The Question of the Century

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Obama this morning addressed the Communications Workers of America’s annual conference in Washington. He gave his usual spiel to unions highlighting his opposition to the war in Iraq, his credentials to take on lobbyists and his days as a community organizer in Chicago. The 600,000-member CWA has yet to endorse a candidate and Hillary is also expected to address the group today (fair disclosure, I was a member of this union for two years when I worked at Agence France Presse).

Obama also didn’t miss the opportunity to take a swipe at McCain. “I opposed this war from the start. I’ve opposed it each year it’s been going on,” Obama said. “And that’s why I’m the one candidate who will offer a real choice in November because I can stand up to John McCain with credibility and say no to a 100-year occupation of Iraq, and no to a third Bush term. It’s time to bring out troops home.”

Obamas’ continued reference to a “100-year occupation” in Iraq must have the McCain campaign grinding their teeth. Fearing a Kerry-esque I-actually-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against-it moment, McCain’s folks have been doing their best to debunk his comment made at a New Hampshire town hall meeting in January.

Q: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for 50 years — (cut off by McCain)
McCAIN: Make it a hundred.
Q: Is that … (cut off)
McCAIN: We’ve been in South Korea … we’ve been in Japan for 60 years. We’ve been in South Korea 50 years or so. That would be fine with me. As long as Americans …
Q: [tries to say something]
McCAIN: As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me, I hope that would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Queada is training and equipping and recruiting and motivating people every single day.

McCain has since said he meant a presence like the one the U.S. maintains in Korea which helps maintain peace though the war ended decades ago. And, clearly, given the transcript, it is what he meant. So is it fair that both Clinton and Obama continue to hit McCain for these comments? Obama was careful today not to say that troops would be at “war” for 100 years, just an occupying force (though in an email entitled “THE NEW POLITICS OF DISTORTION” the RNC was quick to point out that as recently as Saturday Obama did use the combat phrasing). Obama defended his remarks on the