Obama didn't bring up Iraq on the spending question, but Lehrer asks about the war. First to McCain:
McCain explains his support for the surge and praises Gen. Petreaus. Says the surge prevented a wider war and will allow us to leave Iraq with victory.
Obama: The first question is whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place. Uses the question to imply he was a maverick, standing up to oppose the war at a time when it wasn't popular. He then circles back to the spending issue.
McCain: The next president of the issue isn't going to have to address whether we should go into Iraq, but how we get out. He hits Obama on the surge and pokes him for not going to Iraq or meeting with Petreaus.
Obama accedes that McCain is right, our troops and Petreaus have done a brilliant job since the surge began. But it is a tactic to address a war that was out of control. He then starts to hammer McCain on his judgment at the outset. This is the most aggressive he's been in this debate.
This is a fascinating back and forth on Iraq and Afghanistan... the thing everyone was waiting to hear. Two opposing views clearly defined - If you're gonna back up the TiVo to replay any part of the debate, here's where you should start.
Obama the first to invoke the name of bin Laden (i.e., let's capture or kill him). McCain says Obama's withdrawal could "snatch victory from the jaws of defeat." This after McCain said Iraq is the central front in the war on terror; Obama smartly dismissed the charge that he voted against funding the troops.
Obama again begins. Says things are getting worse, Taliban and al Qaeda crossing into Afghanistan to cause trouble, and then links the war there to Iraq - saying the military cannot respond with more troops in Afghanistan because of we're bogged down in Iraq - place that had nothing to do with 9/11 and didn't harbor al Qaeda. He then lays out what he calls a comprehensive approach to the problems there, in addition to the military buildup.
McCain says he will not repeat the mistake of abandoning the mujahadeen. He says Obama is making a mistake saying he would send troops into Pakistan, says the U.S. needs to strengthen diplomatic ties with Pakistan rather than make military threats. He then says we need to employ the same strategy in Afghanistan that we employed in Iraq and gain the cooperation of the people on the ground.
Obama restates his policy re: taking out al Qaeda in Pakistan if Pakistani forces refuse to act on their own. He makes a glancing blow about McCain's bom-bom-bomb Iran song (whatever). He then criticizes the Bush administration for coddling Mushareff and for letting al Qaeda reconstitute itself under his rule.
McCain responds to the glancing blow with a restatement of his serious breaks with Republican foreign policy. "I have a record..." He starts to turn this into a discussion about experience and having to make life-and-death decisions... and then brings it back to Iraq: "We will win this one and we won't come home in defeat and dishoner and probably have to go back if we fail."
Obama has a bracelet, too. Oy. Would have been more effective if he remember the guy's name. "Senator McCain, no one is talking about defeat in Iraq." And then says he will take Afghanistan seriously rather than "muddle through."
McCain hits back: My subcommittee takes on the big issues and Obama should have visited Afghanistan.