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Joe Lieberman makes political issue of John McCain's son

June 11, 2008 | 11:43 am

John McCain has carefully avoided mentioning the military service of his son Jimmy, a Marine who returned from his first tour in Iraq earlier this year, on the campaign trail -- to prevent anyone from  suggesting he would use his son’s service for political advantage.

But this morning, McCain surrogate Joe Lieberman invoked that service to defend McCain, who was under fire from Democrats for saying during an interview that it’s "not too important" when U.S. troops leave post-surge Iraq.

When McCain was asked in the NBC’s "Today Show" interview about whether he could estimate when U.S. troops could leave Iraq, he said "No, but that's not too important." On an ensuing conference call organized by McCain’s campaign, Lieberman charged McCain’s Democratic foes and Barack Obama's campaign with distorting 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."

He noted that McCain was answering a question about his estimate of when troops would return from Iraq based on the success of the troop surge in Iraq.

Lieberman said it was outrageous for McCain's critics to suggest that he’s out of touch with the needs of our troops.

"More than most any American, Sen. McCain knows the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make and the burden that their families bear, and it really is wrong to suggest otherwise," Lieberman said. "Obviously he knows that from his own—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 -- on which I’ve been with him on a lot of them -- and interacting with our troops there; and of course from the fact that his son was deployed to Iraq."

Lieberman dropped off the conference call in the middle of questions from reporters. McCain's foreign policy advisor, Randy Scheunemann, declined to comment when asked whether Jimmy McCain's service would now be part of the campaign.

-- Maeve Reston