TYLER, Texas -- Republican presidential hopeful John McCain mocked Democrat Barack Obama on Wednesday for he saying he would take action as president "if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq."
"When you examine that statement, it's pretty remarkable," McCain told a crowd in Tyler, Texas.
"I have some news. Al-Qaida is in Iraq. It's called 'al-Qaida in Iraq,'" McCain said, drawing laughter at Obama's expense.
McCain said he had not watched the Democratic presidential debate Tuesday night but was told of Obama's response when asked if as president he would reserve the right to send U.S. troops back into Iraq to quell an insurrection or civil war.
Obama did not say whether he'd send troops but responded: "As commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al-Qaida is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad."
Throughout the primary season, McCain has repeatedly attacked Obama and Democratic rival Hillary Rodham Clinton for saying they would withdraw troops from Iraq.
"And my friends, if we left, they [al-Qaida] wouldn't be establishing a base," McCain said Wednesday. "They'd be taking a country, and I'm not going to allow that to happen, my friends. I will not surrender. I will not surrender to al-Qaida."
He said withdrawing troops would be "waving the white flag."
In the debate, Clinton did not answer the question about reinvasion of Iraq on grounds it contained "lots of different hypothetical assessments."
For years, McCain has urged sending more troops into Iraq, even before President Bush adopted such a strategy about a year ago.
"I knew enough from talking to the men and women who are serving that this new strategy was what we needed, and I'm telling you, it is succeeding," McCain said. "So what needs to happen, we need to continue this strategy. It should be General Petraeus' recommendation, not that of a politician running for higher office, as to when and how we withdraw."
He was referring to Gen. David Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq.
In the debate, Clinton did not answer the question about whether, as president, she would order a reinvasion of Iraq. "You're making lots of different hypothetical assessments," Clinton said.
As he began a swing through President Bush's home state, which holds a presidential primary election on Tuesday, McCain made sure to play up a line he always uses: "I also think it might be nice for President Bush to get a little credit that there's not been another attack on the United States of America," he said to applause.