Washington Republican John McCain launched a new television ad Friday that accuses presidential rival Barack Obama of switching positions on Iraq "to help himself become president" just as the Democratic candidate prepared to make a high profile trip to Baghdad.
McCain's sharply worded criticism was not limited to the ad. He said Friday that Obama would be facing a far less secure Iraq "if we had done what he wanted to do."
The 30-second ad, running on national cable and in 11 battleground states, is the hardest hit aimed at Obama so far by McCain.
"Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan," the ad's announcer says. "He hasn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops. Positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing to help himself become president."
The ad suggests Obama was placing politics ahead of the country's interests. "John McCain has always supported our troops and the surge that's working. McCain. Country first," the ad states.
McCain could have let the Republican National Committee air the commercial, as it did with another critical portrayal of Obama. But McCain aides say Iraq and national security are issues that McCain is eager to debate with Obama and saw no reason to put distance between himself and the criticism.
The ad airs as Obama prepares to make a foreign trip designed to ease voter concerns about his national security credentials. It also airs as Obama's commitment to withdrawing combat troops within 16 months of becoming president has come under question.
Obama has said he remains steadfast in his goal to end the war. But while he had earlier said he would "immediately" begin to remove troops, he now says he would immediately give his commanders a mission to end the war.
McCain has been a staunch proponent of a military escalation that has increased security in Iraq. Obama opposed that surge in troops.
"He will land in a very different Baghdad than the one he would have landed in ... if we had done what he wanted to do," McCain said at a Detroit fundraising lunch Friday. "He wants to set a date for withdrawal. He said the surge couldn't work. He said it couldn't work. He said it wasn't working and to this day he has yet to acknowledge that the surge was working."
The ad's reference to Obama not holding hearings on Afghanistan refers to Obama's status as chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on European Affairs. The subcommittee's jurisdiction includes "all matters, policies and problems concerning the continent of Europe, including the European member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization." NATO forces are fighting in Afghanistan.