Obama Campaign Preparing to Confront McCain on National Security

Domestic issues have been the focus of the convention so far.

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DENVER—Barack Obama and the Democrats won't just be attacking Republican presidential candidate John McCain this fall over domestic issues, which many party leaders emphasized in speeches to their national convention Tuesday. They are also preparing to confront McCain at his strong point—national security.

An immediate flash point will be Russia and how to deal with Moscow's invasion of Georgia. McCain, a long-time specialist in international affairs, sees the conflict in black and white, while it is better viewed in shades of gray, Obama advisers say.

America won't succeed in attaining its objectives with "empty" rhetoric and by trying to "put our finger in Russia's eye," which a senior Obama aide says McCain is doing because he speaks of Russia as if it were "the same old Soviet Union." Adds the Obama adviser: "It isn't good vs. evil."

The answer is to work with America's allies in Europe and NATO to come up with a better strategy. "This is not a problem we can face alone," the adviser says, noting that Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate, is "a pragmatist" who will find a better way of dealing with Moscow than the Bush administration.

"The fact we now are witnessing a resurgent Russia that surprised the administration is testament to the failure of the current administration," says a senior Obama adviser. The adviser added: "We are not as well positioned as we ought to be" to discourage such behavior because the Bush administration has not worked well with allies to present a united front over the years, and because the U.S. military is over-stretched and not as much of a deterrent as it used to be.

On Tuesday, President Bush urged Russia to reconsider what he called its "irresponsible decision" to give diplomatic recognition to two breakaway Georgian provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia invaded Georgia earlier this month in a territorial dispute over those areas.