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McCain Mounts Immediate Attack on Obama's Record

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Presumptive Republican nominee for president, John McCain spoke to supporters in Kenner, Louisiana Tuesday night; where he congratulated both Senators Clinton and Obama, but also said the election posed clear choices in the fall. Video by AP

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By Michael D. Shear and Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, June 4, 2008

NEW ORLEANS, June 3 -- Republican Sen. John McCain wasted no time Tuesday night in launching his first general-election broadside against Sen. Barack Obama, casting the Democrat as an out-of-touch liberal who offers a false promise of change.

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In a prime-time speech designed to upstage Obama on the night he claimed the Democratic nomination, McCain began what top aides and other Republicans promise will be an aggressive effort to claim the mantles of reform, experience and mainstream values. Obama, he said, is an "impressive man" but one with a thin record.

"For all his fine words and all his promise, he has never taken the hard but right course of risking his own interests for yours, of standing against the partisan rancor on his side to stand up for our country," McCain said less than two hours before Obama spoke in the same arena in St. Paul, Minn., where McCain will claim the Republican nomination in September.

McCain began his speech by praising Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, who in the Democratic primary race won over many rural and working-class voters that McCain hopes to capture in November. "As the father of three daughters, I owe her a debt for inspiring millions of women to believe there is no opportunity in this great country beyond their reach," McCain said. "I am proud to call her my friend."

Two McCain aides said his speech was the beginning of a "great debate" on the direction of the country. It will be followed quickly by a television ad campaign aimed at reinforcing McCain's core message: that Obama's sweeping rhetoric offers little real promise of changing the political culture in Washington.

Confronting what his aides expect to be Obama's principal attack against him, McCain explicitly rejected the idea that he represents President Bush's third term.

"Why does Senator Obama believe it's so important to repeat that idea over and over again?" he asked. "Because he knows it's very difficult to get Americans to believe something they know is false."

As evidence of his independence, McCain highlighted his breaks with Bush on Iraq, energy and climate change.

In his speech, Obama honored McCain's service but derided the Republican's claim to stand for change, linking him to what he called the "failed" foreign and economic policies of Bush. "So I'll say this -- there are many words to describe John McCain's attempt to pass off his embrace of George Bush's policies as bipartisan and new," Obama said. "But change is not one of them."

The speeches were more direct and personal than they have been in the past. McCain said half a dozen times that Obama's "old" ways "are not change we can believe in" -- a play on Obama's slogan -- as he stood in front of a sign that said "Leadership we can believe in." Obama mocked McCain's support for Republican policies, saying his Democratic vision is "the change we need."

On Iraq, McCain said Obama would "draw us into a wider war with even greater sacrifices." Obama accused McCain of supporting "a policy where all we look for are reasons to stay in Iraq, while we spend billions of dollars a month on a war that isn't making the American people any safer."

McCain decried "wasteful spending by both parties" and said, "Senator Obama has supported it and proposed more of his own." Obama invited McCain to travel more to economically hard-hit communities, so "he'd understand the kind of change that people are looking for."


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