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Senator John McCain On The President’s “Delusional” ISIS Strategy, 2016, And The Filibuster

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Senator John McCain joined me on today’s show:




HH: So pleased to welcome to the second hour of the Hugh Hewitt Show United States Senator John McCain. Senator, it’s always good to have you, welcome back. I hope you had a great 4th of July.

JM: Well, I did, Hugh, thank you. I was over in Afghanistan. I go over just every 4th of July and spend it with the troops. And I can tell you that at least at that level, you are always inspired by the quality and dedication and the tough life that these men and women who are serving over there have. And I just watched the President in his press conference, and my deep sorrow is that they are not well led.

HH: I’m going to bring up some of the clips from that. I want to first of all thank you for doing that. One of the reasons I’ve endorsed John McCain in his reelection in Arizona is he hasn’t forgotten the troops, and he hasn’t forgotten what they need. And Senator McCain, you are running for reelection. I’m wondering, have you endorsed your buddy, Lindsey Graham’s presidential bid, yet?

JM: Yes, I have. I’m going all out for him. And by the way, he served 33 years in the Air Force. That’s the great news. The bad news is he was a lawyer, but we get over that.

HH: Yeah, I know. I’m one of those, too. Now as between your other two colleagues, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, if you were voting in the Democratic primary, which one would you vote for?

JM: I think it would be a tough call. I hadn’t even thought about that. I think maybe it would be one of those occasions where I wouldn’t vote.

HH: Now is there much of a difference between their policies?

JM: Oh, I think he’s driving her to the left. And I think that’s pretty obvious. But since you can now rope off reporters and never have to answer any questions, why not? What the hell? I mean, if you can get away with it, nobody seems to mind in the media.

HH: Oh, she’s acting…

JM: And my friend, there’s a lot of reasons why I didn’t run a good campaign in 2008, but I guarantee you, if I had roped off reporters, you think I had negative coverage anyway?

HH: She’s acting…

JM: Nobody should be able to get away with that. Anyway…

HH: She’s acting like a queen, and that’s the name of my new book. Let me ask you about, before we get to the…

JM: …which is an excellent book.

HH: Thank you, Senator. Before we get, I got Trump to endorse it as well. What did you make of Donald Trump today tweeting out and then erasing that Jeb Bush supported illegal Mexicans because of the ethnicity of his wife?

JM: Oh, I don’t think you ought to do that kind of thing, Hugh. You know that. You’ve got to have a level of, if there’s disagreement, I think that those disagreements should be on a policy level. And we don’t want to get into personality and who married who or anything like that. You just don’t want to do that. It’s not, we’re going to have a pretty tough primary, and it should be a tough primary. And I just hope it doesn’t wound whoever our nominee is to the degree that we’re going to have a lot of ground to make up while the coronation takes place in the Democrat Party.

HH: Yeah, one of the issues that divides our 16 candidates on substantive grounds is whether or not they would use the Harry Reid rule to break the Senate filibuster in order to repeal Obamacare if necessary. Interestingly enough, Politico reports today I’m in favor of one side or the other. I’m not. They got that wrong. But you’re not surprised by wrongful press coverage. I just, I’m curious, what do you think of the merits of that? If you had to use the Reid Rule to break the filibuster in order to repeal Obamacare, would you do it?

JM: I don’t think so, because I believe that the thing that makes the Senate unique is the 60 vote rule. And I would hate to see, I just saw what Harry Reid was able to do when he changed the rules to 51 votes and they had a flood of judicial appointments that never would have passed the United States Senate if we’d had the 60 vote rule. So what I guess I’m saying is what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. I don’t think Republicans would violate the fundamentals if we had 51 votes, but I fear that a Senate with a Democrat majority, you would see a lot of very bad things go on. So I think we ought to consider not only what the Republicans could do with a 51 vote Senate, but what the Democrats just showed what they did, what they could do with a flood of, the damage, you know, as we all know, these are lifetime appointments. Could I, Hugh, just for a second, just go back to the President’s statement that he just made?

HH: Oh, you bet.

JM: First of all, why can’t the President, why does he call it violent extremism and not call it what it is. It’s violent Islamic extremism. It’s not violent Buddhist extremism. It’s violent Islamic extremists. So he won’t even recognize that, or in his comments, exactly what it is. Second of all, how many, four years ago, he said he wanted Bashar Assad transitioned from power. There is nothing in what the President said that’s going to change the status quo. And the status quo is ISIS is winning. And don’t ask, don’t say, it’s one thing for me to say it, but the man or woman in the street in any Middle Eastern country believes that ISIS is winning. And I think you could probably make the case that they are correct in that assumption, my friend.

HH: Let me play for you a couple of clips, Senator McCain, from the President at the Pentagon.

JM: Yeah.

HH: Just moments ago, cut number three, this is where he’s talking about the difficulty of targeting.

BO: I think it’s important for us to recognize the threat of violent extremism is not restricted to any one community. Here in the United States, we’ve seen all kinds of homegrown terrorism. And tragically, recent history reminds us how even a single individual motivated by a hateful ideology with access to dangerous weapons can inflict horrendous harm on Americans. So our efforts to counter violent extremism must not target any one community because of their faith or background, including patriotic Muslim Americans who are partners in keeping our country safe.

HH: Senator McCain, you join me in condemning domestic terrorists and racists. We’ve had one of those. He murdered nine innocent people. Lindsey Graham was on the show speaking eloquently about that last week. But what is the President, is he out of his mind? They are killing by the thousands of people in Iraq and Syria, and soon Libya and Jordan.

JM: You know, I don’t like to analyze people’s psychology, but the fact is the President came to the presidency to get us out of conflict no matter what. He didn’t, what he didn’t understand is that just because we leave does not only mean that the conflict doesn’t end, but it escalates. The classic example, of course, is leaving Iraq without a residual force after the sacrifice of thousands of young Americans. We had it won. It was won. And he pulled everybody out, and unfortunately, Lindsey and I predicted, and Joe Lieberman predicted exactly what was going to happen. I mean, the classic example is delusion. He said there have been five thousand sortees. Did you hear that quote?

HH: Yes, I did. Yeah.

JM: Do you know what percentage of them returns without dropping a weapon?

HH: No, I don’t.

JM: 75%.

HH: Wow.

JM: Okay, so…

HH: So there have been, really, 1,250 bomb dropping sortees.

JM: Yeah, yeah.

HH: Wow.

JM: And I guess the other sortees are to damage people’s hearing. I don’t know else that flying over them…and the fact that he pointed out that we have succeeded in regaining some territory? They still control the second-largest city in Iraq.

HH: Well, here’s what he said, Senator. Let me play for you his rebuke to you, cut number four.

BO: Ideologies are not defeated with guns. They’re defeated by other ideas, a more attractive and compelling vision. So the United States will continue to do our part by working with partners to counter ISIL’s hateful propaganda, especially online. We’ll constantly reaffirm through words and deeds that we will never be at war with Islam. We’re fighting terrorists who distort Islam and whose victims are mostly Muslims.

HH: Don’t you, you know, I’m thinking of the Korean War and the Vietnam War in which you were a prisoner of war, Senator, and I’m thinking about Stalin and Hitler. And it would have been news to them that ideologies can’t be defeated by guns.

JM: And again, the delusion here that somehow this is just simply something that we can win by having nice programs and have Islamic clerics condemn them, and all that would be good, but first, you have to defeat them on the battlefield. Then all the rest of that follows. I mean, there’s no doubt there’s ideological struggle here. There’s no doubt there’s an economic problem in those places in a world where they have gigantic youth unemployment. All of those things are correct. But as, I guess it was Bismarck, the issue will be decided by blood and steel.

HH: Yeah, you used the word delusion. That’s a strong word, Senator. You standing by that word, delusion?

JM: Here’s the delusion. The delusion is going on right now in these negotiations with Iran, that somehow they will consummate a nuclear deal, no matter how back, with Iran. And Iran will now be our partner. You know, in, we are now training young men outside Syria to go back into Syria and fight against ISIS, and not protect them against Bashar Assad’s barrel bombing, this atrocious weapon that slaughters men, women and children. They are having to take an oath that only they will fight against ISIS and not against the guy that’s killed 230,000 of their countrymen and women? I mean, that’s what I call delusion. What do you call it, Hugh?

HH: I agree with you, Senator McCain. Come back early and often, and good luck in the reelection campaign. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you, John McCain.

End of interview.


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