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UPDATE: Might McCain pull out of Iraq faster than Obama?

July 22, 2008 | 10:22 am

A surrogate for John McCain made a leftward feint on a campaign conference call today, suggesting that the presumptive Republican nominee might pull troops out of Iraq sooner than Barack Obama.

"He’d like troops to come home earlier than 16 months if the conditions allow it," Rep. Heather Wilson, (R-New Mexico), said of McCain.

During the call, Wilson and other McCain surrogates mainly continued to push the campaign's standard critique against Obama –- that the Illinois senator has a rigid, politically driven timetable for withdrawal, while McCain will only pull troops if military commanders say the conditions in Iraq merit it. Also, they said, the improved security in Iraq that makes withdrawal feasible is due to McCain, who supported the surge, rather than Obama, who opposed it.

But reporters seized on Wilson's provocative statement about a speedy pullout, asking McCain senior foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann whether the Arizona senator thought he could get troops home faster than Obama. Scheunemann didn't go there. "Sen. McCain has always said two things would determine his approach to force levels in Iraq: The advice of commanders on the ground and the security situation on the ground."

Wilson pulled back from the quick withdrawal idea, too. Instead, she turned back to the call's original purpose -- bashing Obama. "He's frighteningly inexperienced when it comes to foreign affairs and national security policy," Wilson said.

(UPDATE: The Obama campaign noted that the McCain camp’s Monday website post called Obama’s goal of withdrawing in 16 months "an unconditional timeline we reject not only as being dangerous but infeasible.")

-- Nicholas Riccardi

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