March 28, 2007

John McCain: Still Reliable on Iraq

I just got off the phone a little while ago from a conference call with Senator John McCain, who is extremely concerned about the Senate's passing an appropriations bill that includes a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq—not to mention an obscene amount of pork.

One of McCain's goals in gathering a crew of bloggers to talk to on the phone was to get the word out about 1) the damage this bill [and its companion in the House] is doing to the war effort, and 2) the consequences of failure, should we miss the chance to get democracy on a firm footing in Iraq.

He also wants us to keep encouraging the troops, to whom the House and Senate bills must be a tremendous slap in the face.

"In Vietnam, we lost—and that was the end of it," he told us. "In Iraq, if we lose they will follow us home. Failure would be catastrophic."

Senator McCain makes the point that we need the funding for the troops in Iraq by April 15th, so the Democrats are playing political games with this issue pretty late in the day. And, of course, he reminds us that the Constitutional role of legislators is to fund or de-fund: not to set conditions on how or when the money is used to conduct a war.

He quoted General John William Vessey, Jr: "The system is driving policy, rather than policy driving the system." This, of course, is one of his big worries. Remarks McCain: "I've got to tell the American people what's at stake." He warns us that ultimately the war on terrror will be won or lost in public opinion. And all of us participating knew that the mainstream media is not interested in good news about Iraq.

McCain does feel that overall Bush could be doing a better job of reaching out to the American people (but then, who doesn't think this?). He recommends weekly or biweekly updates in which the President uses maps to track our progress and identify problem areas. After all, McCain points out that the surge has given us dramatic progress. He told us that he expected good things from Bush's address today, but regular, detailed reports would be very helpful—even if they were only carried on C-SPAN. (I found this detail interesting in terms of the information dissemination we might anticipate should McCain make it to the White House in 2009.)

The Senator remarked that Bush should read the list of pork projects in the Emergency Supplemental when he vetoes the bill. (Sure enough, the President remarked on some of the more, um interesting provisions included in it when he gave his address this morning.)

Some of the progress the Senator would like us to keep in mind includes the fact that Sheikhs in Anbar province are now allying themselves with us, and encouraging their followers to joing the army and police forces. Also, Malaki's de-Baathification program is about to be implemented.

We spoke briefly about the situation in Iran, which of course is growing more intense every day, with the taking of hostages. He regards these, of course, as "a wake-up call" that should show us how the Iranians might handle nuclear weapons. "This kind of behavior," he tells us, "is a serious, serious challenge."

He underscored the Iranians' age-old ambition for "hegemony in the Middle East," but reminded us that we still have "the best military in the world," while emphasizing that military action is the always the last option.

Ryan Sager of the New York Sun asked if McCain-Feingold should be updated (expanded, really) to meet the conditions of the digital age. The senator's answer: no. Online dialogue is a "marvelous change" that is drawing more young Americans into the political process, he told us. (I read that as a signal that his free-speech-suprression days may be over, which would be nice. Now to repeal the original bill . . .)

The 2008 Election was the big elephant, of course, in this virtual room full of little elephants (mostly) peppering the Senator with questions. When he was asked about Fred Thompson, McCain laughed and said he thought it would be natural that Thompson should have high approval ratings: "after all, he's already been President three or four times, hasn't he?"

Regarding his own campaign, he identified his campaign's biggest weakness as being in the fundraising arena. "My own fault," he told us. "I don't like asking for money, and I've got to get over that." Overall, though, he's "happy" with his how his campaign is coming along.

Participants included Philip Klein of The American Spectator blog; Kim Priestap of Wizbang; Ryan Sager of the New York Sun; Erick Erickson of Red State; Robert Bluey of Bluey Blog; Fausta Wertz of Fausta's Blog; and James Joyner of Outside the Beltway.

Special thanks to Patrick Hynes of New Media Strategics (and, of course, Ankle-Biting Pundits) for facilitating the discussion, which I think helped a lot to bridge the perceived gap between Senator McCain and some elements in the blogosphere.

Posted by Attila Girl at March 28, 2007 07:23 AM | TrackBack

I don't suppose that any of you pointed out the irony that the FEC's interpretation of McCain-Feingold came within a hairs-breadth of regulating internet free speech, which would have made his conversation with you all subject to various reporting requirements, if it were permissible at all.

Something I've noticed about McCain (being a little closer to his modus operandi as a constituent) is that he makes various gestures and sounds toward being a true-blue conservative as election time approaches, and then goes his own MSM-pleasing way afterwards. There was some organization he created and touted--something like "Citizens Against Government Waste"--prior to his last senate election, making him sound like a Reaganesque spending cutter.

Haven't heard a daygum thing about it since.

McCain would doubtless be a good asset in the fight against terrorism, and his record on the second amendment is very good. It's his thrashing of the first that I just can't get past. That and the uneasy sense I get about his statism in general.

Posted by: Desert Cat at March 29, 2007 10:59 AM

A correction: CAGW was created back in the early 1980's--part of the Reagan legacy. McCain has recently been touting the organization again.

Posted by: Desert Cat at March 29, 2007 12:54 PM

Fascinating encounter, but I still don't trust the man. BCRA was never about keeping money out of politics and always about keeping incumbents like McCain himself in office. It never helped, of course, that the media fawns over this faux Republican.

Posted by: Sissy Willis at March 30, 2007 03:27 AM

Yes. But keep in mind that until/unless Thompson enters the race, Giuliani was my top choice, because of the charisma factor and because I feel he would prosecute the WaT vigorously.

Talking with McCain reminded me that he's not necessarily any WORSE of a statist than Rudy is, and I find that I dislike him less after this encounter. Couldn't help it; just being honest.

I'd certainly prefer that we find someone who can stand up TO the Islamists, and FOR the Bill of Rights at the same time. So, of course, I'm still shopping around.

Posted by: Attila Girl at March 30, 2007 10:20 AM

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