Sen. McCain responds to Obama's ISIS strategy

Lawmaker provides insight into the fight against ISIS


This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," September 10, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And joining me now from Capitol Hill with more reaction to President Obama's address is Arizona senator John McCain. Senator, welcome back.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thank you, Sean.

HANNITY: Thirteen days ago, Senator, the president said he had no strategy. We're now back to degrade and destroy. It's not manageable.  It's only a nine-nation coalition as of right now. Which Obama in reality can we expect, considering it's been rather incoherent up to this point?

MCCAIN: Well, you know, in the White House, they take polls every day. And you and I have seen the polls, public polls, that the American people heartily disapprove of a lack of American leadership and are growing more and more aware of the threat of ISIS, which, by the way, on Twitter and Facebook, they are urging people to come across our border and attack the United States of America.

So when they say there's no, quote, "credible threat," maybe there's not a credible threat, but I think it's credible that they are committed to attacking the United States of America.

Look, the president of the United States, when he didn't leave a withdraw -- force behind led to all of this. And when he overruled his entire national security team, including his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, who said we ought to arm and train these Free Syrian Army people - - now the task is going to be extremely difficult.

HANNITY: Let me -- let me ask you, Senator -- I think we've got to learn how we got to this position before we can go forward, and we've got to identify the enemy, which I'll get to in a second. Now, the president sort of in the beginning of the speech gave a defense of his strategy in Iraq up to this point, and even going as far as saying that he's had all this success, al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, et cetera, and we did so while bringing home 140,000 troops, he made the point of saying.

At the time, he said Iraq was sovereign, stable, self-reliant, they had a representative government and the tide of war was receding. Let me put up on the map for our viewers -- in the interim, since he announced that, all of those cities right there have fallen into the hands of ISIS.  And I ask you, if the president had kept his four-point strategy in place, which George Bush recommended, would we even be in the position where all those cities that Americans fought and died for were gone?

MCCAIN: By the way, additionally, he said America is safer. I don't know any human being that agrees with that. Look, we -- I know for a fact, because Lindsay Graham and I were in Baghdad, that the Iraqis were prepared to have a residual force left behind. The -- also, the fact hat's important here, thanks to General David Petraeus, Ryan Crocker and brave Americans who sacrificed, we had that conflict won. But we needed to leave a stabilizing force behind, and we didn't. And of course, we know the rest is history.

Now we face this ISIS, which is larger than the state of Indiana. And by the way, he compares ISIS to Yemen and Somalia. There's no comparison, Sean, between those -- the comparable -- comparability between the threats there. And the president of the United States is now forced to listen to what, frankly, Lindsay Graham and I have been arguing for for years.

HANNITY: Senator...

MCCAIN: The question is, will there be half measures or not.

HANNITY: I supported the surge. And I believe, in one sense, it was becoming a sovereign, self-reliant state.

But looking -- I want to put up the map as I ask this next question.  The president laid out a four-point plan that includes air strikes, training and intelligence for troops on the ground -- in other words, Iraqi troops -- counterterrorism measures and humanitarian aid.

As you look at all of those cities -- we know many of their names, Syria and Iraq -- we now know that ISIS controls a land mass about the size of Belgium. Would those cities have fallen if the president had done what George Bush suggested that we do, and that's stay there and provide this four-point plan basically from the beginning?

MCCAIN: Oh, I'm convinced that if we'd have left -- because we had it won, thanks to the brilliant General David Petraeus and brave young Americans -- and remember, there was a great sacrifice of American lives at the beginning of the surge. I mean, it was terrible. We had this thing under control. And all we had to do was leave that residual force behind.

Now they're going to say to you that we couldn't do that. Well, Lindsay Graham and I were in Baghdad when they all agreed that we should.  Do you know of any public statement the president made at the time or since that he wanted to leave any troops behind? You will not find that because he didn't. In fact, he bragged about the fact that everybody was out. And so it created a vacuum. Maliki obviously alienated the Sunni, and the rest of the story you know.

HANNITY: Last question, Senator. Do you have the confidence that the president with his strategy has the ability and willingness to pull this through, or do you believe maybe poll numbers are driving the president's speech tonight?

MCCAIN: I'm very worried about half measures. I want to -- to -- we can't -- the status quo is unacceptable. So all I know is that although I'm very, very skeptical, I'm willing to give it a try because the situation today is -- look, they're going to -- they're going to attack the United States of America. You know Mr. Baghdadi, their leader, when he left Camp Bucca, our prison in Iraq, said, See you in New York. Remember?

HANNITY: See you in New York, and we'll raise the flag of Islam in your White House, Senator. And we did have two Americans beheaded. Thank you, Senator. Appreciate your time tonight.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Sean.

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