McCain Takes Page From Clinton: Attacks Obama On Committee Chairmanship

07/23/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Here's more evidence that John McCain is looking to the primary campaign of Hillary Clinton as a template for his own race against Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, Sen. Jim DeMint, a surrogate for the Arizona Republican, sent a letter to Barack Obama urging him to hold a subcommittee hearing on Afghanistan (Obama is ranking member of your Subcommittee on European Affairs, and NATO is heavily involved in the Afghan war). If that line sounds familiar, it's because it was an argument repeatedly deployed by Clinton during the Democratic primary.

Read DeMint's letter:

"Dear Senator Obama, In the coming days, I understand you will travel to Afghanistan for the first time and visit with a few of our European partners. Like my travels to these regions, I trust this trip will afford you a unique opportunity to see the facts on the ground firsthand and witness the work of our brave men and women who sacrifice so much to secure our freedom. [...]

I am concerned our Subcommittee has not held any hearings on these issues over the last two years. With oversight of NATO relations and its role in Afghanistan, I believe it is time for us to focus closely on these issues. As Ranking Member of your Subcommittee on European Affairs, I would welcome a chance to hold a hearing on NATO's mission in Afghanistan upon your return.

The success of Afghanistan is critical to the future of NATO and vital to our efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban. As the situation in Afghanistan grows more tense, it is time for us to hold a hearing on the mission there. I look forward to working with you to schedule this hearing."

As Clinton discovered, the accusation that Obama has failed to pursue his congressional responsibilities on Afghanistan can be politically effective. Obama has been on the campaign trail for the majority of the time since he ascended to ranking member of the subcommittee. And DeMint's letter reinforces the short amount of time that Obama has had on the job (and how much of that was spent running for President).

But the truth is, it would have been somewhat presumptuous for Obama to hold hearings on Afghanistan. Kabul is not in Europe. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Obama sits, is primarily in charge of holding hearings on Afghanistan. And Joseph Biden, the chair of that committee, has said that Obama has been deeply involved in that issue despite what DeMint and (during the primary) Clinton have said.

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