John McCain Conference Call
Senator John McCain held another conference call with bloggers to discuss the ethics bill before the Congress, which he terms “a sham and a joke,” and the need to persevere in Iraq.
I was able to get in a question about both topics. With respect to the first, I inquired as to why the Republicans didn’t fix the problem when we had the majority and whether criticizing half measures when none were taken at all when we had the opportunity was credible. He agreed with the premise but says that it’s “why we lost the 2006 election” and that he “hoped we had learned our lesson.” He notes, correctly, that he stood along with several Republican Senators, including Tom Coburn and Lindsey Graham, on this issue for quite some time.
On the second issue, I repeated a version of my question from the previous call: What signs are there that we’re making progress on the political-diplomatic front, especially getting the Maliki government to work toward reconciliation.
He agreed that this has been frustrating but does now see some signs of hope. The governments of Saudi Arabia, Syria, Egypt are finally getting involved, for a variety of reasons, notably fear of an Iranian-Shiite dominated state and a refugee problem. Further, he said it would be easier for Maliki to rally his people if they had greater confidence that we’ll be around for the long haul, given that they surely would.
I agreed but followed up asking how to get that message across when it seemed obvious to me that we in fact don’t have the political support to stay around for much longer.
He sees some signs that the progress being made in the Surge is getting reported and picked up by the American people. Further, he thinks General Petraeus is “quite a presence” and that he may make the difference when he testifies on progress in September. McCain fully expects that the situation on the ground will be “not much different” in that short a time but that he will be able to point to signs that we’re making progress and need “months — plural” to get the job done.
Further, he “doesn’t think, he knows” that there will be “catastrophic consequences” if we withdraw and that this must be impressed on the Democrats and the American people.
I followed up, again, asking whether he had any confidence that the majority in Congress actually cared given the politics of the matter. He hopes, having been in the service when America last lost a war, that his colleagues will ultimately put partisanship aside and do what’s right. He notes that parties don’t lose wars, countries do.
Once again, his confidence in his ability to sway overwhelming public opinion at this point is much greater than mine.