator McCain's support of President Bush's veto of funding for our troops doesn't mean he does not support them, neither does Senator Obama's insistence that we not give George Bush a blank check."

The fight is on. And, make no mistake: whoever wins it will be far better positioned to claim the White House in the fall.

By Chris Cillizza  |  July 26, 2008; 7:40 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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