John McCain Conference Call
He gave a brief statement on why he feels strongly that the Iraq Withdrawal Resolution passed yesterday was dangerous. He contends that the Surge is showing signs of working and that withdrawal would have “catastrophic consequences” for the country. He says “any second year cadet at West Point” knows that you don’t give the enemy a deadline. Further, unlike Vietnam, he believes the enemy will “follow us home” if we lose. That enemy, obviously, is al Qaeda, not the sectarian insurgents.
The first several questioners asked about how this could be handled politically. He believes that the Congressional Democrats want to “satisfy MoveOn.org” but that they don’t really want to cut off funding for the troops in harm’s way, which would happen if the supplemental isn’t passed by April 15. He thinks a version minus the deadline and non-war-related pork can be passed if the president vetoes this bill and takes his case to the American people.
Eventually, talk turned to the 2008 race. I asked him why he thinks the Republican base is still looking for a “real conservative” and why he thinks he’s trailing Rudy Giuliani, who is much more liberal on key issues than he is. He joked that “Life’s not fair” but he also feels he’s been beat up over the years because he’s been out there on the front lines while Giuliani is still on his 9/11 hero honeymoon. He thinks the campaign can change that. He noted that he’s falling behind on his fundraising goals and needs to overcome his reluctance to ask people for money.
Overall, McCain seemed very chipper and actually extended the call a couple of times when the facilitator, Patrick Hynes, was trying to get him off to other appointments. He clearly enjoys bandying with people, including many who opposed him. Indeed, this is the first conference call with a major politician I’ve been on where people from the other party were invited to participate. He’s got a weird sense of humor, calling some people “jerks” and the like, but he made a good impression on the group, I think.
I’ll add links to roundups by other participants as they come out.
UPDATE: As promised:
UPDATE: McCain has launched an online petititon:
- The supplemental appropriations bill that passed the Senate on March 27, calling for a date certain withdrawal from Iraq, is nothing more than a guaranteed date of surrender.
- It is a refusal to acknowledge the dire consequences of failure, in terms of the stability in the Middle East and the resulting impact on the security of all Americans, whether home or abroad.
- Democrats have chosen the politically expedient position of failure rather than putting aside the small politics of the day in the interest of our nation and the values upon which this nation rests.
- We the undersigned remain steadfast in our support for the war against terrorism and mindful of the consequences of failure in Iraq, even if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid refuse to acknowledge those consequences.
- We support our troops and the new strategy and believe it should be given the opportunity to succeed. American national security interests are directly at stake. Success or failure in Iraq is the transcendent issue for our foreign policy and our national security. People say they want to defeat the terrorists, but if we withdraw from Iraq prematurely, it will be the terrorists’ greatest triumph.
- If we leave Iraq based on an artificial timetable, al Qaeda will be free to plan, train for and conduct operations from Iraq just as they did in Afghanistan before 9/11.
I could do without some of the partisan grandstanding in the rhetoric but think it’s largely right. Indeed, if we’re going to give up in Iraq, it makes no sense to drag it out 18 months.
There’s an accompanying video entitled “Consequences of Surrender.”
Readers can judge for themselves whether Iraq is already a “center of terrorism.”