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Remarks by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) Presidential Candidate, at the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory 2008 Forum and Luncheon

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Remarks by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) Presidential Candidate, at the Republican Jewish Coalition Victory 2008 Forum and Luncheon

(Applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you, (Lou ?). Thank you. (Continued applause.) Thank you very much. Hey, how are you? Thank you very much. Thank you for that kind welcome. Thank you for coming to Washington to -- (inaudible). It's very -- it's hard trying to the Lord's work in the city of Satan, so it's very happy to see all of you here.

And I'll say that I -- after following Sam Brownback and Rudy Giuliani and other speakers that you've had, I feel a bit like Zsa Zsa Gabor's fifth husband, who on her wedding night said, "I know what I'm supposed to do. I just don't know how to make it interesting." And that's a pretty funny line. It goes over best at Republican women's club meetings, I find. One night I was at one of these -- (word inaudible) -- dinners where -- (inaudible) -- speaker after speaker, and I got up and I said, I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor's fifth husband -- (off mike). The speaker who followed me immediately was Senator John Warner. (Laughter.) He was not amused. (Laughter.)

I'm here to obviously say some remarks to you, and then respond to any questions or comments or insults that you may have. Thank you for coming. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your involvement and engagement. Everybody in this room has something more important to do than be here in Washington today, but you are here in service and adherence and allegiance to a cause greater than your own self-interest. That's why I'm honored to be in your company.

My friends, you'll hear a lot in this campaign about a lot of issues. You'll hear about health care, you'll hear about immigration, you'll hear about balancing the budget; you'll hear about how to control wasteful spending, which has corrupted the process here in Washington, and you'll hear a lot of other things. I'm here to talk to you about the transcendent challenge of the 21st century and why I am qualified to be president of the United States.

The transcendent challenge of the 21st century -- (audio break) -- is our struggle against radical Islamic extremism. It will be with us for a long time. It will be a long -- (audio break) -- Iraq was the central battlefield in the war against terrorism. I don't like to use "war against terrorism." I'd prefer the struggle against radical Islamic extremism. (Applause.)

The -- my friends, don't take my word for what's at stake in Iraq; listen to the president of Iran. The president of Iran recently said a couple weeks ago, "The United States will leave Iraq and there will be a void, and we will fill it." I don't have to describe to you anymore adequately as to what is at stake in Iraq.

And I want to tell you, of all the Republican candidates that are seeking this election, I knew what was going on in Iraq.

I went to Iraq right after the beginning of it. I talked to the sergeant majors and I talked to the colonels and I talked to the generals. And you know what they told me? They said, the strategy is wrong and it's going to fail; unless we fix it, we're going to fail here in Iraq; we need more troops on the ground; we need more pacification; we need civil affairs people; we need to do de- Ba'athification. I'm going to be okay.

And my friends, I came back and I railed against this policy. And I said we need a different strategy and that this one is doomed to failure. And I was criticized by Republicans because of my disloyalty. I knew it was doomed to failure, and I knew the strategy we needed to succeed. And that strategy is now being employed and it's called a surge, and we are winning. We are succeeding in Iraq, thanks to General Petraeus. (Applause.)

And we have not set a date for surrender, as the Democrats want to do. And we have not declared the war lost as Harry Reid, the majority leader of the United States Senate, said on the floor of the United States Senate. And if we'd lost, who won -- al Qaeda?

My friends, it is succeeding. In Anbar province today, it is -- we have neighborhoods where people -- like Ramadi. When I visited it not too many years ago, it was a free-fire zone. It was Fort Apache.

By the way, I've been to Iraq many, many, many times. You've got people running for president that have never even been there, much less know about it. So the fact is -- the fact is -- that we are succeeding there, and success there has profound consequences. Failure has profound consequences.

And I'd like to just -- and by the way, are there still problems? Are we in the last throes? Are we -- is it a few dead-enders? Is it a mission accomplished? Is it all that rhetoric that caused Americans to be so saddened and disillusioned and angered by our failures in Iraq? No. It's still long and hard and tough but it is succeeding.

The Maliki government is not performing effectively, my friends, and that's a fact, and it's got to. There are still parts of the Iraqi police force that are no better than Shi'ite militia. There are still corruption problems.

But where we have come in the last seven or eight months, as opposed to where we were before, is dramatic improvement. And if we can make the same progress in the next seven or eight months, and beat back the continuous efforts by the Democrats to set a date for surrender, then I believe that we will be able to succeed. What's success? An environment of security, a government that functions effectively, people can move on with their social, economic and political progress; American troops can gradually withdraw, and Iraqis assume the responsibilities for governing themselves.

And I want to emphasize again. You may have seen the front page of The Washington Post that said we've declared victory over al Qaeda. Don't underestimate al Qaeda; don't underestimate their ability to use cyberspace; don't underestimate their ability to replace leaders as they are killed or captured. Don't underestimate them, because this struggle is going to be with us for the rest of this century.

So let's talk about the region for a second. Here we have -- and let's talk about the consequences of failure.

If we withdraw, what happens to Jordan? Jordan's already got 750,000 refugees in that small country. What happens in Lebanon as regards to Syria? We all know what the Syrians are doing. They're doing everything they can to destabilize the government in Lebanon. They have already assassinated several people, including Hariri, which they have yet to be held accountable.

I know that you know there's a U.N. Security Council resolution that's been there for several years that calls for the disarmament of Hezbollah. Has anybody seen any disarmament of Hezbollah lately? We have now -- we decided that elections were a good thing, and so we had elections in Gaza, and you know who's in charge there -- a terrorist organization.

Iran now, as we speak, is exporting the most lethal explosive devices into Iraq, killing young Americans. They are continuing their pursuit of nuclear weapons, and they continue to announce their dedication to the extinction of the state of Israel. My friends, there's a lot of things we can do. There's a lot of things we can do by joining like-minded democracies to bring about strong sanctions, strong punishment to the Iranians for their behavior, but at the end of the day, we cannot allow the Iranians to acquire nuclear weapons. And as president of the United States, I will not allow it to happen. (Applause.)

You've seen a recent example of an event that took place in Syria not too long ago about the problems of proliferation in that region if one nation acquires a nuclear weapon, much less a country that's dedicated to the extinction of Israel. And my friends, I'm not worried about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon and putting it on a missile; I'm very worried about Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and giving it to terrorist organizations.

My friends, the great philosopher Bill Russell and center for the Boston Celtics once said, "When things go bad, things go bad." And things have gone bad in Iraq, and it has affected the entire region. Again, look at -- as far away as Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don't know what's going to happen today, in the future in Pakistan, but I do know that there's big problems in Afghanistan. It's got to do with poppies, it's got to do with the resurgence of the Taliban, it's got to do with corruption in government, and it's got to do with the Taliban operating from what some would term almost safe havens in Waziristan. And if Musharraf goes and in the wrong way, then obviously there is a risk of Islamic extremists, particularly those who are in the Pakistani military today, of coming to some kind of power. Imagine how that complicates our effort in Afghanistan as well.

The Saudis, if we withdraw, would feel compelled to help Sunni. The Iranians, as we know, have already -- are trying to assert themselves in southern Iraq as the British leave. What I'm telling you is that these are difficult and dangerous times, and we need a steady hand at the tiller.

For all my life -- all my life I have spent in the military or on national security issues. I'm the only one that said this previous Rumsfeld strategy would fail, I'm the only one that said this strategy will succeed. And it's not an accident that four previous secretaries of State -- Larry Eagleburger, Al Haig, George Shultz and Henry Kissinger -- have endorsed my candidacy. I am prepared to serve this nation, and I have the qualifications to do so. (Applause.)

So what -- so in summary, my friends, what do we need to do? We have to remind the American people that this is a long and difficult struggle, that we do have do a better job militarily.

We need a bigger Army and Marine Corps. We need to do a better job in intelligence. Still, there are many -- our only intelligence capability in some parts of the world is somebody sitting in an embassy waiting for someone to come in and volunteer information. We need to do a better job diplomatically.

And by the way, as president of the United States, the first thing I would do is announce we will never torture another person who we hold captive. I would also announce that we will close -- (applause) -- we will also -- and by the way, my friends, on that issue, it's very interesting. Every retired military senior officer and military officer I know, including Colin Powell, is unalterably opposed to the use of torture. Those who have never served in the military, they want to torture. Why is it? Why is it that we who have served in the military are so opposed to torture? Because we have an obligation to the men and women who are serving this nation, that if they fall into the hands of the enemy, that they won't be tortured.

And I -- (applause) -- and I talked to General Vessey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who served in four wars. General Vessey said to me, "Senator McCain, anything we might gain from the use of torture can never be counterbalanced by the damage that it does to the image of the United States in the world."

So we have another battle, and that's in cyberspace. Osama bin Laden about a couple weeks ago, as you know, was able to get a message out from some obscure place in Afghanistan or Pakistan that reached billions of people. The Internet and the chat rooms and cyberspace and -- (brief audio break) -- are carrying the message of radical Islamic extremism.

At the end of this period, we are going to have to win the same way we won the Cold War, and that's ideologically. It was our message of hope and freedom; it was our message of good, of Judeo-Christian principled behavior, that carried the day and was a beacon of hope and liberty to people behind the Iron Curtain. We have that same message today in combatting probably one of the greatest forces of evil that civilization has ever faced, and I urge your active engagement in it. I know you are committed, and I know that you will do everything you can to support not only the United States of America and the state of Israel but the preservation of freedom and democracy everywhere in the world.

Thank you, and God bless. (Applause.)

Now I'm ready to respond to any questions or comments on insults that you might have for me, and I am -- have a bit of a mourning because the Arizona Diamondbacks completed their effort to win the World Series or the National League Championship last night.

Please, go ahead. And could we ask for the lights to be up a little bit so I can see the questioner? I would appreciate it.

Yes?

Q Good morning, Senator. It's a pleasure to talk to you. I'm Deborah Shrow (sp) from Reston, Virginia. I'm currently a judge advocate in the Army National Guard in my advanced years. And I want -- I'm concerned that most of the candidates have absolutely no military experience, and since we are in a global war on terrorism for generations, I believe, could you speak to the fact that -- are these people prepared to be commanders in chief? I know certainly the Democrats have no candidates that I would even think a sensible would consider to be commander in chief. (Laughter, applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: I agree. I don't think you have to have had military experience in order to serve as a great leader. Abraham Lincoln had very little experience. Frankly, Ronald Reagan's experience a lot of it was not outside of the country or outside of Hollywood. But -- and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who I think led this nation admirably, particularly prior to Pearl Harbor, because he prepared America in a way that was absolutely necessary.

Having said that, look, it helps. It helps to know what the young men and women are undergoing in Iraq and Afghanistan and around the world today. It helps to have studied these issues and been taught them from places like I was from the naval academy to the National War College to being on the Armed Services Committee for the last 20 years. It helps, and it's important. But is it a criteria? No, I don't think so. But at this particular time in history, I, in all due respect, think it's very, very helpful. (Applause.)

Yes, sir.

Q First off, sir, let me say that it's a great honor to be in your presence here today. My name's cadet 3rd Class (Clove ?) Taylor (sp), currently at ROTC detachment here in D.C. (Applause.) And as someone who plans a career in the military and, you know, who grew up in the military -- my father's a retired gunnery sergeant in the United States Marine Corps -- I want to know what you are going to offer, especially as somebody who is a retired veteran and somebody who I look up to, what you're going to do for the other veterans now who, you know, are just coming off service from Iraq -- and my father, who was a Desert Storm vet -- to improve Veterans Affairs and veteran recuperation? (Applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you for your willingness to serve.

By the way, I forgot to mention, I have a son at the naval academy, and my two sons in the military, but one at the naval academy. And I was very worried about him for a while because he had no demerits, and he could not have been a son of mine -- (laughter). I almost did a DNA check. I'd still ask if you'd turn up the lights, please, in the back.

Look, this is a crucial issue right now because we did not -- among many mistakes that Rumsfeld made was not expanding the size of the Army and the Marine Corps. So we have laid a burden not on our active-duty military, but our Guard and Reserve in a way that is absolutely incredible. Some of our Guard and Reservists are back for their third time and some even their fourth, and we have now a much larger number of people who need VA care because of the numbers wounded. And thank God there are larger numbers wounded as opposed to killed than any -- ratio than any other conflict, and we'd better fix our VA system, and we'd better fix it quick.

General George Washington in 1789 said, "The way we care for those who have served this country in battle will be directly related to future generations' willingness to serve." And the scandal at Walter Reed is something that's unacceptable.

Bob Dole -- if you look at The Washington Post this morning, there's an article, a(n) op ed piece by Bob Dole and Donna Shalala. They formed a commission after this disgrace at Walter Reed, and they made recommendations. The Congress has still not acted on those. That's disgraceful. As president of the United States, I'd urge them every single day. (Applause.)

And finally, finally, my friend, we've got to recognize some reality, and that is that PTSD will be a significant factor in those veterans who are coming home from this conflict. No army, no marine corps, no military in history has had the conditions that -- these are as difficult as any military who's ever served. These kids, in 135- degree heat, are putting on 40 pounds of body armor, another 40 pounds of military equipment and going out and fighting alongside Iraqis in the most magnificent fashion. They're the best America's ever produced, and I know you're proud of them.

Yes, ma'am, go ahead -- yes, sir. (Applause.) Yes, sir.

Q Hello, Senator. I think most of us in this room, if not all of us, would agree that the United Nations is rife with corruption, and yet, the United States spends billions on the United Nations. Is it time for the United Nations to leave the United States -- (cheers, applause) -- and go somewhere else?

SEN. MCCAIN: I'd like to -- I'd like to make you happy by saying yes, but -- look, the United Nations reminds me of the old story of the guy -- the two guys in a small town. The guy says, "On Saturday night --" the guy says, "-- what are you going to do tonight?" And he said, "I'm going to go to the poker game." And he said, "Why do you go to the poker game? It's a crooked game." And he said, "Yeah, but it's the only game in town."

Now, this is the only game in town. What -- the problem with the U.N. -- not just corruption, but we try to expect too much of the United Nations. We expect them to be peacemakers when they do a pretty good job of peacekeeping. We expect them to stand up for human rights when they've got a group of nations that are members that have no regard for human rights. We expect them to do things, frankly, that is unrealistic in our expectations.

They do a good job with refugees. They do a good job in some areas as well. So all I can say is that the United Nations needs to be reformed. We should exercise our budgetary authority. But I think that we should neither leave the United Nations, nor should the United States leave the United -- the United Nations leave the United States of America. And I know that you probably don't share that view, but I have to give you some straight talk.

Yes, sir -- yes, ma'am. (Applause.)

Q Senator, you've discussed the situation with Iran --

SEN. MCCAIN: Can we have the lights up, please? I would ask again. Go ahead.

Q -- and you've spoken quite eloquently about military power. I'd love for you to expand upon the war of wallets, the power of the purse for peace in four different areas -- first, in terms of divesting our pension funds, the firemen and police officers' and teachers' pension funds which are currently invested in funds helping Iran; number two, in working with our allies like Merkel, who has said all the right things on Iran but whose government still has taxpayer subsidies for companies like Siemens to do business in Iran; number three, the World Bank about to give $800 million to Iran; and finally, Putin and the Russians -- how do we get them on the sanctions train to use that economic leverage so we can potentially avoid war?

SEN. MCCAIN: First of all, I think we know, and this goes back to our United Nations issue, that the United Nations Security Council will not be effective, not as long as Putin -- not as long as the Russians and the Chinese act the way they are. That's why long ago, I strongly advocated the formation of a league of democracies, countries who share our values, who share our principles and who will be willing to act. And all those countries control a major part of the world's economy.

If we got those countries together and imposed meaningful sanctions and by the way -- you forgot to mention -- there's major European institutions that are extending unlimited credit to Iran -- that we could squeeze them and, I think, probably have a very beneficial effect. By the way, not just Merkel -- the guy that has been very strong on this issue is the new president of France, which shows that, you know -- (applause). And he's pro-American, which shows that if you live long enough, anything is possible in the world. (Laughter.)

The World Bank: All I can say is, we -- if they do that kind of thing, then we should really make moves to withdraw. I mean, that -- it's unconscionable. But let me just say again, and Putin -- my friends, I looked into Putin's eyes, and I saw three letters: a K, a G and a B. That's what I saw when I looked into his eyes. (Applause.)

I would certainly go ahead with our strategic missile defense program. I would certainly let Mr. Putin know that he's not going to bully us. I would try to make the American people understand the absolute criticality of becoming independent of foreign oil. (Applause.)

Mr. Putin uses oil as a weapon against Europeans. He's used it against Ukraine, against Belarus and other countries in the region. He'd like to control the supply to Western Europe, which he is trying very hard to do. And frankly he wants to resurrect the old Russian Empire.

It's not going to work. He doesn't have the size, he doesn't have the population, and the only thing that is feeding that economy is oil.

And so -- but it's time we got a little tough with Mr. Putin, and that is to make him realize that there are penalties associated with his behavior, including, by the way he -- as you know, he was incredibly rude to our secretary of State and secretary of Defense in just the last few days. And I don't think I'd invite him to Sedona.

Yes, sir?

Q Yeah, Stan Rayfield (sp), Boca Raton, Florida. What are we doing to counteract the Democrats ruining our relationships with Turkey at the present time? This is very serious. (Applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: I'm glad you brought that up.

My friends, what happened in 1915 was genocide. It was genocide, and we deplore it. And I think that it's important that we point that out, and it's an inexcusable act in the history of the 20th century.

At the same time, I think it's important to point out that genocide is taking place today in other parts of the world as well, Darfur being one of them. There are threats of genocide if we fail in Iraq. There is genocide, obviously -- or if not genocide, brutal repression -- taking place in Burma, where brave monks are being oppressed, being killed, tortured, and obviously human rights are being suppressed.

If I were president -- (audio break) -- the United States, I would strongly advocate that we not pass this resolution condemning genocide in Turkey. (Applause.) It was not their -- (audio break) -- government of Turkey, and I very much worry about alienating the Turkish people, about giving rise to Islamic radicalism -- (applause) -- which then would give them fodder. And I hope that we could make our position very clear: that we believe genocide took place in one of the most brutal periods in the history of the world we called the Great War -- it was part of World War I -- and we would never condone or countenance such a thing, and we condemn it. But to do what we're doing, to deliberately alienate the Turks, is not something I think is in our national interest at this time. (Applause.)

And let me finally just say we also have to work harder on the Kurds, as well as with the Turks, to suppress the PKK. I think that it's a very dangerous situation when they're able to cross into Turkey and kill 20 or so Turkish people and not expect the Turks at least to contemplate a response. This is a very dangerous situation. The Kurds have got to understand it's not in their national interest to see a retaliation on the part of the Turks. A very volatile situation.

Yes, ma'am? Yeah, go ahead.

Q You know that we are supplying Walter Reed and the VA hospital virtual reality systems, which is helping in the rehabilitation of veterans coming back from the wars. And at the present -- we had a demonstration. The present -- they already ordered five of these systems. And it's very similar to the -- like we supply for Microsoft Xbox 360. It's a very similar situation and has proved very effective in rehabilitating the soldiers. (Applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you very much, and God bless.

Yes?

Q Senator McCain, I haven't asked you a question since August at the Aspen Institute. But I'd like to ask you about something that nobody has spoken about this morning. The Muslim Brotherhood has a project called, aptly, "The Project," through which they seek to use subversive means to take over our government without the use of terrorist tactics. And they're doing very well so far. They have Keith Ellison elected as the first Muslim congressman from Minnesota. And they are instituting Shari'a law in this country, ranging from foot baths at universities and airports to the establishment of a taxpayer-funded madrassa in Brooklyn, New York.

I would like to know what you would do to stem this tide, because political correctness has accepted CAIR, Council on American-Islamic Relations, and has given them respectability when they are a terrorist -- a group raising funds for terrorism. (Applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: In America, we allow all ideas and all opinions to be voiced. That's the strength of America. (Light applause.)

I'm not worried about any -- any -- peaceful demonstration of belief in radical Islamic beliefs. I am -- I rely on the good sense of the American people to counter that. In fact, I welcome the debate. I'll debate anybody who takes the side of radical Islamic extremism. (Applause.)

So I'm not -- I'm not worried, very frankly, about their propaganda side. I am -- my obligation and my first responsibility is those organizations and outfits and individuals who want to commit acts of violence against the United States of America. The head of the CIA just a couple of weeks said al Qaeda is trying to establish cells in the United States. They're dedicated to the violent overthrow of everything we stand for and believe in.

Now, if these organizations are mixed and are espousing violence or acts of terror, then I want to shut them down. But if someone wants to stand up and express their beliefs in this nation, I am not only -- support that principle, I think it's a cherished principle of this nation. And if we stop, if we stop allowing people from expressing their views freely, then we are on the wrong direction in preservation of the very principles of the founding of this nation. (Applause.)

Yes, sir?

Q Senator Brownback this morning discussed a plan to propose a federalist system of government in Iraq to create stability there. Based on your experience, what do you think is the best system of government to try to create stability there?

SEN. MCCAIN: I have the greatest respect and affection for Senator Brownback and Senator Biden. It won't work. It won't work. I am a student of history, and I'll tell you right now that it would take hundreds of thousands of troops. If -- over 50 percent of the population of Iraq is in four major cities, Mosul, Kirkuk, Baghdad and Basra. You would have to divide neighborhoods. You would have to divide bedrooms; Shi'a and Sunni are married to one another.

The way we imposed the partition of Bosnia and the way we were able to bring about peace in Kosovo was through overwhelming military force. Look at the history of the partition of Palestine. Look at the history of the partition of India, where hundreds of thousands died as they moved -- tried to move from one place to another.

The Iraqis are Iraqis first. When they defeated Saudi Arabia in a soccer match, thousands of people poured into the streets, and they were waving Iraqi flags, not Sunni flags, not Shi'a flags, not Kurdish flags but Iraqi flags. It won't work.

And then you tell how you divide the oil revenues. And then you tell me how you divide Baghdad, where literally neighborhoods are side by side. Now, you could do it, maybe, if you send 4(00,000) or 500,000 troops. You tell me where they come from.

Look, I want a way out. I want to come up with an easy solution. I grieve more than anyone -- not more than, as much as any American over the tragic loss of American blood and treasure. But to say that somehow we can divide that country up and it would be effective I just don't think is a viable option. And there are a number of other areas, including what happens in southern Iraq, with the Iranian influence there.

My friends, could I just point out to you one thing? A lot of people said, because -- particularly when things were really going bad in Iraq, and they were -- most of the liberal media was saying that it's over and we'd lost, like Harry Reid did. There are people that said to me, "This will really harm McCain's ambitions to be president of the United States." And I understand that, I understand that.

I was at a town hall meeting in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, about five weeks ago. A woman stood up. I recognized her, as I do at hundreds of town hall meetings that I've had. And she said, "Senator McCain, will you do me the honor of wearing a bracelet, a bracelet with my son's name on it, Matthew Stanley, who was killed just before last Christmas outside of Baghdad. He was 22 years old." And I said, "I'd be honored to wear this bracelet with Matthew Stanley's name on it."

And then she said to me later on, she said, "Senator McCain, I want you to promise me one thing, one thing; that you will do everything in your power to make sure that my son's death was not in vain." My friends, that puts everything in the right perspective about what our ambitions are. (Sustained applause.)

And I fear -- and I fear that a lot of brave young Israelis are going to be put in harm's way before this struggle is over with Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran and other nations in the region that are dedicated on that nation's very extinction.

And I want to tell you this. I've been going there for many, many years. I know the leaders. I'm meeting with Ehud Barak this afternoon. I know Israel. I know their enemies. I know what needs to be done. And I know that Israel makes mistakes from time to time and I know that it is a democracy. They have problems from time to time. That's what democracies are about; you have problems and you fix them. The other countries have problems and they don't fix them. But if we lose -- if we lose this little nation, that is freely elected, that is democratic, that is representative, that is an example to the entire world about the constant struggle for freedom, this world will be a lesser place.

Yes, ma'am? (Applause.)

And I'm reminded of my favorite poem, "Ask Not for Whom the Bell Tolls." Yes, ma'am? Go ahead, please.

Q I'm Joyce Cordy (sp). I'm from San Jose, California. As I said to you once before, in a perfect world, Senator, you would be president. (Applause.) In --

SEN. MCCAIN: (Inaudible.)

Q In that vein, we heard a lot this morning about national defense. There was a TechNet/Churchill Club event where John Chambers and John (Chang/Chen ?) spoke last week in Berkeley about the competitive posture of the United States and our technology advantage. Is it not, in order to have a strong national defense, necessary to look at globalization as an important thing? There's a debate between Mr. (Chang/Chen ?) and Mr. Chambers as to whether we have a five-year window or a 10-year window to maintain our technology advantage and our posture as the world's largest economy.

Does it not then require that there be a Marshall Plan to restore -- for national defense, energy independence and other reasons, our fundamental industrial base? We can't even build armor plating anymore in this country? And does it not require an effective and articulated five-year plan to start to change the course of the export of American technology, American know-how and America's middle-class jobs?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, having been friends of both those individuals, I -- my conversations with them is, their great concern is education in America and our ability to maintain our technological lead as a result of that.

Again, I've got to give you a little straight talk. I am worried about the rising tide of protectionism in America. Free trade is a fundamental, the fundamental aspect of our economy, our growth, and we can compete with any nation in the world. (Applause)

And no, I don't want us to lose these -- vital technology. But I want to tell you this. If you look the history of warfare, go back to any war we've been in, involved in our history, there's been problems. Wars are messy things. It's easy to sit in ivory towers and those who have never served and say, "Why didn't you get that equipment over there this quick? Why didn't you do this? Why didn't you do that?"

And I understand the oversight role of Congress. I appreciate it and value it. But I am convinced that it's going to be technology that wins future wars. It's going to be cyberspace. It's going to be ideology. But it's also going to be sophisticated equipment, which we are still best at.

Right now these young men and women who are serving fight as easily at night as they do during the day. We now have airplanes that can drop weapons with pinpoint accuracy. Look at that as compared -- both of those as compared to the war in which I fought. We have the technological advantage. We have to keep it.

Of course we have to call America to serve. We have to call America to severe in the cause of energy independence, in the cause of maintaining a quality education and many other things. But -- that's what leadership is all about.

But don't think that protectionism is the answer. In fact, if you look at the history in the 20th century, it was the Smoot-Hawley tariff acts, which was protectionism, which was a major contributor to the outbreak of World War II.

So I will not listen to the siren song of protectionism. I will provide education and training programs for displaced workers, so we don't leave anybody behind.

I just came from Michigan, where there's 100,000 empty homes. People have just had to walk away. There's thousands -- tens of thousands of workers who have laid off from the automobile industry, as you know. We've got to give those people a second chance.

Yes, sir? (Scattered applause.)

Q Your comment anticipates my question in part. Six of the 10 states with the largest foreclosure rates in the country, according to an article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal that I happen to have with me -- specifically, Nevada, Florida, Michigan, Arizona, Ohio and Colorado -- are among the purported swing states that may decide the next election.

And if I could try to get two for one, I'm curious as to your views on what, if anything, a principled Republican candidate for president can say relative to those foreclosure problems, in view of the electoral college reality, and further, immigration, which is obviously important in many of those states.

Thank you.

SEN. MCCAIN: Thank you. I'll try to -- whoops, eight seconds over. Let me just say very quickly, I'm glad to see the banks now are getting together and providing lines of credit to try to soften the blow. I'm glad that alphabet soup organizations in Washington, D.C., are acting. I'm glad that Secretary Paulson is playing a leadership role. There's many things we need to do, and that's help those people who cannot afford the increase, obviously, in their mortgage payments.

Another thing we ought to do that's pretty simple is make it simple so they understand it. Why in the world is a document on a home loan mortgage that thick that nobody can understand in fine print? Why is that the case? (Applause.) And a lot of these people were taken in unnecessarily, but I don't want to help the speculators either -- the guy in Arizona that bought a house and left it empty because he knew it was going to keep appreciating at 7 percent a month. So we've got to view some of this on an individual basis as well.

But lines of credit need to be extended to help families get over the hump so that they can reduce this gap between what they were paying and what they are being -- now being forced to pay. And it's our object, I think, to extend them the kind of relief and credit that is necessary to do so. It's a terrible thing that's happening in America, and the -- there's a lot of morals to the story, but I think we can fix it.

I'm over time now. Is there anybody who is going to get the hook or can I answer one more? Which is it, Lou? Got the hook? (No audible response.)

Yeah, just one more, if I could, real quick.

Yes, sir.

Q Senator McCain, you touched briefly upon the murder of Rafik Hariri by the Syrian regime, and these are acts of terrorism. And I want to know if you would be willing to hold leaders such as Bashar al-Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad responsible directly for the actions of their regimes and call them what they are -- terrorists, not legitimate heads of state? (Applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: I do that on a very regular basis. By the way, I visited Beirut and saw the massive hole in the ground that was there as the result of the assassination of the former prime minister of Lebanon, and I visited the shrine commemorating his death.

As you know, Lebanon is very Byzantine in its politics, as General Aoun now is not being helpful to say the least, and there are significant problems. But there's not doubt that Bashar Assad, the former London optometrist, is now playing a very dangerous role. He is much closer to terrorist organizations than his father was. I think he is less intelligent than his father was, and I think this is an incredibly dangerous situation.

And one of the things that bothers me, my dear friend, is that every week 60 to 80 young men land at an airport at the Damascus Airport and are transported into Iraq to become suicide bombers. Iraqis generally are not suicide bombers; generally these 60 to 80, a lot of them, are Saudis.

That's an unacceptable situation, just as it is unacceptable for the most lethal explosive devices coming and the trainers coming across the Iranian-Iraq border and killing brave young Americans. These people are going to be held accountable, and I will do everything in my power to make sure that they are accountable.

Now, may I finally end my remarks the way I began? Everybody in this room had something else to do today that probably would have been personally more rewarding or maybe in other ways more rewarding. Your involvement in this organization is vital to the future of this nation.

There's a lot of intelligence in this room, and there's a lot of success. There's a lot of dedication. And I'm humbled and honored to be in the company of people who care about serving a cause greater than themselves. That's what America's all about, and you are the best of America. Thank you, and God bless. (Applause.)


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