ABC News' James Gerber Reports: Two senators who double as top surrogates for Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama presented vastly different assessments of U.S. foreign policy Tuesday, attacking their Senate colleagues and often each other during back-to-back speeches in Washington, D.C.
Speaking to a foreign policy think tank shortly after Obama issued what his campaign billed as a major foreign policy speech leading up to his trip later this month to Iraq and Afghanistan, McCain surrogate Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., sharply criticized the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, arguing the nation faces an enemy who "can not be placated by sweet reason or appeals to the better angels of our nature."
McCain's friend and surrogate attacked Obama's pledge to withdraw troops from Iraq within 16 months after taking office, arguing that Obama needs to understand his policy would have consequences beyond the region.
"What Sen. Obama seems to not be recognizing is that in an interdependent world, what happens in Baghdad affects our interests and the interests of people" across the world, Lieberman told a crowd of less than 200 at the Mayflower Hotel for a U.S. Center for Global Engagement talk.
Lieberman, who ran for vice-president in 2000 on the Democratic ticket, has faced criticism for supporting the presumptive Republican presidential nominee while caucusing with the Democrats in the Senate.
The former Democrat described McCain as "a devoted and principled internationalist" who will be "trusted and respected by our allies and respected and feared by our enemies." Upon entering office, argued Lieberman, McCain will "sound a certain and clear trumpet of American leadership and global engagement."
Speaking on behalf of Obama, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del., who is rumored to be a strong candidate for vice-president or a potential Secretary of State in any Obama administration, followed Lieberman with an extensive rebuke of McCain, including a scathing assessment of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, which, he argued, is largely replicated by the presumptive Republican nominee.
"In recent years, Iran and not freedom has been on the march in the Middle East," Biden said, adding that "radical recruitment is on the rise, not demise."
Biden said the nation is less safe due to "the President and John McCain’s obsession on the war on terror" and criticized President Bush and Sen. McCain for "lumping together" the disparate factions in the region, evidence, he says, of their "profound confusion."
"George Bush and John McCain have fixated on a small number of radical groups that hate America, turning them into ten-foot tall giants, existential monsters that dictate every foreign policy decision," said Biden, who has taken on a more high-profile role in Obama's campaign this week.
"If they can't identify the enemy or describe the war we’re fighting, it’s very difficult to define whether we've won or lost," Biden said.
Biden, the chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, also criticized McCain for putting too much emphasis on Iraq.
"If John wants to know where the bad guys live, come back with me to Afghanistan," Biden said. "We know where they reside. And it’s not in Iraq."
Biden also echoed Obama’s arguments for leaving Iraq and redeploying American forces to Afghanistan, which he said "will enhance, not diminish, our prospects for leaving behind a stable situation in Iraq."
"This election in November is a vital opportunity for America to start anew," Biden said. "It will require more than a good soldier; it will require a wise leader."