Posts Tagged ‘John McCain’

John McCain at the Senior Citizen Center in Nashua, Saturday, December 8, 2007

I entered the Senior Citizen Center feeling anxious about whether I would get a chance to ask John McCain a question, and wondering how long I would have to wait, trying to remember my lines, until that chance would come. I had been striking out pretty regularly recently, whether it was because the campaign events were usually highly orchestrated, or because the candidate made sure to not take many questions. Given the size of the crowds and the number of people who want to ask a question, it’s really a longshot to be chosen. I’m pretty uncomfortable with public speaking, and working up the nerve to remain ready for a whole 45 minutes is not something that comes easy to me.

My only consolation was that I would probably not be blackballed from questioning, as I could well have been by the Romney camp. McCain has a reputation for being willing to take on questions that other politicians would rather avoid, so I was hopeful. I had spoken to a lot of people who knew McCain and felt like I had a feel for the man. I try to separate the personal relationship from the fight over policy because I know that politicians don’t enjoy being abused anymore than I would. It’s possible to wage a political battle without having it get personal.

Late in the Town Hall Meeting McCain pointed to me, and I rose from my chair thinking I’d better make it good because I might never get another similar chance. I started by telling him that he is much beloved in New Hampshire, and not without reason. That people see in him a basic human decency missing in most of the other Republican candidates. The crowd showed it’s approval by breaking into applause. I continued by saying that the press people that travel with him speak of him with great affection. That when I hear him talk about going to the Vietnam wall and seeing all the Hispanic surnames, or when he talks about visiting the soldiers serving in Iraq and how many have a Hispanic surname on their uniform, that he makes me proud to be an American.

I said that I had attended his Town Hall Meeting in Bedford the evening before, and reminded him of a “young lady”, a veteran, who spoke about a poll published days before in the Los Angeles Time saying that 60% of U.S. personnel serving in Iraq, and their families, think that the war was a mistake, and that we should get all troops out within a year. He had pooh-poohed the poll, asserting that he had just spent Thanksgiving with the troops, and that they all back the mission and want to see it through to completion. I challenged that notion, asking, what did he expect them to say? Who would want to disappoint the great John McCain, living legend, and probably a personal hero to many of them. I passed forward a copy of the survey so that he could inform himself.

McCain replied:

It all depends on the question and the way it’s asked, okay? Now, of course they’re frustrated. I’m frustrated. You’re frustrated about the war in Iraq. I know of no one, hardly, who’s not frustrated because of the failures in Iraq. But I will suggest to you again, I could ask you a ques-, ask them a question, do you believe that you’re succeeding in Iraq, and the overwhelming majority of them will say yes. And I am confident of that, and I’ve seen other polling data that indicates that. So it depends on how the question is asked and who it’s asked by. […] So the thrust of the woman’s question is what I disagreed with and that is that the servicemen and –women who are serving somehow don’t want us to continue in Iraq. And that was the implication in her remarks. And my view is, they don’t like it there, they want to be home with their families, they are normal human beings, but they know now, they know now that we’ve got the right strategy, they’ve got the right leader, and that they are succeeding, and if they fail that they will be fighting and dying there or someplace else in the world. And that’s what I believe the overwhelming majority of opinion of the men and women who are serving, and I don’t ask for their opinions. They send them to me. They send them to me because they’re proud of what they’re succeeding now. So I still have an honest disopin-, uh, difference of opinion with the young lady as to the thrust of her use of this poll. I hope that clears that up, and I did not mean to be disrespectful to her in any way, and I didn’t mean to.

Then I spoke about how he always says that mistakes were made in the war, which bothers me, because the real mistake that was made was in starting the war in the first place. That he always says he has the judgement to be president, but that I felt he had not used good judgement in voting to authorize the war, that it is delusional to think that we could go into the Middle East and turn Iraq into a western-style liberal democracy. He cited Turkey as an example of such a country, but I protested that the was no analogy and that Turkey and Iraq were two completely different cases. I think this was about the end of our discussion because I really can’t recall anything beyond that point.

John McCain at The Opera House in Derry, Thursday, January 3, 2008

After my exchange with McCain in Nashua, I started to feel that I had not dug deep enough into the issues. I had felt then that I had gone on long enough and sensed that I might lose the support of the crowd if I didn’t end it pretty quickly. So I resolved to have another go at him and hope that my respectful treatment of him would mean he would be willing to call on me again. And I wanted to do it fast, before he had forgotten who I was! And since I wanted to be more successful, I decided to pose a question which would not be a loaded one, but a straightforward request for some very important and relevant information.

I went to his Town Hall meeting at the Lion’s Club Hall in Londonderry on Saturday night, December 29. I had a good seat near the stage, but it was pretty far stage-right, and he didn’t choose any qustioners from my part of the audience. While he was speaking he would look in my direction, but didn’t appear to recognize me.

So my next, and probably last, chance would be Derry on the Third. It was the coldest day of the year, the rush hour traffic was terrible, and parking was difficult to find, so I arrived just in the nick of time to stake out a spot to stand along the side wall, pretty close up. McCain was stumping with Joe Lieberman and they occupied the stage together all night. When a question was asked McCain would answer and then Lieberman would put in his three or four minutes-worth. Finally someone asked if Lieberman was his running mate! I don’t think people came out in that cold to hear Lieberman, and I think there might have been a little resentment of his degree of involvement.

I was getting pretty anxious because the doubly long answers were taking up a lot of time, and there were a lot of questions. One woman who asked a question added that BOTH of her daughters also wanted to ask a question. The second daughter had to ask mom what the question was, so that lady got three questions. Another questioner later tried the same ploy but wasn’t successful. Toward the end of the night McCain motioned toward me, but before the microphone was brought over, the person seated in front of me stood up and started to ask HIS question.

McCain took his question and then another from elsewhere in the audience, but then returned to me. I thought it was a very considerate thing to do, so I thanked him for coming back to me. I said that I would not be voting for him because I planned to vote in the Democratic primary in order to try to deny a victory to Hillary Clinton who I called a “Joe Lieberman Democrat”. Nobody expected to hear me insult Lieberman to his face, and the crowd wasn’t sure how to react. I’m sure Joe has heard worse, and wisely retreated to the far corner of the stage, letting McCain handle the question.

Because of the nerve that I had struck, I momentarily forgot that I was supposed to say that I hoped McCain would beat Romney though. I would manage to get it in later. I recovered before the crowd noise died down and pushed ahead with how I had heard McCain say over and over again that we can’t leave Iraq because of the consequences of doing so, but I had searched his website to find out what his plan was and had found none.  Just like when Hillary Clinton says she will end the War in Iraq while planning to continue parts of the mission there, the devil is in the details. So I asked Mr. McCain what he hoped to accomplish in Iraq, and how long it’s going to take.

Hendrik Hertzberg of The New Yorker made a transcript of what happened from this point on …

McCain: The fact is, it’s a classic counterinsurgency. And you have to get areas under a secure environment, and that secure environment then allows the economic, political, and social process to move forward. In case you missed it, New Year’s Eve, people were out in the streets in Baghdad by the thousands for the first time in years. That’s because we provided them with a safe and secure environment. Is it totally safe? No. I talked earlier about the suicide bombs and the continued threats. But then what happens is American troops withdraw to bases. And we reach an arrangement like they have with South Korea and Japan. We still have troops in Bosnia. The fact is, it’s American casualties that the American people care about. Those casualties are on the way down, rather dramatically. You’ve got to consider the option. If we had withdrawn six months ago, I can look you in the eye and tell you that Al Qaeda would have said, We beat the United States of America. If we’d gone along with Harry Reid and said the war is lost to Al Qaeda, then we would be fighting that battle all over the Middle East. I’m convinced of that and so is General Petraeus…. I can tell you that it’s going to be long and hard and tough. I can tell you that the option of defeat is incredible and horrendous. And I can look you in the eye and tell you that this strategy is succeeding. And what we care about is not American presence. We care about American casualties. And those casualties will be dramatically and continue to be reduced.

Tiffany: I do not believe that one more soldier being killed every day is success. There were three U.S. soldiers killed today. I want to know, How long are we going to be there?

McCain: How long do you want us to be in South Korea? How long do you want us to be in Bosnia?

Tiffany: There’s no fighting going on in South Korea. There’s no fighting in Bosnia. Let’s come back to Iraq.

McCain: I can look you in the eye and tell you that those casualties tragically continue… But they are much less, and they are dramatically reduced and we will eventually eliminate them. And again, the option of setting a date for withdrawal is a date for surrender. And we will then have many more casualties and many more American sacrifices if we withdraw with setting a date for surrender. Now you and I have an open and honest disagreement. But I can tell you that six months ago people like you, who believe like you do, said the surge would never succeed. It is succeeding. And I’ve been there and I’ve seen it with my very own eyes. Do you want to follow up?

Tiffany: President Bush has talked about our staying in Iraq for fifty years.

McCain: Make it a hundred. How long—We’ve been in Japan for 60 years, we’ve been in South Korea for fifty years or so. That’d be fine with me as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed. That’s fine with me. I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where Al Qaeda is training and recruiting and equipping and motivating people every single day.

Tiffany: By the way, I hope you kick Romney’s butt. That man cannot lie straight in bed.

McCain: I knew there was a reason I called on you.

Tiffany: What if U.S. soldiers are being killed at the same rate, one per day, four years from now?

McCain: I can’t tell you what the ratio is. But I can tell you, I understand American public opinion, sir. I understand American public opinion will not sustain a conflict where Americans continue to be sacrificed without showing them that we can succeed.

Tiffany: I hear an open-ended commitment, then.

McCain: I have an open-ended commitment in Asia. I have an open-ended commitment in South Korea. I have an open-ended commitment in Bosnia. I have an open-ended commitment in in Europe…
He ended by saying, “This kind of dialogue has to take place in America today, and I thank you.”

I was astonished by his answer. I briefly wondered whether he had just lashed out in anger, but realized that this was what he had been talking about all along. I thought he say we have to stay until we can turn it over to the Iraqis and then we can come home. Even the Bush administration says that troops will be withdrawn upon success, and administration officials point to the fact that a brigade is going home upon finishing their rotation and won’t be replaced because of the success of the surge. Did anyone know that McCain meant to keep us in Iraq indefinitely? As I write this, I think of the nine U.S. servicepeople who have lost their lives in the last two days.

Of course, the whole world treated this news like the bombshell that it was. When McCain was interviewed 2 1/2 days later on Face The Nation and Meet the Press, the video or audio was played and he was asked to explain his statement.

As Hertzberg says in his article …

“You have to hand it to McCain. It’s impossible to imagine any of the other Republicans engaging in this kind of extended conversation with a citizen. There was more real debate in this exchange than in any of the so-called real debates.”

John McCain at Nashua City Hall Plaza, 7:45 am on Monday, January 7, 2008 (the day before the election)

Monday morning I caught up with John McCain again at 7:45 am in Nashua. As they were trying to hurry him onto the bus, he stopped and talked to me for a couple of minutes. I told him I wanted to thank him for helping me play my role in the election. I also wanted to remind him of our meeting 4 weeks earlier (he didn’t remember) where I said a lot of nice things about him, and that I meant every word, and I hoped he won the Republican primary.

He said, you and I can have a respectful debate (and complained about the protesters who had interrupted his event Sunday night), and we need to have that kind of debate, and how important it is to our democracy. I told him that when he went to Concord that afternoon he would see a bus with Iraq Veterans Against the War on the side, and said I would appreciate it if he would go and talk to them. He said he would if he can. He actually started to leave, and then turned around to come back to add something else to the conversation. There was a big color photo of the crowd on the front page of the Nashua Telegraph Tuesday, with us talking right in the middle. My niece in New York saw it on CNN Tuesday morning, and I’m told it was on WBUR (NPR in Boston) all day Monday.


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A flyer questioning the cost of the Iraq War was placed in McCain’s hands.

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Dec. 12, John McCain spoke at the Derryfield School in Manchester. He was questioned on how he will pay for the war in Iraq, which is costing approximately $270 million a day. Sen. McCain responded: “It’s not the money that you and I care about nearly as much as the young Americans who have served and sacrificed.”

Lives of servicemen and women are important but so is the cost of the war and where the money will come from to pay for it. So, Sen. McCain, please indulge us in the straight talk you’re (in)famous for and explain, explicitly and in detail, how you will pay for the war in Iraq.


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Question: Senator McCain, the War in Iraq is going to cost millions of dollars. How are you going to pay for it?

Answer: Billions of dollars. And it’s going to be very expensive, and it’s going to be long and hard and difficult. The only thing I can say to is I’m convinced that if we don’t prevail there, they will follow us home. And I believe it will cost additional billions of dollars and American lives.

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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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Question: Senator McCain, 12 army captains recently wrote a nationally published op-ed calling for the immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq or the reinstatement of the draft. Given the increasing number of similar articles, how can you advocate staying the course?

Answer (paraphrased): He expressed his respect for the captains, as for all the military. He disagrees with the 12, and believes the majority in the military don’t agree with the twelve captains. He is not in favor of a draft. He said it takes the poorest Americans. He believes there is no need for a draft; that there are enough Americans to serve in the volunteer army.

Foster’s Daily Democrat article of the meet and greet.

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