(CBS) Sen. John Kerry believes that the presumptive Republican nominee for president is adhering to the Bush Administration orthodoxy in ways that call into question his carefully-nurtured image as a political maverick.
"John McCain has changed in profound and fundamental ways that I find personally really surprising, and frankly upsetting," the Democratic Senator from Massachusetts said on CBS' Face The Nation.
"This is a different John McCain. This is not the Senator John McCain; this is want-to-be president John McCain.
"And the result is that John McCain has flip-flopped on more issues than I was even ever accused possibly of thinking about! I mean, this is extraordinary what he's done: He's changed on taxes; he's now in favor of the Bush tax cut. If you like the Bush economy, if you like the Bush tax cut and what it's done to our economy, making wealthier people wealthier and the average middle class struggle harder, then John McCain is going to give you a third term of George Bush and Karl Rove.
"If you like what has happened to oil prices, John McCain is going to continue that policy. If you like what you see about health care, John McCain has no health care plan.
"I would have at least expected the John McCain that I knew back then to realize what almost every person in the Pentagon has admitted. There are very few who walk around and say, 'Going into Iraq was the right thing to do, and we should have done it, or do it again if I have the chance.' John McCain does.
"I'm challenging Senator McCain's judgment," Kerry said, "that says, 'There's no violent history between Sunni and Shia.' That's wrong. His judgment that says, 'This is going to increase the stability of the Middle East.' It hasn't, it's made it less stable. The judgment that says, quote, 'This will be the best thing for America and the world in a long time. It's the worst thing that we've done in a long time. And he's turned his [focus] away from Afghanistan and al Qaeda and made America less safe. That's dangerous for our country."
Kerry criticized McCain's continued support of the occupation, given the effect of a continuing presence of U.S. troops on the situation in Iraq and the region at large. He pointed to remarks by leaders in the Middle East who told him during a recent visit, "You, America, have served up to Iran Iraq on a platter."
"They are outraged by the ineptitude of what has been done by those who decided it was smart to go into Iraq," said Kerry, who feels the Republican Party is now in turmoil over the "reality" of McCain's position, which is that "he has a plan for staying in Iraq and Barack Obama has a plan for getting out of Iraq."
However, McCain supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said that McCain was right about the war.
(CBS)"John understood we were losing in Iraq, quite frankly," Graham told host Bob Schieffer. "After Baghdad fell, we had the wrong strategy in place. And John, above anybody else in the country, spoke against his own administration, argued to Rumsfeld that we didn't have enough troops. So it's not just a few dead-enders. And he risked his own political career to turn it around."
Graham said Sen. Barack Obama was wrong to predict the "surge" would not work and that troops should be withdrawn. "The big test for this country is, how do you avoid losing in Iraq? If we'd have listened to Barack Obama, we would have lost. If we listen to him now, we will lose in the future and undercut all the gains we've made.
"We're winning because John McCain understood Iraq better than anybody else. The surge has worked. The political, economic and military progress in Iraq is undeniable.
"The biggest loser in Iraq is al Qaeda because the Muslims in Iraq joined with us and turned on them, and they've punished al Qaeda in Iraq. Any time a Muslim will take up arms against bin Laden's sympathizers, we're all safer.
"The only way we can lose this war now is to go down the road that Obama suggests," Graham said. "And that's pulling out, sending a signal to al Qaeda, 'Don't give up hope'; telling Iran, 'You can still feel the vacuum created in Iraq.'
"The enemy is on their knees and the only person talking in a way to get them off their knees is Barack Obama."
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