McCain Backs Kerry on National Security

AP/WaPo: McCain Backs Kerry on National Security

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Thursday he did not believe Democratic candidate John Kerry, a friend and Senate colleague, was weak on defense or would compromise national security if elected president.

“This kind of rhetoric, I think, is not helpful in educating and helping the American people make a choice,” McCain said on “The Early Show” on CBS. “You know, it’s the most bitter and partisan campaign that I’ve ever observed. I think it’s because both parties are going to their bases rather than going to the middle. I regret it.”

Republicans, including President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, have sharply criticized Kerry on a range of defense and security issues, including not supporting the war in Iraq, voting against a measure to provide the war effort $87 billion, and voting against weapons systems critical to waging war.

“The senator from Massachusetts has given us ample doubts about his judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security,” Cheney said in a speech Wednesday.

Asked on NBC’s “Today” if he thought Kerry was weak on defense, McCain said: “No, I do not believe that he is, quote, weak on defense. He’s responsible for his voting record, as we are all responsible for our records, and he’ll have to explain it. But, no, I do not believe that he is necessarily weak on defense. I don’t agree with him on some issues, clearly. But I decry this negativism that’s going on on both sides. The American people don’t need it.”


McCain and Kerry, both decorated Navy veterans of the Vietnam War, have worked together on veterans issues in the Senate. Although McCain said last week he would consider an offer from Kerry to be his running mate, McCain’s office later issued a statement saying he would not run with Kerry.

“I don’t want to be vice president of the United States. I do not want to leave the Republican Party. I would not be vice president of the United States on either ticket,” McCain told CBS on Thursday.

McCain will seemingly do anything for media attention. Frankly, nothing in Cheney’s statement is either untrue or even broaching the level of rhetoric I’ve seen in every single presidential campaign of the last 20-odd years. Saying that a guy who’s voted against virtually every major weapons system, voted against the first Gulf War, and so forth is “weak on defense” is a perfectly reasonable campaign posture. Broad strokes are the nature of political campaigning and, indeed, salesmanship of every kind. And certainly this is much less vitriolic than dozens upon dozens of things Kerry has said about the president over the past several months.

FILED UNDER: 2004 Election, , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Boyd says:

    Sen. McCain needs to take an anger management class. He’s still upset about getting beaten out by President Bush four years ago.

    Get over it, John. Let it go.

  2. pennywit says:

    It wouldn’t hurt to pay attention to the message he’s sending underneath the bit “McCain defends Kerry” headline, though. McCain’s making it very clear that he doesn’t think Kerry & Bush are helping anybody by flailing away at each other over trivia.