SCOTT SIMON, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Scott Simon.
Now, to the campaign trail. First, the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain, spoke to one of the nation's oldest and largest veterans groups today in Orlando, Florida. He used his speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars to criticize Barack Obama's judgment on military matters. And he warned that what he called small crises like the conflict in Georgia have the potential to grow into large ones.
NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY: John McCain was introduced this morning as a life member of his local VFW Post 7401 in Chandler, Arizona. The former Navy pilot joked that his fellow Arizona Post members have been seated near the back of the cavernous convention hall in Orlando. McCain reiterated his determination to continue the war in Iraq as long as necessary. And he stepped up his criticism of Barack Obama for insisting on a timetable for withdrawing US troops. In what's become a major theme for McCain, he said that insistence, along with Obama's opposition to last year's troop surge, calls into question his Democratic rival's judgment.
Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): And in matters of national security, good judgment will be at a premium in the term of the next president, as we were all reminded 10 days ago by events in the nation of Georgia.
HORSLEY: Over the last 10 days, McCain has seized on Russian military action in Georgia to stress his own foreign policy credentials. Since the beginning of the conflict, McCain has taken a hard line against Russia and its de facto leader Vladimir Putin. He's highlighted his contacts with Georgia's democratically elected president and his own familiarity with the contested region.
Sen. McCAIN: Georgia may seem a small remote and obscure place, but many of you served in places that once seemed remote and obscure. And the Veterans of Foreign Wars know better than anyone how inattention to small crises can invite much larger ones.
HORSLEY: McCain says it's important for the free world to support young democracies like Georgia when they're threatened or attacked. And he said the U.S. should work with its European allies to deny Russia the favored diplomatic and economic status it desires.
Sen. McCAIN: We will make it clear to Russia's rulers that acts of violence and intimidation come at a heavy cost. There will be no place among G-8 nations or in the WTO for a modern Russia that acts at times like the old Soviet Union.
HORSLEY: McCain noted that Russia has been emboldened by its new-found energy wealth, and that Georgia sits at a crossroads connecting Caspian oil with the West. With that in mind, McCain turned to another of his key campaign themes -the need for the U.S. to boost its domestic energy production.
Sen. McCAIN: With high prices and growing demand for oil and gas, Americans cannot remain dependent upon others for the most vital commodities. We should drill offshore and we should drill now.
(Soundbite of applause)
HORSLEY: McCain will underscore that message tomorrow visiting an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico while Obama addresses the same veterans group.
The Rasmussen poll last month showed McCain leading Obama by nearly 20 points among veterans. He's been faulted by the Disabled Veterans of America, though, for voting against increased spending on veterans' care. McCain promised the VFW today he will lead from the front to make sure veterans' care receives adequate funding. At the same time, he threatened to veto any V.A. spending bills that come weighted with what he considers unrelated pork barrel projects.
Scott Horsley, NPR News, with the McCain campaign in Florida.
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