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Published: Thursday, 5/15/2008

McCain paints rosy picture of nation s future during Columbus stop

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS In John McCain s January, 2013, the war in Iraq has been won, the Taliban threat in Afghanistan has diminished, and most of America s troops have come home.

The economy is booming, taxes are lower, and health care is more affordable.

And, oh yes, he is president of the United States nearing the end of his first term.

Speaking before a crowd of about 550 in Columbus Thursday following a campaign finance event Wednesday, the Arizona senator and presumptive Republican nominee provided his vision of what he intends to accomplish during the first four years of a McCain presidency.

"There is a time to campaign and a time to govern," he said. "If I m elected president, the era of the permanent campaign will end. The era of problem solving will begin."

In his speech, Mr. McCain presented himself as the candidate of change and appeared to swipe at both Democratic presidential candidates as well as President Bush without naming any of them.

"By January, 2013, America has welcomed home most of the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom," he said. "The Iraq War has been won. Iraq is a functioning democracy although still suffering from the lingering effects of decades of tyranny and centuries of sectarian tension."

While reduced, he said violence still occurs, and, while the Iraqi government imposes its authority, the United States still "maintains a military presence there, but a much smaller one, and it does not play a direct combat role."

The comments appeared to be aimed at criticism from Democrats that Mr. McCain plans a long-term presence in Iraq while their two candidates, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have promised to begin bringing troops home soon after the start of their presidencies.

Democrats were quick to characterize his speech as a work of fiction.

"The reality behind Sen. McCain s new rhetoric is that his plans either ignore the problems he identifies or actually makes them worse," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.

"Whether he is taking President Bush s fiscal problems to new extremes, continuing a stay-the-course strategy in Iraq that has distracted from the real war on terror, or pretending he would bring transparency to government after refusing to even release his own tax records, Sen. McCain found yet another way to show he s the wrong choice for America s future."

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com, or 614-221-0496.



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