Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Obama Stands Firm on Iraq, Hits McCain Before VFW (w/Video)

Barack Obama is speaking in front of the VFW right now in Orlando, and is hitting McCain very hard on his Achilles heel – the fundamental decision to go to war, and for the first time, brings up the fact that McCain pushed for war with Iraq right after 9/11:

Six years ago, I stood up at a time when it was politically difficult to oppose going to war in Iraq, and argued that our first priority had to be finishing the fight against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Senator McCain was already turning his sights to Iraq just days after 9/11, and he became a leading supporter of an invasion and occupation of a country that had absolutely nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and that – as despicable as Saddam Hussein was – posed no imminent threat to the American people.

And he then pivots to the original decision to launch the war in Iraq:

In the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, I warned that war would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East, create new centers of terrorism, and tie us down in a costly and open-ended occupation. Senator McCain predicted that we’d be greeted as liberators, and that the Iraqis would bear the cost of rebuilding through their bountiful oil revenues. For the good of our country, I wish he had been right, and I had been wrong. But that’s not what history shows. (emphasis mine).

Senator McCain now argues that despite these costly strategic errors, his judgment has been vindicated due to the results of the surge.

Yup, McCain would rather you forget the decision to go to war and re-define the whole conflict as just the surge.

Earlier, in the first few paragraphs of his remarks, Obama brings up McCain’s political attacks on him yesterday, and belittles them as too small for the demands of the day:

Yesterday, Senator McCain came before you. He is a man who has served this nation honorably, and he correctly stated that one of the chief criteria for the American people in this election is going to be who can exercise the best judgment as Commander in Chief. But instead of just offering policy answers, he turned to a typical laundry list of political attacks. He said that I have changed my position on Iraq when I have not. He said that I am for a path of “retreat and failure.” And he declared, “Behind all of these claims and positions by Senator Obama lies the ambition to be president” – suggesting, as he has so many times, that I put personal ambition before my country.

While I’d like to see a stronger attack on McCain, this tone is probably fitting for the VFW audience.

Then Obama brings up time and time again how his judgment was right and McCain’s was wrong on matters of national security:

For years, I have called for more resources and more troops to finish the fight in Afghanistan. With his overwhelming focus on Iraq, Senator McCain argued that we could just “muddle through” in Afghanistan, and only came around to supporting my call for more troops last month.

He then turns specifically to the issue of personal attacks that McCain has been launching. Obama turns the high road, and calls on McCain to acknowledge Obama’s patriotism, and says he will let no one challenge Obama’s love for America:

One of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can’t disagree without challenging each other’s character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America’s national interest. Now, it’s time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.

Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country.

Obama then pivots to his personal biography and focuses on the service of his grandparents and family history:

So let’s have a serious debate, and let’s debate our disagreements on the merits of policy – not personal attacks. And no matter how heated it gets or what kind of campaign he chooses to run, I will honor Senator McCain’s service, just like I honor the service of every veteran in this room, and every American who has worn the uniform of the United States.

One of those Americans was my grandfather, Stanley Dunham.

My father left when I was 2, so my grandfather was the man who helped raise me. He grew up in El Dorado, Kansas – a town too small to warrant boldface on a road map. He worked on oil rigs and drifted from town to town during the Depression. Then he met my grandmother and enlisted after Pearl Harbor. He would go on to march across Europe in Patton’s Army, while my great uncle fought with the 89th Infantry Division to liberate Buchenwald, my grandmother worked on a bomber assembly line, and my mother was born at Fort Leavenworth.

A very effective pivot, and one I think we’ll see much more of in the Democratic convention.

There is much more, and you should be sure to read the entire speech before the VFW, but to re-cap:

1) Obama stands firm on Iraq, why he opposed it, why he wants to end it

2) Obama hits McCain’s judgment for rushing and cheerleading this war

3) Obama calls out McCain for running a campaign based on personal attacks

4) Obama highlights the service of his own family

5) And there is much more policy detail on matters of national security, from Pakistan to Russia & Georgia.

When a video becomes available, I will post it.

UPDATE: Thanks to all for the video:


August 19, 2008 - Posted by | Battleground States, Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. I have about 20 minutes of video up in hour.

    you’re welcomed to add it to your diary.

    Comment by Al Rodgers | August 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. You can find two ten minute clips here

    Comment by Al Rodgers | August 19, 2008 | Reply

  3. I think this is a step in the right direction for Obama but not far enough. Unfortunately, as we saw in the evangelical forum this weekend, the undecided voters are looking for the affirmative sound bytes like John McCain produced, almost similar to what Hillary Clinton was doing. Although Obama’s answers were the most thoughtful and level headed, the media skewed it as indecisive and beating around the bush.

    I have a question. What do the people here think is a safe line of attack for Obama to go on the offensive with? Since the media scrutinizes Obama like no other and gives McCain a pass everyday, should Obama’s attack message not be of him vs. McCain, but of Democrats vs. Republicans? It will be much harder for the Rove minions to character attack Democrats since the Republicans given their record.

    Comment by RJ | August 19, 2008 | Reply

  4. Safe line of attack: John McCain is offering a 3rd Bush term

    Comment by dansac | August 19, 2008 | Reply

  5. Obama’s mother’s original Social Security Number Application'sssapplication.html

    Comment by Robert Lewis | August 19, 2008 | Reply

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