Highlights from the McCain Campaign’s Conference Call:
Headline one: McCain says he has been told General Petraeus will be testifying before the Senate on September 11. (!?)
Headline two: McCain is going to launch the “No Surrender Tour” in the near future, featuring veterans, medal of honor winners, and those who have served in Iraq. The schedule should be set by Labor Day, and they’ll be blogging from the bus.
McCain was in Kansas City headed to speak Veterans of Foreign Wars.
McCain said he had been holding town hall meetings that are “going extremely well… crowded… Also in Beaufort couple other places. Health care seems to be on people’s minds as much any other domestic issue, and of course, as we would expect, Iraq dominates.”
“We all know we’re going to hear the report in September. I believe Democrats are going to propose a date for withdrawal. We’re going to get together a lot of our veterans, medal of honor winners, those who have served in Iraq, and we’re going to launch the “No Surrender Tour.” We’re going to try to build up support for this strategy, the anti-war people have been very active, so we’re going to try to organize not just for men and women serving, but the strategy. Believe me, I understand the frustration, sorrow, and sacrifices made… I would remind you I was one of the greatest critics of Rumsfeld and the previous failed strategy. This strategy will succeed.”
Jen Rubin: Democratic friends closed minds?
McCain: “I think that they’ve lost sight of the fact that presidents don’t lose wars, but nations lose wars. McCain Cites congressman south Carolina who has said that success in the war would cause them problems (Clyburn),Reid declared the war was lost… If we lost, then you want to know who won? Al-Qaeda, that’s who. Chuck Schumer has said, ‘we will pick up seats in the senate as a result of this war.’”
“I may be digging for the pony but I think we are seeing a shift in American public opinion. The successes on the ground are filtering through some parts of the media to the public, at least to some degree. If they’ve already declared the war is lost, I think they’re unlikely to allow the strategy to continue.”
In response to a question from Matt Lewis, McCain says he has not requested an outside audit of his campaign…
Joyner asks about political progress between the factions in Iraq…
McCain: “I can’t say I’m optimistic but I think there’s some potential for progress… I keep believing that Maliki and the others are staring at the abyss. Hopefully they’re going to make some progress… there’s also the option – and I note we don’t need to tell them to what to do, it’s hypocritical to say they’re independent and then tell them to do A, B, and C… You could have a vote of no confidence. But then the question is who takes their place? There is no Kemal Ataturk [founder of modern Turkey] waiting around over there…”
“I’m greatly encouraged by military progress… Without that, you don’t have any chance for progress on any other front.”
N.Z. Bear – Iran? Bonus points if you answer in the form of a song.
McCain: “Heh. Maybe I’ll make another selection from my collection of Beach Boys hits…
I’d like to get together with other like-minded countries. Every time we’ve tried to act at the U.N., we’re blocked by China and Russia. The latest information is that the Iranians continue to up the ante. If we can get some cooperation, and now we have [German Chancellor] Merkel and [French President] Sarkozy, we might be able to get meaningful diplomatic and trade sanctions. That option has never been truly exhausted. That could inflict significant economic harm. The Iranian economy is weak…”
Goldfarb: Lieberman op-ed, try to keep European flights from Damascus airport?
McCain: “One of my great and enduring heroes is George Schultz. And he told me once something he had learned in the military, ‘Never point a gun at anybody unless you intend to shoot.’ Syrians continue to not only be transit point for suicide bombers but they’re also supplying Hezbollah, making mischief all over Lebanon… Not sure I would bomb the airport, but I would make it clear to the Syrians. Go back to the Security Council first. There have to be some kind of consequences. Start to enforce existing sanctions and existing investigations against Syria, including involvement in assassination of Prime Minister of Lebanon, Hariri.”
Question from me, kind of a follow up to Jennifers, I don’t know if you saw the Democratic debate, but the Democratic candidates are pretty much all competing to see who can propose the fastest withdrawal. Bill Richardson is practically promising to get all the troops out in half an hour. We know that’s being driven by the furious passions of their base. How do you get enough Democratic lawmakers to defy their base, on what is clearly their make-or-break issue?
McCain: “Our first goal is to shore up our shaky Republicans. They’ll never get to sixty votes if we can shore up our shaky Republicans. Second of all, we’ve got to have demonstrations of support around the country. MoveOn.org, Ms Sheehan have been very visible on the public scene as anti-war activists. We need to crank up support. We need to make clear the consequences of failure, make sure the public understands this is part of our struggle against Islamic extremism, that if we leave, Iraq will become a base for al-Qaeda and they will follow us home.”
“The calendar I’ve been told is that Petraues testify 11th . We’re off September 13 and 14 for Rosh Hoshannah. The Senate debate will begin September 18th.”
“I was in Woffboro, New Hampshire and a woman, the mother of Matthew Stanley, who was killed in Baghdad in December, asked me to make sure her son’s death not in vain. She gave me a bracelet with her son’s name, and I’m wearing that bracelet today. We’ve got to make sure the American people understand the consequences of failure.”
“If we hold on to our shaky Republicans… Even if they get 60 votes, it will not be enough because the President will veto it. But the way it will be portrayed will be as a serious setback for the war effort, and the Democrats will put that resolution on every bill that goes to president’s desk.”