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John McCain: 'Not too important' when troops leave Iraq

June 11, 2008 |  7:53 am

If politics were a baseball game, then John McCain just lobbed a pitch that he may wish he could have back.

In a TV interview this morning on NBC's "Today" show, McCain was asked whether he could estimate when U.S. troops could leave post-surge Iraq. "No, but that's not too important," McCain said. "What's important is casualties in Iraq. Americans are in South Korea. Americans are in Japan. American troops are in Germany. That's all fine. American casualties, and the ability to withdraw. We will be able to withdraw. ... But the key to it is we don't want any more Americans in harm's way."

Democratic leaders lined up to take swings, conveniently ignoring the backing context McCain offered that he is more concerned with casualties than length of deployment.

Harry Reid, Senate majority leader: "McCain’s statement today that withdrawing troops doesn’t matter is a crystal-clear indicator that he just doesn’t get the grave national-security consequences of staying the courJohn_mccain_file_photo_said_on_todase -– Osama bin Laden is freely plotting attacks, our efforts in Afghanistan are undermanned, and our military readiness has been dangerously diminished. We need a smart change in strategy to make America more secure, not a commitment to indefinitely keep our troops in an intractable civil war."

Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations: "I think many of our brave soldiers and their families would disagree that it's 'not too important' when they come home. Knowing when our troops can come home from Iraq is vitally important, because the costs of staying with 140,000 or more troops are getting steeper every day. ... It is long past time to refocus our foreign policy on the many challenges we face, not just Iraq. Like President Bush, Sen. McCain cannot tell the American people when, or even if, Iraqis will come together politically -- which was [the] purpose of the surge in the first place. He can't tell us when, or even if, we will draw down below pre-surge levels. He can't tell us when, or even if, Iraq will be able to stand on its own two feet. He can't tell us when, or even if, this war will end."

Rahm Emanuel, House Democratic Caucus chair: "Once again, John McCain has displayed a fundamental misunderstanding about the situation in Iraq, our strained military, and American troops and their families. ... With each passing day, the more John McCain talks about Iraq, the more the American people are reminded of how much we need change in Washington -- not more of the same from Sen. McCain."

-- Scott Martelle

Photo: Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times

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