07/31/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

McCain Tries To Cover Surge Mistake With Attack

In a quote to the AP, John McCain's rapid response man delivered the campaign's first reaction to the news that the Arizona Republican bungled the history of the surge and its purported impact on Sunni sheiks in Anbar province who rose up against Al Qaeda.

As the Huffington Post reported Tuesday night, the "Anbar Awakening" began months before the surge was ever announced -- something McCain himself acknowledged during a press briefing in early 2007.

"Democrats can debate whether the awakening would have survived without the surge," spokesman Tucker Bounds told the AP late Tuesday night, " ... but that is nothing more than a transparent effort to minimize the role of our commanders and our troops in defeating the enemy, because to credit them would be to disparage the judgment of Barack Obama and praise the leadership of John McCain."

The new line of defense fits with earlier charges that the McCain campaign made on Tuesday against Obama. Senior foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann told reporters on a conference call, "He refuses to credit General Petraeus and General Odierno for their leadership, he disparages their strategic judgment, and trumpets his own."

Obama, for his part, has actually been at pains to repeatedly praise the efforts of troops in Iraq. Speaking at a news conference in Jordan on Tuesday, Obama began by saying, "First and foremost, we were extremely impressed by the extraordinary dedication and devotion and skill of our men and women in uniform."

But the Illinois Democrat repeated his claim that those men and women have been deployed in the wrong front. After noting that he traveled to Afghanistan before Iraq "because it is the central front in the war against terrorism," Obama said, "The message we heard from Iraq's leaders is that they're ready to do more, and they want to take more responsibility for their country. And I believe that the best way to support Iraqi sovereignty and to encourage the Iraqis to stand up is through the responsible redeployment of our combat brigades."