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McCain: Obama ‘Chooses Failure’ Over Success in Iraq

DENVER–If we will remember this week as Sen. Barack Obama’s international debut, we might remember it also as the week that Sen. John McCain, the war hero, the cancer survivor, the man who broke ranks with his party to get things accomplished in Washington, changed the course of the campaign in a newly divisive way.

It began simply enough. He started the week by attacking Obama for his lack of foreign policy experience. Then he attacked the Illinois Senator’s total lack of service on the battlefield. By midweek, he had begun, in harsh tones to imply that Obama would rather lose a war than an election.

And so it was that McCain had come to Denver, to the 2008 American GI Forum of the United States National Convention at a downtown hotel. Here, surrounded by a sympathetic audience of fellow veterans, he delivered his harshest remarks to date. Rejecting what he called "the audacity of hopelessness," McCain tore into Obama’s non-support of the surge as a sign of moral weakness, of a man looking to benefit from the universal desire to leave Iraq while risking genocide of thousands and a new wave of harsh conflict across the region.

"Senator Obama said this week that even knowing what he knows today that he still would have opposed the surge," McCain said. "In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a commander in chief making that choice."

In many ways it was a culmination of sorts of both McCain’s anger and the lost opportunities he had while Obama made his way across the globe. Left alone on American soil, McCain chose not to outline the domestic policy differences between he and his Democratic rival. Instead, he chose to fixate on the war, on the media coverage Obama received as he did what McCain suggested he do–visit with troops and commanders in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead of using the moment to really illustrate his understanding of the pain felt by the problems of fiscal survival of millions of Americans, he stuck to talking about the war, to musing about how American forces couldn’t leave the region without having the region descend into chaos.

Perhaps his photo-op with the Dalai Lama later this afternoon might be the one salvation for McCain as Obama makes his way back to the States. But that’s unlikely. McCain, left to himself, has lowered the rhetoric of the campaign to a cavernous place. No we will see if he chooses to raise it back to a level of some sense of civility or whether he will choose to fight it as a man in the shadows, dark and filled with anger.

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