Sen. McCain Shines at Debate in New Hampshire

6 09 2007

Okay. I am not that big of a McCain fan, but he really did impress me last night for a number of reasons. Here are my reasons.

Reason 1. Putting Giuliani in his place on national security.

MR. GOLER: Senator McCain, Mayor Giuliani says his leadership after the 9/11 attacks shows he is the best candidate for national security, and you say nothing he has done shows any real experience in foreign policy or national security affairs. Tell me why, sir.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I say that Mayor Giuliani did a great job as mayor of New York City and led the country and inspired us after the tragedy of 9/11, and I admire that and appreciate it.

I’ve spent my life on national security issues. I’ve taken unpopular stands because I knew what was right. Back in 2003, amid criticism from my fellow Republicans, I spoke strongly against the then-Rumsfeld strategy which I knew was doomed to failure and caused so much needless sacrifice. I advocated very strongly the new strategy that some Democrats have called the McCain strategy — (chuckles) — which it is not, and I believe that the strategy is winning. I know the conflict. I know war. I have seen war. I know how the military works. I know how the government works. I understand national security.

I have led. I had — I was once the commanding officer of the largest squadron in the United States Navy. I didn’t manage it; I led it. (Applause.)

Reason 2. Not afraid to talk sensibly on immigration.

MR. HUME: Senator McCain, the same question to you. How do you not call the circumstances the officer described as an amnesty?

SEN. MCCAIN: Well because amnesty according to the dictionary is forgiveness. The proposal that we had would require fines, would require back of the line, would require deportation for some, it would require others to go back to the country of their origin; it would require an enormous amount before anyone as long as 13 years could even be eligible for citizenship in this country.

There’s 12 million people who are here illegally. We were trying to find a way to identify, track, deport those necessary, and those who have been here for some 40 or 50 years then give them, after everybody else who’s come here legally, a place in line behind everybody else. It was a comprehensive proposal.

I was in Baghdad over the 4th of July, and I was present at a ceremony where 688 brave young Americans re-enlisted. A hundred and twenty-eight brave young Americans who were green card holders were given citizenship in this country.

Two of them that were supposed to be there had sacrificed their lives prior to that.

Reason 3. Putting Rep. Tancredo and others in their place on Torture.

MR. GOLER: Senator McCain, what do you think about what Congressman Tancredo just said? And more broadly, do you feel President Bush may have overreached his constitutional authority in some actions after the 9/11 attacks, sir?

SEN. MCCAIN: I have a very dear and beloved friend whose name is General Jack Vessey, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Reagan. He served in four wars, and he’s one of the great leaders I’ve ever known.

I called him, and I said, “General Vessey, do you think we ought to ever torture anybody?”

General Vessey said any information that we may gain through the use of torture can never, ever be counterbalanced by the damage it does to America’s reputation and the risk — (cheers, applause) — and the risk that when an American is in the hands of an enemy, that they will use the fact that we tortured people as an excuse to torture our brave men and women in the military.

I’m not prepared to expose them to that.

MR. : They don’t need an excuse.

SEN. MCCAIN: And it was interesting, during the debate on torture, the retired military, from Colin Powell on down and others, sided with me. Those who had no military experience took the other side.
New York Times Transcript of Sept 5, 2007 GOP Presidential Debates in New Hampshire

I still don’t agree with the notion that the surge is working, as McCain repeatedly emphasized last night, or with his generally hawkish stance on Iran. But other than that he certainly seemed like a bona fide varsity candidate, among JV second stringers.

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