Sweet: In general election mode, Obama slams John McCain. “I’ve been paying attention, John McCain.”

SHARE Sweet: In general election mode, Obama slams John McCain. “I’ve been paying attention, John McCain.”

Photos by Lynn Sweet

En route on the Obama plane from Cleveland to a rally in Columbus, Mark Halperin of “The Page” snapped this photo of Obama chief strategist David Axelrod and Lynn Sweet

COLUMBUS, OHIOOne of the Obama rules is to leave no disputable assertion unanswered if you think it distorts your position, your record or your honor.

Presumptive GOP nominee Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) got a taste what it is like to be mocked by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on Wednesday, in what seemed a preview of a potential general election match-up.

Thats the news, John McCain is Obamas newest refrain, turning McCains words around and tossing the grenade back.

In Tyler, Texas, McCain, referring to the Democratic debate on Tuesday in Cleveland, took on Obama over his statement that if U.S. troops leave Iraqhe would send them back if Al Queda established a base in the country.

I have some news, McCain said. Al Queda is in Iraq.

Obama, at a rally at Ohio State University here told some 7,000 people (he did not fill the basketball arena) pushed back with some news of his own, after he said how much he revered and honored McCain.

But when it comes to policy, McCain is looking backwards. Hes tied to the failed policies of George Bush. He is not going to bring about change.

Obama recapped how this morning McCain delivered some news to him, based on an answer Obama gave during the debate.

John McCain thought that he could make a clever point, said Obama, inserting fresh material into his stump speech without notes.

Like I wasnt reading the papers. Like I didnt know what was going on. I said, well first of all, I do know that Al Queda is in Iraq and that is why I said we should continue to strike Al Queda targets. But I have some news for John McCain. And that is that there was no such thing as Al Queda in Iraq until George Bush and John McCain decided to invade Iraq, Obama said to cheers.

Ive got news for John McCain. He took us into a war along with George Bush that should never have been authorized and never should have been waged. They took our eye off the people who were responsible for 9/11, and that would be al Qaeda in Afghanistan, that is stronger now than at any time since 2001.

So John McCain may like to say that he wants to follow Osama bin Laden to the Gates of Hell, but so far all hes done is follow George Bush into a misguided war in Iraq that has cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars and that I intend to bring to end so we can actually start going after al Qaeda in Afghanistan and in the hills of Pakistan, like we should have been doing in the first place. Thats the news, John McCain, Obama said.

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