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Public Statements

CBS "Face The Nation" - Transcript

Interview

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BOB SCHIEFFER: And good morning, again. Senator Feingold is in Madison, Wisconsin, this morning. Senator McCain is here in the studio and we begin this morning with some terrible news from Iraq. A twin car bomb went off in Baghdad this morning, killed at least a hundred and thirty-six people and wounded more than five hundred, at least, at last count. This is the worst bombing in months. The first reports are that this is part of an attempt to reignite the conflict between the warring factions struggling for power in Iraq and, of course, it raises the question now of just how stable Iraq is as U.S. troops continue their withdrawal. We're going to go first this morning to Senator McCain. Thank you for being with us, Senator. Senator, isn't this going to raise doubts in the minds of a lot of people about whether the Iraqis can enforce security in their own country?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-Arizona/Armed Services Committee): I think it's a terrible tragedy. I think it's also significant that they have a ways to go. But I agree with General Odierno that-- that these attacks will continue but they are not sustainable. The majority of the people are opposed to them and the Iraqi military will be able to handle this transition. But it's not going to be without tragedies such as we've seen just--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): Do-- are we going to have to rethink? Do you think, whether or not we can continue to draw down our forces---

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: No.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --there? No.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: No. But there will continue to be outbreaks of this sectarian violence that-- it's-- it's extremists trying to ignite sectarian violence is what's going on but it's-- it's-- it's-- they've still got a ways to go but it's not going to require any delay in withdrawal of U.S. troops.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let's talk about Afghanistan. We're coming down to the point where the Pre--
President is going to have to make a decision on whether to put more American troops into Afghanistan. Our commander there says he needs forty thousand, but he still can't say that will guarantee success. Now Senator Kerry was there last week and he told us here on FACE THE NATION that the President should not make a decision about whether to put more troops in there until Afghanistan has a government and what he meant was until after this runoff that President--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --Karzai has now agreed to. Here's-- here's what he said--

SENATOR JOHN KERRY (October 18): I don't see how President Obama can make a decision about the committing of our additional forces or even the further fulfillment of our mission that's here today without an adequate government in place or knowledge about what that government is going to be.

BOB SCHIEFFER: So do you agree with Senator Kerry? Because that's going to be next month before we have that run-off. Should-- should the President delay this decision until then?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: No, I don't. He certainly should not. We are not operating in a vacuum now. Americans are still-- sixty-eight thousand Americans are there already. Eight young Americans were killed in a firefight. One of the reasons is they didn't have adequate support just recently. You know, one thing, a funny thing about insurgencies, it's usually governments that are not credible that breed insurgencies. We have a lot of work to do on governance. We have a lot of work to do in motivating the Karzai government if he is, indeed-- wins the run-off which it appears that he's going to in eliminating corruption. But the sooner we get the people over there, the sooner-- the decision is made the sooner we get people over there and are able to implement the strategy that will succeed.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you go as far as the former Vice President Cheney did the other day because he said, well, here's what he said.

DICK CHENEY (Wednesday): It's time for President Obama to make good on his promise. The White House must stop dithering while America's armed forces are in danger. Make no mistake, signals of indecision out of Washington hurt our allies and embolden our adversaries, waffling while our troops on the ground face an emboldened enemy endangers them and hurts our cause.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Pretty strong language there.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Mm-Hm. Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you agree that we're endangering our troops and that this is dithering?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I-- I'd-- I don't use-- I wouldn't use that language. The fact is, as I said before, we already have men and women who are in danger there now. The sooner we implement the strategy, the more we will be able to ensure their safety or the-- the best way for them to pursue--

BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): But what did you think of the way that the vice president put it?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, I understand the-- the vice president. I've a great respect for him. Let-- but I think we ought to look forward. And that is to support the President I intend to, when he makes the decision which I believe he will to implement McChrystal's strategy agreed too by Petraeus, Mullen. I believe that Secretary Gates is also supportive or otherwise I don't think the any of the defense ministers of NATO would've endorsed the McChrystal strategy just a couple of days ago. So--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Because they did that at a meeting where Secretary Gates was in attendance.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Yes. And-- and I-- and I'm heartened by that to see that kind of expressions of support. But we will still have to lead and we'll still be doing the bulk of the fighting. But I-- I think the President will make the right decision. I want to support that decision. It's going to be hard and tough. And every day we delay will be a delay in this strategy succeeding. And again, I talk about the vacuum and not being a vacuum. General McChrystal has stated that the situation is deteriorating, so it argues for a rapid decision as possible and move forward. But let's look forward. Let's-- I want to support the President. I want this strategy to work. I know it can work. And I know it will work, if we-- if it's properly resourced but I also just want to briefly add there's a lot of other areas now that we are moving forward, when we move forward for the proper security environment. There's governance. There's the-- some problems within our own civilian side as to how we are going to be partners in implementing this strategy, and lot of other issues that need to be addressed as well. But without security, none of the other aspects of a winning strategy can succeed.

BOB SCHIEFFER: The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the administration may be moving towards some sort of what it called a hybrid strategy which is a-- a combination of sending more troops like General McChrystal wants and-- and not sending more troops but using drones and so forth to fight it kind of from offshore, as Vice President Biden is advocating.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, it maybe a matter of semantics. I don't know. But there has been this ongoing public debate between the so-called--

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: --Biden counterterrorism strategy and the counterinsurgency strategy. I don't know how you make them hybrid. There are elements of counterterrorism in-- in counterinsurgency but fundamentally, counterinsurgency will require the implementation of the strategy that General McChrystal has recommended, in my view. And the counterterrorism strategy, killing people and then returning to base, has been proven to be a-- a very disastrous strategy in Iraq and in other places.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me just go back to Vice President Cheney. He has not at all been reticent about speaking out--

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: --and-- and very quickly. Generally, do you think he is helping or hurting the
Republican Party with his comments?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Well, the vice president of the United States has it very well credentialed. He has a long history of service to the country. He has the right to-- to speak out, in my view, however, he wants to. Having said that, I think we should as much as possible say in our messages we want this strategy and we want to support the President and unite the country behind it. Let's face it. The President, when he makes his decision--and again I believe that he will--will have trouble with the base of his own party.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Mm-Hm.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: And so the more united we can be behind him, I think the more the chances a re of success and American public support.

BOB SCHIEFFER: I-- I don't believe I heard you say whether you thought that was helpful or unhelpful.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I don't know. It- it-- I-- I would leave that to others-- to others to judge really.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about health care quickly.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: It looks like that's coming finally to a head in the Senate. It looks like that the majority leader Harry Reid is going to put the government-run insurance option in there--the so-called public option.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Mm-Hm.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you think at this point that that will pass the Senate?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: I think that the Democrats have the votes. I think that Blue Dogs bark but never bite. So, I don't think they have a problem over in the House side. In the Senate I think that their-- Democrats are very aware that they don't want a repeat of the Clinton failure in 1994. So I think it's likely they will get something through, but it's not clear to me what it is. But let me just tell you what I'm offended by. Candidate Obama said he was going to have the C-SPAN cameras in, the Republicans in, and the American people would be able to watch these negotiations to find out who was on the side of the pharmaceutical companies and those who were on the side of the people. The fact is there's been no change. There's a room with a few Democrats in it and some administration officials and they are writing this entire bill. I don't think the American people like that very much.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Could you support health reform that included a public option?

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Not any-- not any proposal that I have seen. I think that a fundamental difference we have is whether we think government does a good job at administering health care in America or providing health insurance for the American people. I don't think they do.

BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Senator McCain, thank you so much for coming by.

SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (overlapping): Thanks for having me on.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Great to see you.

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