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Friday, July 18, 2008

Hearing-Gate Exposed! McCain Has Worse Afghanistan Hearing Record Than Obama

Absentee Senator: McCain Attended ZERO Afghanistan Hearings Over Past 2 Years

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports from Capitol Hill: The McCain campaign criticism of Sen. Barack Obama's hearing record on Capitol Hill led us to put the shoe on the other foot.

It turns out that presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has attended even fewer Afghanistan-related Senate hearings over the past two years than Obama's one. Which is a nice way of saying, McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Service Committee, has attended zero of his committee's six hearings on Afghanistan over the last two years.

Meanwhile, Obama attended the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Afghanistan in March 2007, although he used the opportunity to ask Gen. James L. Jones, then the commander of NATO, about Pakistan.

Jones also came before the Senate Armed Services Committee that week. But McCain was a no-show.

The findings are surprising given the fact that the McCain campaign loudly criticized Obama this week for failing to schedule any hearings on Afghanistan in the last year and a half. Obama chairs the European Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has oversight of military operations in Afghanistan.

“As the situation in Afghanistan grows more tense, it is time for us to hold a hearing on the mission there,” Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., a McCain surrogate and ranking member of Obama's subcommittee wrote in a letter to the Illinois senator. “The success of Afghanistan is critical to the future of NATO and vital to our efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban.”

Of the three Afghanistan-related hearings that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has had over the past 22 months, Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate, has only attended one.

Meanwhile, DeMint, who most recently attacked Obama over Afghanistan, didn't attend any. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, missed one of the Afghanistan hearings too -- while he was in the midst of his own presidential campaign.

A review of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings as listed on the committee Web site for the past two years reveals that McCain's committee has held six hearings that included the word "Afghanistan" in the title or Central Command -- which overseas U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

McCain missed them all.

He missed the hearings with Adm. William Fallon, then the CentCom commander, with authority over Afghanistan, on March 4, 2008, and May 3, 2007.

There was also hearing on June 7, 2007, on the nomination of Gen. Douglas Lute to be the White House war czar with oversight over Afghanistan.

Gen. Jones testified before the Armed Services Committee on Sept. 6, 2007, but that hearing was on Iraq and while McCain showed up late for his opening statement, he was there.

But he missed the hearing on Afghanistan strategy Feb. 14 with representatives from the State Department and Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler.

He also missed the hearing April, 10, 2008 on the war in Iraq and the "situation in Afghanistan" where Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Michael Mullen both testified.

McCain also missed the Feb. 6, 2008 hearing where the committee considered the fiscal year request for authorizations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But McCain gets a pass for the most egregious Afghanistan-related hearing we could find. In February, 2006 when Republicans were in charge of Congress, Gen. Jones testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and only two senators -- both Republicans -- showed up.

Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., were the only senators who spoke at the hearing. No Biden. No Dodd. No Obama. No DeMint, although to be fair he was not on the committee at that time.

The finger pointing about who attended what hearing when seems besides the point anyways.

Both men have been AWOL from their day jobs for most of the past two years while they are running for president.

Update: McCain campaign spokesman Brian Jones, in a statement to ABC News, argued that McCain's years of previous foreign policy experience make up for his recent lack of attendance at hearings.

"The point is that Obama claims to be a leader on Afghanistan, but had the power to hold hearings on our NATO operations there and failed to do so," wrote Jones in an e-mail, although he did not say why McCain missed his own Armed Services Committee hearings over the past two years.

"John McCain has visited Afghanistan four times, spent 22 years in the military, served for years on the Armed Services Committee, and is a recognized international leader on national security policy," he said. "Obama has never visited Afghanistan once before this week and has no other foreign policy or national security experience to speak of. It isn’t even close."

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