Archive for the ‘Vote Issues: Terrorism’ Category

Edited to fix Thomas More College link.

So here is my encounter from an Ask Mitt Anything last night at Thomas More College. Romney actually received a lot of pretty tough, somewhat combative, questions.

So I asked a tough question….and Romney was textbook at dodging all parts of the question.

Erin: The Department of Energy and the Bush Administration have plans to develop a new generation of nuclear weapons, including the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Not only would this seem to undermine the purpose of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which we are a signatory, it would send the wrong message to the rest of the world with a “do as I say, not as I do” nuclear policy. As President, would you continue funding this project? If you would, how can you justify your response when the United States already has 10,000 nuclear warheads which scientists have deemed “reliable”?

Romney: I will not commit to weakening our nuclear arsenal, especially in a time of radical jihad. When we have countries like Iran, sitting on virtually endless supply of energy, pursuing nuclear technology with such haste – if we continue to allow them to pursue nuclear dreams it will encourage other countries to do so as well. We will not go outside our obligations to the NPT but I will not commit to unilaterally weakening our nuclear arsenal in a time like this.


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John Edwards spoke to a packed room at Hart’s Turkey Farm today.

Question: If elected, what will your policy be towards Pakistan? In my view the most dangerous international situation confronting our country.

Answer: It certainly is at this time a very, very dangerous situation. Lets start with the problem and then I’ll tell you what I’ll do.

The problem is you have an unstable leader, Musharraf who has promised all these democratic and economic reforms that he has not followed through on. You have a very radical element within Pakistan, and they have a nuclear weapon. And they are in constant conflict, particularly with India, over the issue of Kashmir. That’s the background for what’s happening, and then again, of course, you’ve got Musharraf declaring the equivalent of marshal law, suspending the government and suspending the constitution.

So, what should America do? The danger of course is, if he gets disposed, some dangerous radical group takes over the government and then they have a nuclear weapon which they can choose to use or turn over to a terrorist organization. So there’s a great risk associated with this.

Let me say one thing before I got into specifics about Pakistan because I think it relates to why I think they’re so dangerous. Pakistan has a nuclear weapon. A.Q. Khan, who developed the nuclear weapon for Pakistan, has spread this technology around the world. And I think the notion that over the long term, over the next 50-75 years, America can successfully stop the spread of nuclear weapons in an ad hoc way –IE: Iran’s about to get a nuclear weapon so everyone’s focuses on what we’re going to do with Iran; we’re worried about North Korea is doing; we see what’s happening in Pakistan–that idea, that will not, that, you can’t sustain that. Sooner or later this stuff is going to get out. It’s too easy to spread. So the question is what should America do for the LONG TERM and I’ll tell you what I’ll do with Pakistan.

For the long term, and I think the answer to this–and what I would do as President– is to lead a long term initiative to rid the world of nuclear weapons. Pakistan is the living, breathing example of what we’re talking about.

Now, what should we be trying to accomplish in Pakistan? There should be several things we’re trying to accomplish. One is, the northwest part of Pakistan–which is Al-Qaeda’s been operating and where many speculate bin Laden’s may be–that part of the country needs to be under control. Second, they need to hold the elections that have been promised to be held in January. Third, we need to be supporting the democratic reformers–those within the Pakistani government–who are actually trying to sustain some level of democratic reform. And, we need to make sure their nuclear weapons are safe, that they’re not going to get into the hands of someone that shouldn’t be in the hands of. I think those are the basics of which we’re trying to accomplish there, all of which are aimed at creating some level of stability.

There are a number of things we can do. We’ve given about 10 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan. We’ve asked for very little in return. In fact, a lot of that aid has gone to empowering Musharraf as opposed to helping the Pakistani people. We need to use the aid and reform the way we’re providing aid. That’s number one. That’s our leverage.

Second, we have very little expertise within our State Department–within the American government–on Pakistan. The history of Pakistan, the Pakistani people, what they’re sensitive about, what they care about, and we need real experts within our government. Sounds basic and fundamental, but it’s frightening to see how little we know. And how little expertise we have within the American government on the issue of Pakistan.

Third, instead of just dealing with this issue alone, we should be doing it–like a lot of things–multilaterally, which means we need to bring other countries in who have as much of an interest as we do, and [inaudible].

Last, we need an intense diplomatic effort so that we, and our other friends around the world, are working diplomatically, both with the Pakistani government and with the friends of Pakistan, to ratchet up pressure on Musharraf to do the right thing.

So I think it’s all those things in combination that are not so simple–it’s a pretty sophisticated way of dealing with it over the long term but that’s what I think we ought to be doing.

At the end of the day, the way to keep these situations under control is we ought to be leading the world in the long term initiative to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Question: Achieving a peaceful and stable Iraq requires more than the withdrawal of US troops. Please tell us what thoughts you have regarding the role of the US in reconstruction, political development, and regional diplomacy.

Answer: The key to stability in Iraq–and I think this is the one thing everyone agrees on, we just differ on how to get there– is there has to be some political compromise between the Sunni and the Shi’a. Without that political compromise there can’t be civility. Because it the underlying foundation for all the violence.

The question becomes–and this is where we diverge–how do you maximize pressure on the Sunni and Shi’a leadership to try to reach some political compromise?

Bush’s argument, which I think is ridiculous, is that we keep pouring American money and troops and sooner or later things will get better. That really–that will not work. It’s not worked for years and it’s not going to work now.

What I would do is I would make it first clear that we are leaving by pulling 40-50,000 combat troops out immediately, and then I would continue a steady withdrawal over about 9 or 10 months so that all combat troops were out by then. That would be accompanied by an intense effort to bring the Sunni and Shi’a to the table and pushing them to reach a political compromise. Because they see the handwriting on the wall. America is not going to continue to prop them up.

I do think–I would get the combat troops out and end combat missions entirely. I do think we have a longer moral obligation to help them rebuilding their infrastructure [questioner said “considering we destroyed it”]. Correct, that’s exactly right. For that reason we should do that.

Now, I think the other piece of this is crucial and this is part of your question [looking at the questioner] is what do we do with the other countries in the region? What do we do with particularly Iran and Syria who have been largely ignored in this effort to stabilize Iraq? Well, the Iranians have a clear interest in a stable Iraq. I mean, if you think about this through the eyes of the Iranians, they don’t want a million refugees coming across the border, and they also don’t want to see a broader Middle East conflict between Shi’a and Sunni because Shi’a are about 10-15% of the Muslim world. About 85-90% are Sunni. So if you’re a Shi’a dominated country, which Iran is, a broader Middle East conflict is very dangerous for them. So, they have an interest in a stable Iraq, and the Syrians are different but they also have an interest in a stable Iraq –they’re also concerned about refugees, economic stability, etc–so I would intensify the diplomatic effort, not just with Iran and Syria but with Turkey and all the countries in that region. Because all of them have an interest in a stable Iraq.

And I would get all combat troops out of Iraq and end combat missions but I don’t think we should abandon the region. I think that we should keep a naval presence in the Persian Gulf, I think that we probably need some quick reaction forces in Kuwait–because of any thing that can happen in that part of the world–and maybe it’s safe [?] for us to increase our presence in Afghanistan because things have gone badly there. The Taliban has reemerged, the heroin trade is way up and particularly in the south the Taliban’s strength has reemerged.

So I think those are the things I would do over the long term.

You know there’s this issue in northern Iraq where the Turks are right now, and that’s an issue where we need intense diplomacy with the Turkish government to prevent that situation from exploding.

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Question: unable to hear.

Answer: About Iraq and how to bring them home [meaning the military]? Victory and success is the way to bring them home.

The young men and women we have in Iraq and we have in Afghanistan, are keeping us safe. They are making a great sacrifice and their families are above and beyond what most people are asked to do. That’s the unfortunate part [of] defending freedom and democracy. But make no mistake about it, this is not for some useless purpose. This is for an enormously important purpose.

They are keeping us safe against Islamic terrorism by engaging it over there and dealing with it. Now, what is the objective in Iraq? What is the best outcome–what step beyond for a moment and say to ourselves “what would be the best outcome for America with regard to Iraq and what would be the worst outcome”. The best outcome for American would be for Iraq that was stable and would be an ally of the United States in the terrorist war against us. That would be the best outcome. Forget Democrats, Republicans, presidential candidates, just America. We’re all Americans. What’s the best outcome?

What’s the worst outcome in Iraq? The worst outcome in Iraq is if it were to become a haven–if it became a state sponsor of terrorism like Iran is. If it became an ally of Iran; that would be worst possible situation for us considering Iran wants to become a nuclear power. So that’s the best and that’s the worst.

Why do we have our military there? The military is there to get the best possible outcome for our country, the United States, which is a stable Iraq which acts as ally for us against the terrorist war against us. Why the Democrats want to pull them out prematurely; why the Democrats announced all the way back in July and August that we lost in Iraq. Harry Reid said “America lost in Iraq”. This was before any of the results from The Surge; this is before General Petraeus testified. Right before General Petraeus the third ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives said “if The Surge works, it’ll be bad for the democratic party.” Who cares? Who cares if it’s bad for the Democratic party? Who cares if it’s bad for the Republican party? Who cares if it’s bad for me or Hillary Clinton, or anybody else? All we care about is: what is the best possible result for our country in Iraq?

I said this before I knew what General Petraeus was going to say; [I] said it in June and July: lets listen to them more rather than the politicians. Back last January; December, January, and February, I spent some time meeting with the sailors, soldiers, and marines, different levels just to talk to them. So much in the media about this. So much in politics about this–I guess that’s true with any war, it has to be?–but I wanted to get their idea. And to a person what they told me was “we can be successful. Give us a chance. Give us a chance to be successful and don’t pull us out of here prematurely because you have some sort of presidential election going on. We can be successful, we can stabilize the place, and we can get to the point where they can be an ally for us, but it’s going to take some patience and it’s going to take some commitment, and it’s going to take some courage, something they [the soldiers] have in great abundance. The result in Iraq should be a stable Iraq that acts as an ally for us in the terrorist war against us, not a premature withdrawal.

And the last thing we should do is return to the very irresponsible things Democratic candidates did this summer. Some of the voted for giving the enemy a timetable for our retreat. Have you ever heard of anything more irresponsible in a time? Why, why–I don’t care what your position on Iraq. I don’t care if you’re for it, against it, or in doubt about it–why would you ever think that if you had to retreat, you would give the enemy your timetable for retreat? Doesn’t that mean politics trumps common sense in a situation like that? I mean, a retreating army should never be required to give a schedule of its retreat to its enemy, unless we’ve let political stuff get so confused in our heads that focusing on what’s in the best interest of our country becomes [inaudible].

I’m not questioning anybody’s patriotism. I don’t think it’s a question of patriotism. You think the Democrats care about the troops as much as we do. Democrats want a good result in Iraq as much as we do. I honestly think they do not properly appreciate the danger of the Islamic terrorist against us. It’s the reason they never use the words Islamic terrorist in their debates. They refuse to use those words. I think it’s more than just refusing to use the words; I think it’s more than bowing at the alter of political correctness. I think it comes from a basic misunderstanding of the danger we face. I don’t think our soldiers have that basic misunderstanding.

Question two: the Democrats seem to want to take money away from Pakistan as a way of–the Democrats the money away that we give to Pakistan which I think they use to support their military. What’s your thoughts on what’s happening in Pakistan and how we should go–[he was cut off by Giuliani].

Answer: My thought about what’s happening in Pakistan is it’s very delicate. It’s truly a very delicate situation. And it’s one that, those of us running for office should tread very, very lightly on we’re not sitting there making decisions. And having been a person who had to make very difficult decisions as mayor of New York City–and some of the people running have not had that experience. They’ve never run a city, they’ve never run a state, they’ve never run a government, they’ve never had the saftey and security of millions of people on their shoulders. They tend to just say things without thinking about it the position the President [Bush] is in. And I were to say this: if the President were President Bush or a Democratic president the objective in Pakistan is, first of all, to keep the government of Pakistan together.

Pakistan has nuclear weapons. To make sure those nuclear weapons are in hands of someone seemingly responsible. And then, to sure Pakistan works with us in helping to route out and remove the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and also to help us find bin Laden–which I still think is an enormously important strategic objective. So we have to deal with this whole Musharraf thing from the point of view of moving them along toward democracy; moving them along to a fairer system of government; but at the same time not pushing buttons when we don’t know what will come out the other end.

So, I would give a lot of credence [?] here to what our government wants to do. I think this is an area where the President and the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, have a very delicate job they’re trying to achieve here and lets give them a little support. And lets give them the benefit of they know a little bit more about this situation than the Democrats running for president and the Republicans.

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Question: UN Resolution 687 was approved by the UN Security Council which ended the first Gulf War, which calls for a nuclear free Middle East. Do you support this proposal and, if so, what steps will you take to encourage a nuclear free Middle East?

Answer: Well, here’s what I think we should do. Obviously UN Resolutions ___ [inaudible] all the time don’t get enforced so they’re only worth as much as the great powers are willing to invest in making them enforceable. I want to come at not just by focusing on the Middle East alone, but by focusing on generally of the issue of nuclear non-proliferation. The reason I say that is this: There’s been a lot of focus on Iran and a lot of focus on North Korea. Understandable. Iran is a state sponsor of terrorists. They are pursuing a nuclear program, and they’ve said some horrific things about Israel.

So they are a problem just as North Korea has said serious things that we have to be mindful. But, we are in a very difficult position to try to mobilize the community to reduce nuclear weapons there when we haven’t made any effort on our part. Now there is a bipartisan tradition that George H.W. Bush–George 41–he negotiated the last major nuclear non-proliferation treaty and it called for the United States and Russia to start reducing their stockpiles.

As far as the overall scheme that says our countries should not develop nuclear weapons but we’ll supply them with peaceful nuclear power.

Laconia Citizen article

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On Sunday November 18, John McCain appeared at Jack’s a wonderful locally owned eatery.

Question: On your first day in office, what are the first three steps you’re going to take to end the War in Iraq?

Answer: First three steps will be to continue the strategy by that time we’ll have been even more successful which it is now. Anybody who tells you it’s not successful has not been there and does not know the facts on the ground.

Now everyone’s entitled to their opinions but not everyone is entitled to their facts. The facts are the Anwar Province is quiet. The facts are the neighborhoods in Baghdad are quiet. The facts are causalities are down. The facts are the attacks are down. Those are facts. The Iraqi military are more and more able to take more of the responsibilities. Those are indisputable facts.

Now, Democrats will say it’s lost and they want to set a date for withdrawal and they want to go back to failed strategy that failed for nearly four years. I don’t want to do that. Too many brave young Americans–like Matthew Stanley whose bracelet I wear [he pulled it out from under his sleeve to show me] who have already sacrificed–and I’m not going to sacrifice more than a failed strategy [in audible] or set a date for withdrawal.

I can only tell you what the president of Iran said a couple of three weeks ago. The president of Iran–remember the same guy who’s dedicated to the extinction of Israel, the country that’s building nuclear weapons, the same country that’s exporting the most explosive devices, lethal devices, to killing young Americans–he said “Americans will leave Iraq and leave a void. We will fill the void.”

I don’t think it’s in America’s national interest to see Iran having control over Iraq or any other terrorist organization or state sponsors of terror. So I will continue what has already been successful because as of January 2009 and I will be pleased with the progress and I will be proud to have a leader such as General Petraues leading these men and women who are serving and I will be most proud of the men and women who are serving and done such a magnificent job that are the best of America.

That’s what I will do.

Question two came from a boy about 12 years old: Do you have a plan set out for pulling troops out of the Iraq War?

Answer: Yes I do and those plans will be directly related to the success we are achieving and we are turning more and more of those responsibilities to the Iraqis.

The key is not pulling out. The key is the Iraqi military doing the things the American military are doing today and thereby reducing American causalities. That’s what’s been happening over there: our causalities have been going down because the Iraqi military have had greater and greater control and the people are turning against Al-Qaeda. The people are sick and tired of the cruelty of Al-Qaeda and they’re cooperating with us. We are succeeding.

Let me say again–and I didn’t mean to be brusque in my answer to your question [nodding to the woman who asked the first question]–my friends, all of us are sad, all of are frustrated, all of us are grieved at the sacrifice that’s been made and the mismanagement of this conflict by Rumsfeld AND the President of the United States who is responsible.

For nearly four years they employed a failed strategy and we sacrificed enormously for it. And I was the only one who was running for President of the United States that said “that strategy is a failure and we had to stop it” and Republicans criticized me severely for being disloyal. And I advocated the strategy that is now succeeding. I did that, my friends, because I know more. And I know strategy and I have the experience and the background to lead.

I understand the frustration and the sorrow that people feel. My goodness, there’s nothing more precious than American blood and now we’re approaching 4,000 [American deaths] as you know. But I still believe the consequences of failure are absolute disaster.

Question: Please comment about Pakistan and what direction we need to take there.

Answer: Pakistan is a very delicate situation right now. And, by the way, I’ve been to Pakistan. I know Musharraf. I’ve been to [inaudible] and Musharraf is a man who I think is personally very honest and uncorrupt. I think he’s the kind of the classic military guy that came into power–and when he came into power Pakistan was a failed stated. It was full of corruption, including when Benazir Bhutto, the one we’re talking to now was in charge. Her husband was corrupt. Lets have a little straight talk ™–and it was a failed state.

What has happened to Musharraf has happened to a lot people that assume power. That is, he began to believe he’s the only person who who can save his country. And that’s happened a lot of times in history. I’m glad to see that he has said he will step down as head of the army; that’s progress. He’s also said he’ll hold elections in January; that’s progress. But my friends, we’ve got to lift martial law and we’ve got to let the political process move forward. There is some progress there.

Let me just remind you Pakistan has nuclear weapons. They have nuclear weapons. Now we’re helping safeguard them, but the if the wrong kind of government came to power in Pakistan, we’d be the first people to leave. The second thing I think is important to recognize is there is a strong Islamic movement in Pakistan, including in the Pakistani military. I still believe–and I’m not going to bother you with too many details–the reason why Musharraf made the deal on those areas where they gave sanctuaries because he was suffering a lot of causalities–his military was–he’s starting to get some blowback from his military people.

So, what do we need in Pakistan? I think we out to have a lot of intense, but a lot of rather private negotiations, rather than some candidates for president make threats of us cutting off aid immediately, etc etc, because you know, if you’re going to point a gun at somebody you better be willing to pull the trigger.

And I’d also like to remind you, again, that back in the 1970s we all decided the Shah of Iran had to go because he was corrupt…well the Shah of Iran left and you know what we got in return. So this thing has to be handled with great care and sensitivity and I hope we can bring about a resolution which will then give the people of Pakistan the kind of government they deserve and not the give another leg up–or advantage–to the radical Islamic groups the President of Pakistan as you know.

I hope I didn’t over answer that question.

In his closing speech, McCain said: Let me just say, in conclusion, thank you for coming. But the great challenge of the 21st Century is a struggle against Radical Islamic Extremism. It is a huge force of evil. It wants to destroy everything we stand for and believe in. If after 9/11, if I had said to you “by the way, there’s going to be some doctors in Glasgow Scotland, some DOCTORS, that are listening to the message and then get on the internet and become suicide bombers” you would’ve said “that’s unlikely.” That’s what’s happening today. They just had arrests in Demark, in Germany. The head of the CIA said Al-Qaeda sales in the United States of America. My friends, this is the struggle we’re in.

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Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico was on The Exchange with Laura Knoy. Some great questions were asked about the War in Iraq, diplomacy with Iran, nuclear disarmament, and energy policy.

Listen to it here

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In his stump speech, Romney said:

…[W]e also have a threat of extraordinary nature…

…You know it’s unusual to have an asymmetric foe of the nature of this jihadist movement; this fundamentalist Islamic perspective that wants to cause the collapse of all moderate nations, Islamic and Western, and replace them with religious Caliphic. The people who pursue this course are not stupid, they’re crazy, but not stupid–and there’s a difference–[hearty applause] they look at the world and they see how our economy works and they say “given the nature of the interconnectedness of the American economy, the Western economy, and the weapons they’re seeking, they think they can bring us down.

And we face challenges pretty unusual. This jihadist foe…it’s time to have someone in Washington who will say “I will stop all petty politics and the score settling and I’m actually going to get the job done.


Question: What is your approach to arms control?

Answer: Well, probably the key aspect for arms control is making sure Iran doesn’t get a nuclear bomb, that’s number one [hearty applause]. The world changes dramatically if Iran has a nuclear bomb. And if someone like [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad does what he’s says he’ll do, which is he’d provide nuclear material to groups–didn’t even say nations–to groups who oppose the West, the world where multiple nations start having nuclear weapons increases the chance of them being used dramatically, particularly if the nations that have that fissile material, are nations led by nations as delusional as Ahmadinejad.

It’s important for us, in my view, to tighten down dramatically the sanctions on Iran, not just us but other nations and asking other nations to do so, economic sanctions, diplomatic sanctions.

I’d indict Ahmadinejad under the Genocide Convention –speaking about eliminating another nation, that’s genocide–I’d also make a much greater effort to inform the people in his country about the peril of becoming a nuclear nation. Because, let me tell you, if they develop nuclear material, and it gets into the hands of someone who actually uses it someday, the world will respond, not just to the person who used it–or the party who used it–but also to the nation that supplied it. You don’t want to be a nuclear nation. You do not want to have that risk, that risk of becoming a member of the “circle of suspects” if something like that is ever used. So I want to make sure they don’t get The Bomb and, of course, I would be one of those who is adamantly in favor of making sure the military option is available to us so we keep them from having nuclear weapons.

Now, I don’t believe in unilateral disarmament. And I know there are many people who think we have too many nuclear warheads right now, but with what’s going on in the world, I’m not one of them.

I also want to make sure we pursue, aggressively, our strategic defense initiative so that we can keep rogue missiles from coming in to our country or to other countries of good people around the world.

So my hope is number one, lets keep them from getting the bomb and lets make sure we see Pakistan become more stable so we don’t have to worry about their bomb as well.

Question two: Will you keep the offensive space weapons programs.

Answer: We’re not going to sacrifice new technology to protect us. The reason is is because there are evil people in the world and there will continue to be evil people in the world. And that’s frightening thing.

…As weapons become more and more frightening, nuclear weapons, then America has to continue to be at the cutting edge to make sure we’re ahead and to protect our people and never find ourselves in a position where evil people take over our freedoms and our lives.

I will do whatever it takes to protect America. I’ll take any action necessary. I’ll go to any level necessary. We’ll invest whatever’s necessary to make sure we can lead the world.

Question three: will you comment on the reinstatement of the draft.

Answer: I wouldn’t. I want to take our troops up by about 100,000. That may require us to improve the offer we make to our troops so we’re able to bring more into the military…

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