Former press secretary Jay Carney "acquitted himself quite well" in a heated exchange with Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainFormer Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute We need an independent 1/6 commission that the whole country can have confidence in GOP targets Manchin, Sinema, Kelly on Becerra MORE (R-Ariz.) Wednesday night, his successor Josh Earnest told the White House press corps on Thursday.

Carney and McCain drew attention on social media shortly after the president's prime-time address with a sharp exchange over whether President Obama should have kept a residual force in Iraq or moved sooner to train and arm the moderate Syrian opposition.

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During the conversation, McCain blasted the former press secretary for not having "all the facts" and said he was "astounded" by the White House's position. Carney, in his debut as a CNN contributor, shot back by accusing McCain of presenting "the facts that you believe are true based on the argument that you’ve made."

Asked about the exchange, Earnest joked: "I heard enough of the back-and-forth that I’m tempted to defer all questions about Sen. McCain and his criticism to my former colleague."

The current White House spokesman went on to say that the 2008 Republican presidential nominee and Obama had diverging views on Iraq since 2002, and that they litigated that argument in the 2008 presidential election.

"There was a broad national debate about this, and the American people spoke very clearly at the ballot box in November of 2008," Earnest added. "And I say all of that as someone who has extraordinary respect for Senator McCain’s service to this country and for the sacrifice that he has made for our nation’s safety and security."