Two of the Senate's most prominent war critics took to the defense of Barack Obama among withering criticism that his opposition to the surge was driven by political ambition.
In statements sent to the Huffington Post, Sens. John Kerry and Russ Feingold derided the current debate over the surge's successes as campaign theater. A far more important barometer of foreign policy judgment, they argued, was the authorization of the war in the first place -- an area where John McCain failed.
"Whether or not the 'surge' worked is the wrong debate to have," said Feingold. "The fact is that our military presence in Iraq was and remains a huge strategic mistake that continues to ignore our larger national security efforts. Supporters of the surge ignore the damage our military presence has done to our relationships with countries around the world, the serious strain put on our military, the massive costs to our domestic economy and the loss of so many lives. For the sake of our national security and the security of the region, we must change direction from the failed Iraq and Middle East policies supported by George Bush and John McCain."
Kerry, meanwhile, was more blunt of his criticism of McCain, describing the Arizona Republican as hopelessly ill-informed on matters pertaining to Iraq and the broader war on terror.
"I just don't get it," he ">told the Huffington Post on Thursday. "It's one thing that John McCain has made so many false claims about the surge. He claimed that it started the Anbar Awakening when the Anbar Awakening was already well underway when the surge was announced, and he seems to confuse Sunni and Shi'a repeatedly. But this false argument that opposing the Bush policy could only be done for political reasons is the place where reason and debate go to die. You call him out on the facts and he questions our integrity? That sounds an awful lot like George W. Bush."
The remarks of the two high-profiled Democrats come as the issue of Iraq is being thrust back into the presidential campaign --- somewhat surprisingly -- by John McCain. For the good part of the last month, the presumptive Republican nominee has openly and frequently questioned Obama's judgment and patriotism in regards to his position on the surge.
"My opponent would rather lose a war than lose an election," the Arizona Republican likes to declare.
And Obama, by and large, has not found an effective retort. During an appearance before the Veterans of Foreign Wars earlier this week, he accused his opponent of questioning his love of country, a posture that many Democratic activists saw as inherently defensive. A few days later, the Illinois Democrat turned up the heat, accusing McCain of hiding his bad policies behind the recent successes of U.S. troops in Iraq.
"His whole argument when it comes to foreign policy and how his judgment is superior is all based on the surge," he said during a town hall meeting on Thursday. "He will argue, he is wrong on everything else, but 'I stood by and committed to doubling down more troops in Iraq and General Petraeus was with me and I seek victory and Obama wants defeat.'... Let me just close by saying this. I will put my judgment on foreign policy over the last seven years against John McCain's anytime. And I think that an objective analysis will say that I've been right a lot more than he has for all that time he has spent in Washington."