In their first debate, Senators McCain and Obama talked a lot about the economy and foreign policy experience, but Iraq was central to points they both wanted to make. McCain ridiculed Obama for doubting the wisdom of the “surge” and Obama repeatedly told McCain “you were wrong” to rush the nation into war.
According to the Washington Post’s Michael D. Shear and Shailagh Murray, “McCain aggressively pushed back, accusing Obama of failing to understand that a new approach employed by Gen. David H. Petraeus in Iraq would lead to victory and mocking him as naive for his willingness to meet with some of the world's most brutal leaders.“
Laura Meckler, Elizabeth Holmes, and Amy Chozick of the Wall Street Journal report that “Both men worked to personalize the war, and each pointed to a bracelet he wears as a reminder of a young man who died in the war. Sen. McCain's bracelet came from a mother who doesn't want her son's death to have been in vain. Sen. Obama's came from a mother who asked that he prevent other mothers from suffering the same loss. Sen. Obama suggested that the war in Iraq had become a distraction to the battles in Afghanistan. ‘We took our eye off the ball,’ Sen. Obama said, suggesting the need to use the military ‘wisely’ and calling the current situation a ‘strategic mistake.’”
Adam Nagourney and Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times included some barbed comments by Obama, aimed at McCain’s support of the war, and of his characterizations of developments there in the past year. “You like to pretend like the war started in 2007 — you talk about the surge. The war started in 2003,” Mr. Obama said. “At the time, when the war started, you said it was going to be quick and easy. You said we knew where the weapons of mass destruction were. You were wrong. You said that we were going to be greeted as liberators. You were wrong.”
Christian Science Monitor, USA Today, no Saturday Editions.