It wasn't exactly potato/potahto, but before reporters this afternoon the two senators most prominently on opposite sides of the debate over what to do next in Afghanistan each said the recent report by Gen. Stanley McChrystal supported their view of the conflict.
At a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the final version of this year's defense appropriations bill, Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) took questions about their differing views on the future of the Afghanistan conflict a day after both men joined President Obama in a White House meeting on the subject. As has been the case all week, the focus turned to McChrystal's recent report calling for more troops and new attention on winning Afghan hearts and minds.
Levin, who has been vocal with his skepticism toward the idea of more troops in Afghanistan, said McChrystal's report vindicated his view of the conflict. Levin is supportive of Obama's push for a new strategy in the conflict and said McChrystal's report and recent London speech showed he and the general agree.
"He said we need a change in strategy," Levin said. "Those are his exact words."
McCain, who has supported a so-called "surge" strategy in Afghanistan, said it was clear it was he and McChrystal who shared the same view on the war. "I didn't say it has to be the exact number of troops General McChrystal has requested," he said. "But I've been to Afghanistan many times -- I understand it. And I support a surge-style strategy."
There was one thing both men agreed on at the press conference. Levin and McCain refused to say Obama is "dragging his feet" on making a decision about the future of the conflict. Levin said McChrystal's report showed support for what Levin called "the usefulness of a deliberative process" over what to do next.
McCain said he supported the idea of a review but cautioned that "delays" in announcing and implementing a new strategy "are being interpreted as vacillations on the part of the Americans" in Pakistan and regions of Afghanistan.
"There is a true sense of urgency," McCain said, pointing to rising American casualties in recent weeks as evidence that Taliban forces feel the deliberations in Washington are an advantage.
"There are lives at stake on the time and right strategy side of things," Levin responded. "We have to ensure that our troops are doing the right thing."