Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama admitted he has never made an attempt to meet with Army General David H. Petraeus and said his opponents are making it a “sarcastic” and “flippant” political issue.
Over the week Obama has been sharply criticized by right-wing bloggers and his likely general election rival John McCain for openly saying he would meet with enemies of the United States without “preconditions” and not reaching out to the general who oversees war operations in Iraq.
A reporter asked Obama to “respond to McCain saying you’re more willing to meet with Ahmadinejad than with General Petraeus” in an impromptu press conference on Obama’s campaign plane Wednesday evening.
Obama initially said it was a “sarcastic” criticism and that he “saw” Petraeus earlier this year. “That’s just, you know, a typical sarcastic comment that doesn’t have anything to do with substance and is just patently untrue since I just saw General Petraeus when he was testifying in Washington,” Obama said.
The reporter clarified: “He’s saying outside of those meetings on the Hill, you would not set up your own meetings with General Petraeus, never attempted to meet with him?”
“I haven’t,” Obama said.
He reiterated how foolish he thought the criticism is calling it “flippant.” “Look, it’s just a flippant comment,” Obama said. “It’s not designed to actually talk about substance. It’s a political comment that doesn’t get anywhere.”
Before Obama disclosed this fact, McCain rebuked Obama’s willingness to meet with Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a town hall meeting Wednesday afternoon. “More importantly perhaps, to many families and to you and to me, this is the leader of a country that is sending the most explosive devices, the most lethal explosive devices into Iraq and killing young Americans,” McCain said. “Now, why is it that Senator Obama wants to sit down with the president of Iran, but hasn't yet sat down with General Petraeus, and leader of our troops in Iraq?”
McCain noted Obama has only taken one trip to Iraq and has not conducted any oversight hearings as the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on European Affairs that has jurisdiction over Afghanistan. McCain has previously offered to accompany him on his second trip to show him the successes American troops have achieved. “He could see the fact that Sadr city is quiet,” McCain said. “He could see with the Al Maliki government taking control…he could see that the Iraqi military is leading the fight in these places with the support of American troops, and to say that we failed Iraq and that we're not succeeding does not comport with the facts on the ground. So we've got to show him the facts on the ground.”
McCain’s offer was quickly declined by the Obama campaign. This week, the Republican National Committee started a running count of the days passed since Obama visited. Today that number is 872.
The pressure to make another visit to Iraq appears to have impact. Obama now says he will consider making a trip to Iraq this summer.