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While declining to land any personal blows on John McCain, Barack Obama remained cool, confident and dare I say it? Presidential in tonight's debate to John McCain's Grampy McCrankypants routine. It appears that the pundits and flash polls agree, as the majority of those polls scored it for Obama, including Frank "The Hair" Luntz's dial polls on *gasp* FOX News (maybe that's why they don't have them up on the website).
But there was one moment where Obama was direct and on the offense, without the petulance of McCain, as he confronted McCain's rote recitation of being smart but unpopular by supporting the surge. From the flash polls I've seen, this moment resonated deeply with those undecided voters, especially since McCain would not even look Obama in the eye.
OBAMA: But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagment of this war. And so John likes...John, you like to pretend like the war started in 2007. You talk about the surge, the war started in 2003. And 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 would be greeted as liberators, you were wrong. You said that there was no history of violence between Shia and Sunni and you were wrong. And so the question is the judgment of whether or not...
MCCAIN: Senator Obama...Senator Obama...Senator Obama doesn't....
OBAMA: ...whether or not the question is who is best equipped as the next president to make good decisions about how we use our military, how we make sure that we are prepared and ready for the next conflict and I think we can take a look at our judgment.
The Obama campaign provided some fact checks on McCain's claims about the surge, below the fold:
McCain: "Senator Obama said the surge could not work, said it would increase sectarian violence, said it was doomed to failure. Recently on a television program he said it exceeded our wildest expectations, but yet after conceding that, he still says that he would oppose the surge if he had to decide that again today."
OBAMA HAS REPEATEDLY SAID THAT WHILE THE SURGE COULD HELP TO REDUCE VIOLENCE IN IRAQ, IT DID NOT CHANGE THE POLITICAL DYNAMIC IN IRAQ
Obama Said That With A Surge, "We Might See Some Improvement In Certain Neighborhoods" But That It Won't Change The Underlying Dynamic. Obama said, "I don't think there's been any doubt that if we put U.S. troops in that, in the short term, we might see some improvement in certain neighborhoods because the militias are going to fade back into the community. That's one of the characteristics of what we've seen. The problem is that we don't see any change in the underlying dynamic which is Shia militias infiltrating the government, Sunni insurgents continuing the fight, that's the essence of the problem and unless we say that we're going to occupy Iraq indefinitely, we're gonna continue to see problems." [WQAD, 3/11/07]
Obama Said the Purpose of the Surge Was to Allow Iraqi Leaders to Reconcile, But they Were Not Reconciling. Obama" "The stated purpose of the surge was to enable Iraq's leaders to reconcile. But as the recent report from the Government Accountability Office confirms, the Iraqis are not reconciling. Our troops fight and die in the 120 degree heat to give Iraq's leaders space to agree, but they aren't filling it. ... This only underscores the point - the solution in Iraq is political, it is not military. Violence is contained in some parts of Baghdad. That's no surprise. Our troops have cleared these neighborhoods at great costs. But our troops cannot police Baghdad indefinitely - only Iraqis can." [Obama Speech, 9/12/07]
MCCAIN WAS A CHEERLEADER FOR A POLICY THAT SENT TOO FEW TROOPS IN THE FIRST PLACE
McCain Supported The Administration's Military Strategy For Iraq, Saying Only 100,000 Troops Would Be Needed. Tim Russert: "Today, the front page of The Washington Post, 'War Plans Target Hussein Power Base. Scenarios feature a smaller force, narrower strikes,' calling for 100,000 rather than the 500,000 we used in the Persian Gulf War, and not taking out power dams and electric grids, but focusing on Saddam and his Republican Guards. Is that what you see?" McCain responded, "Yes...And I believe that this strategy is based on one fundamental fact: Saddam Hussein is dramatically weaker than he was before. And what Iraq-in 1991-what Iraqi soldier is going to die for Saddam Hussein if he thinks he's on his way out? And so from everything I can tell, that seems to be a very good strategy, and I think we're going to take great advantage to the precision of our weapons that can be delivered from the air." [NBC, Meet the Press, 9/22/02]