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Lieberman: ‘Obama Consistently Wrong on Iraq’

In a conference call with reporters organized by the McCain campaign, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) defended the Arizona senator against Democratic attacks regarding his comments on NBC’s "Today" program this morning. McCain told the co-host Matt Lauer that it is "not too important" for U.S. troops in Iraq to start coming home, and that reducing the number of American casualties is of real importance. Here’s the transcript:

LAUER: If [the surge is] working, senator, do you now have a better estimate of when American forces can come home from Iraq?

MCCAIN: No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine. [What's important is] American casualties and the ability to withdraw. We will be able to withdraw. Gen. [David] Petraeus is going to tell us in July when he thinks we are. But the key to it is we don’t want any more Americans in harm’s way. And that way they will be safe, and serve our country, and come home with honor in victory, not in defeat — which is what Sen. Obama’s proposal would have done. And I’m proud of them, and they’re doing a great job, and we are succeeding, and it’s fascinating that Sen. Obama still doesn’t realize that.

Here’s what Lieberman had to say:

To put it mildly, I’m disappointed by these reflexive attacks on what Sen. McCain said this morning on the "Today" show. If you read the paragraph and not take a single clause out of context, it’s very obvious what John McCain is saying and it’s consistent with everything he’s said along the way.

I view the attacks on Sen. McCain this morning as another partisan attempt to distort John McCain’s words, to distract the American people from the fact that John McCain has been both courageous and right about the surge in Iraq and Barack Obama has unfortunately been consistently wrong. This is exactly the kind of partisan political game that the American people are sick and tired of.

It’s obvious, if you read this short paragraph, that Sen. McCain is answering a question about what his estimate is, based on the success of the surge — which he supported — about when American forces are coming home. He says he doesn’t have the estimate because he’s expecting it from Gen. Petraeus sometime in July. But the most important thing to him is that because of the success of the surge, American casualties are down, we have the ability to withdraw and he says clearly we will be able to withdraw. Of course, most important, our troops will come home with honor — which is what they want.

Lieberman cited McCain’s family military history and the presumed GOP nominee’s own service in Vietnam to dispel notions that McCain is "out of touch" with the needs of U.S. troops:

Of the various parts of this attack on John this morning, the part I found most outrageous is the suggestion that he’s out of touch with the needs of our troops and insensitive to their families. The obvious fact is that, more than most any American, Sen. McCain knows the sacrifices our men and women in uniform make and the burden that their families bear. It really is wrong to suggest otherwise. Obviously, he knows that from his father’s service and the impact it had on his family; from his own service and incarceration; from his eight visits to Iraq — which I’ve been with him on a lot of them and interacted with our troops there, and, of course, from the fact that his son was deployed to Iraq.

The fact is that John McCain has always been clear that he wants our troops to succeed in their mission and to come home safely, as quickly as possible. He’s also been clear that the troop withdrawals have got to be based on conditions on the ground and the recommendations of our military commanders in Iraq, rather than on the basis of some artificial timeline invented by politicians here in Washington. There’s too much at stake for our country in Iraq to have it be decided politically.

Lieberman praised McCain for "standing up" against the Bush administration’s failed Iraq policy.

The record shows very clearly that when it comes to Iraq, John McCain has consistently put the national interest before his political self-interest. I know people talk about change of the status quo, but the fact is the status quo in Iraq, of American foreign policy, of American policy in the war — going back to 2003 — was not working. McCain had the courage to stand up to President Bush and [former Secretary of Defense] Donald Rumsfeld to tell the truth: that the policy was a failure. He had the courage to call for the surge, even when it was politically unpopular, because he knew it was the right thing to do. The fact is, once the surge was implemented, it has worked. …That’s why Matt Lauer could even ask the question in the first place.

When asked whether McCain should be more careful in choosing his words about Iraq, considering the Democrats are listening intently and waiting to pounce, Lieberman was dismissive:

The problem is, if you start constructing your remarks to defend against people who will distort them, you won’t be the straight talker that John McCain actually is.

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