McCain Presses Obama on Pledge About Public Funds

By Glenn Kessler and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 21, 2008

YELLOW SPRINGS, Ohio, Feb. 20 -- Sen. John McCain intensified his attacks on Sen. Barack Obama on Wednesday, assailing the Democrat for backing away from a commitment to public campaign financing and calling him "naive" for suggesting several months ago he would attack targets in Pakistan without that government's permission.

"The best idea is not broadcast what you are going to do. That's naive," McCain said at a news conference in Columbus, Ohio. Earlier, he accused Obama of engaging in "Washington doublespeak" for not committing to public financing in the general election, as he had pledged to do in a civic group's survey last year.

McCain said Obama a year ago "signed a piece of paper" vowing a fundraising truce with the Republican nominee. "I committed to public financing. He committed to public financing. It is not any more complicated than that," McCain said. "I hope he will keep his commitment to the American people."

In a hastily arranged conference call, Susan Rice, an Obama foreign policy adviser and State Department veteran, said McCain had distorted Obama's record by saying the Illinois Democrat would bomb Pakistan, an ally of the United States. Rice said it was McCain who "was the one who offered confused foreign policy leadership" when he advocated invading Iraq as a response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, then joked about bombing Iran by mimicking a Beach Boys song.

McCain chided Obama, saying, "You don't broadcast and say you are going to bomb the country without their permission or without consulting them." He declined to comment on a Washington Post report this week that the Bush administration fired Hellfire missiles in Pakistan without approval, killing a senior al-Qaeda commander.

On campaign financing, McCain sought to pressure Obama, who has dominated fundraising while McCain has struggled. Candidates who accept public financing receive $85 million and cannot accept additional contributions; Obama raised $35 million just last month, suggesting he could raise much more than McCain .

McCain said that Obama's apparent efforts to wriggle out of his answer, given in a survey by the Midwest Democracy Network, is why "the American people are so cynical about us in Washington." Obama did not comment on Wednesday, but wrote in a USA Today opinion piece that he is committed to "aggressively" pursuing a "meaningful agreement [with the GOP nominee] in good faith that results in real spending limits."

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