CNN Senior Political Analyst
It was just back at the end of May when Sen. John McCain started to criticize Sen. Barack Obama for not visiting the Middle East since 2006. At the time, McCain coyly suggested they tour Iraq together.
Sensing a good thing, the Republican National Committee started a clock to count the days since Obama had visited the region.
The chiding worked. Obama is now on his grand tour of the Middle East and Europe. The RNC clock has stopped, but timing is still everything.
On the eve of Obama's trip, a German magazine quoted Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as essentially embracing Obama's 16-month timetable for withdrawal. (Later, an aide to Maliki tried to walk it back, albeit without specifics.)
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