Flanked by many of his national security advisers, John McCain this afternoon aggressively challenged Democratic rival Barack Obama's readiness and capacity to be commander in chief.
"These statesmen and those who have joined me here today are supporting my candidacy because we share many of the same convictions, and the same assessment of the national security challenges before our country. And with good reason, they question whether my opponent in this election has the wisdom or judgment to serve as commander in chief," McCain said in Tampa.
He also said that Obama would withdraw from Iraq prematurely. "Victory must still be secured, in Iraq and Afghanistan" McCain said.
Obama's most consequential action on foreign policy was a 2002 speech opposing the Iraq war when he was an Illinois state senator and had "no vote" and "no responsibility."
Since Obama has been in the US Senate -- two years spent running for president, McCain said -- he wrongly opposed the troop surge in Iraq. That's something, McCain said, Obama "hopes in the cloud of crisis at home" that voters will forget.
"But the question is whether this is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and other grave threats in the world. And he has given you no reason to answer in the affirmative," McCain said. "Senator Joe Biden has a way of straying off message and stumbling on the truth, and his most recent warning bears close attention. He cautioned us -- in fact, he guaranteed his listeners -- that because he is untested Barack Obama would only invite an international crisis."
UPDATE: The Obama campaign responded with a statement from retired Air Force Major General J. Scott Gration:
“As usual, John McCain made his stale case for continuing the Bush-Cheney-McCain foreign policy that has completely failed to defeat Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, while Barack Obama will turn the page to restore our security and standing in the world. When the next President is tested, the American people can have John McCain’s judgment of siding with George Bush and Dick Cheney on every major national security decision, or they can have the steady leadership and sound judgment of Barack Obama that has earned the support of Americans like General Colin Powell," Gration said.
“John McCain’s desperate and dishonest attack on defense spending only makes the point that Barack Obama has been willing to stand up to some in his own party from the first day of this campaign through his commitment to increase the size of our ground forces and our investments in 21st century capabilities.”
McCain's campaign quickly followed up on the press conference with a new web ad again slashing at Obama for saying during a July 2007 debate that he would meet with leaders of rogue states without preconditions, though the Democrat has more recently softened that pledge.
"Maybe Obama doesn't have preconditions but Iran does," the announcer says in the web ad. "Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said 'Israel must be wiped off the map.' Iran demands that the US must cease its support of Israel, and that all U.S. military forces must leave the Middle East. Meaning we abandon Iraq, Turkey and Kuwait."
"What will Obama do? Will he admit he was wrong or will he accept Iran's demands? Tough question," the announcer concludes.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.