ABC News' Bret Hovell Reports: Senator John McCain ramped up his rhetoric against Senator Hillary Clinton’s position on the Iraq war Thursday, saying the New York Democrat and rival for the Democratic presidential nomination wants to “wave the white flag” in Iraq.
“Incredibly Senator Clinton decided that she wants to surrender, she wants to raise a white flag, she wants to set a date of immediate withdrawal from Iraq after we’ve been winning,” the Arizona Republican told the crowd. “My friends, I will not let that happen as president of the United States of America. I will not let that happen.”
For McCain to attack Clinton on the war is nothing new. He peppers his frequent comments about Iraq with references to Clinton’s positions. The rhetoric involving “raising the white flag,” however, is new, even though it does not mark an overall change in tone for McCain’s campaign.
But does McCain’s rhetoric match the reality of Senator Clinton’s position? Clinton has said that if elected, she would begin withdrawing troops in the first 60 days she is in office. But her position does not include setting a timetable for complete withdrawal of American troops.
McCain’s remarks imply something more dramatic would happen in a Clinton presidency.
“When she says that she wants to set an immediate date for withdrawal we put at risk everything that’s being sacrificed, all the service and all the success,” McCain said, speaking with reporters after the town hall meeting.
“If Senator Clinton has her way then Al Qaeda will trumpet to the world that they’ve defeated the United States of America.”
Clinton’s spokesman Jay Carson said the two colleagues simply disagree on the issue.
“Senator McCain says it would be fine with him if our troops were in Iraq for 100 years,” Carson said. “Senator Clinton wants to end the war and will bring our troops home quickly and responsibly. That's the best way to defend our nation and protect our national security interests.”
McCain refers to Clinton often on the stump, usually in front of reliably Republican audiences where hers is not the most popular name. He has long said that a general election campaign against Clinton would be respectful, and based on issues of substance, particularly the Iraq war.
“I look forward to the debate with Senator Clinton that issue,” McCain said Thursday. “Because Americans don’t want to throw away the hard-earned gains we have made.”
ABC News’s Eloise Harper David Chalian contributed to this report.