TIM RUSSERT: Senator, welcome. I want to raise first The Economist magazine, this is The Economist’s intelligence unit. They say this: “Unless their mission is very well-defined, 20,000 troops are probably too few to make a significant difference - and may be too few under any circumstances. ... Adding around 20,000 to the 132,000 currently there will increase U.S. capabilities, but not enough to stabilize the country.” You agree with that?
SEN. McCAIN: I am concerned about it, whether it is sufficient numbers or not. I would have like to have seen more. I looked General Petraeus in the eye and said, “Is that sufficient for you to do the job?” He assured me that he thought it was and that he had been told that if he needed more he would receive them. I have great confidence in General Petraeus. I think he’s one of the finest generals that our military’s ever produced, and he has a proven record on that. He wrote the new Army counterinsurgency manual. But do I believe that if it had been up to me would there have been more? Yes, but one of the keys to this is get them over there quickly rather than feed them in piecemeal as some in the Pentagon would like to do today.
As has been frequently noted, this is the exact number McCain lobbied for most of the last year to be added. That is, until it looked like McCain was going to get what he wanted. Only then did McCain move the goalposts for his own political agenda.
MR. RUSSERT: You are a veteran of Vietnam, and you understand when public opinion slips away from support of a war. Here’s the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll out this morning. And we asked, if Congress passes a resolution against the president’s position on more troops, should President Bush proceed? Yes, 30; no, 65 percent. Two out of three Americans, senator. And look at this breakdown by party. Democrats, 85 percent say no. Independents, voters you know well, 71 percent say no, do not proceed. And now 33 percent, one third of Republicans, say listen to Congress more than the president. Why should the American people, after they voted the midterm elections and have a Congress that says no to the president, why shouldn’t they be listened to?
SEN. McCAIN: Well, I understand their frustration and sometimes anger over the lack of success and lack of progress, particularly coupled with optimistic statements made time after time when things were not going well and deteriorating. At the time of the first Gulf War, only 15 percent of the American people thought we ought to go to Kuwait and get rid of Saddam Hussein there. If it was as clear-cut as someone described, Tim, Joe Lieberman would not have been re-elected in the state of Connecticut.
That's a nice statistic pulled out of magic pixie dust land. In reality, the exact opposite was true. According to The New York Times, only 15% disapproved of American intervention to oust Saddam Hussein from Kuwait.
MR. RUSSERT: One of the things the American people do remember, September 11th, 2001, the Taliban had harbored al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and then they read this from the Baltimore Sun: “A U.S. Army infantry battalion fighting in a critical area of eastern Afghanistan is due to be withdrawn within weeks in order to deploy to Iraq. According to Army Brigadier General Anthony Tata and other senior U.S. commanders [there], that will happen just as the Taliban is expected to unleash a major campaign to cut the vital road between Kabul and Kandahar.” Should we be moving troops from Afghanistan, at this delicate stage in that war, to Iraq?
SEN. McCAIN: I’m not aware of that, and on its face I would be very concerned. A recent trip that we made to Afghanistan, it’s clear to one and all that the Taliban has been reconstituted, particularly in safe area in Pakistan just across the Afghan border, and there will be increased attacks on U.S. and coalition forces. So, as I say, I’ve—had not seen the report, but I would be concerned about it.
Um, McCain is the ranking member for the GOP on the Armed Services Committee. Certainly this has came across his desk, or perhaps he could have read it in any number of newspapers that ran the story. What the hell does he do all day, sudoku?
Look, either McCain knows this is happening, or he isn't doing his job. He's probably lying.