OTR Interviews

McCain: Pres. Obama uses 'dog ate my homework' excuses, was in denial of reality of ISIS, doesn't understand fundamentals of warfare

Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham were warning about the threat of ISIS a year ago

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Did President Obama miss something? Senator John McCain tweeting, "President Obama claims intel community missed ISIS threat. But Senator Graham and I saw it."

And Senator McCain joins us.

Good evening, sir.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: I saw the tweet. I read the tweet. I also read that back on October 20th, 2013, an op-ed that just blistering, laying out what you thought would happen and did happen. How does the president miss this?

MCCAIN: Because he campaigned and actually was able to get the Democrat nomination by being against anything in Iraq. And he refused to recognize the reality. He refused to pursue the effort to have a stabilizing force left behind, which, by the way, recently Ambassador Ryan Crocker, among others, said we could have left a stabilizing force behind, and has continued to misjudge, and is continuing not to do enough.

Could I just talk about what's happening now for a second, Greta? That is we are going to need more boots on the ground. We are going to need more robust air strikes. ISIS is still on the move. They can't take Baghdad but it's very possible that they could attack Baghdad. We're going to have to have more boots on the ground.

In Syria, tragically, there is no coordination or cooperation with the Free Syrian Army for the air attacks there. In fact, Bashar al Assad is moving into these places that the attacks are moving ISIS out of and making it worse for the Free Syrian Army.

And finally, some of those shots you see of buildings, hit by the missiles so accurately, some of those buildings were already empty because they -- we gave them ample warning.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, I don't mean to kick him when he is down but he said on "60 minutes" two nights ago essentially that James Clapper, DNI, had under estimated this, that he overestimated the ability of the Iraqi army to fight. I guess what's so disturbing and why I go back to this is because if he is missing this, when people pointed it out to him over and over again, you know, what's he missing right now as we go forward. And I go to your article back from October 30th in which you write, in part, "Since the withdrawal of U.S. forces and the beginning of the conflict in Syria in 2011, al Qaeda is on the rise again in Iraq." No surprise is there, you said it. "It now possesses a safe haven that expands Iraqi and Syrian territory and has grown into the larger and more lethal Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. ISIS is recruiting foreign fighters from across the Middle East and accelerating its attacks."

How did you and Senator Graham know so much about this in October of last year that you wrote it publicly? Then in January, the president said it is J.V. And now saying under estimated by the director of National Intelligence. This is disturbing because if he is not paying attention as we go forward, we have even bigger problems.

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, it's the "dog ate my homework" excuse. Since when is the president responsible? He acts like a bystander when, in fact, he made the final decisions and even overrode on a couple of occasions his entire national security team or certainly most of it.

But I think the other problem here is that the president does not understand fundamentals of warfare. I'm afraid a lot of these decisions are made by him and Susan Rice and other people who have no experience or background in the military and the effects or lack of effects of air power. And believe me, ISIS now is dispersing like cockroaches into populated areas and we are going to have to have boots on the ground. But Lindsey Graham and I will predict now we will have to have boots on the ground in Syria. We are going to have to arm the Free Syrian Army.

By the way, that's a 5,000 against 31,000 ISIS? That's not a fair fight. We have to have a no-fly zone over for the Free Syrian Army and not let Bashar Assad continue to slaughter them with his barrel bombs.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Two questions. One is you say he does not understand. But I guess I'm not even sure that he is working from the same facts. Because the facts are laid out about the growing threat and he has ignored it. You say he doesn't understand it. I think it, frankly, looks like it's been ignored. I want to know, is it that he is ignoring what's going on, what the facts were, or that he wasn't understanding it? You said not understand.

MCCAIN: Well, only attending 42 percent of his intelligence briefs, I think it gives you indication of the priority that he has for it with this issue. But he seems to want to stick to this lead-from-behind, don't-do- stupid-stuff. He fails to understand, even though he said in a "60 Minutes" interview they don't go to Russia, they don't go to China, they come to the United States which, by the way, doesn't take a lot of deduction. But he wants to withdraw. That's the way he got the nomination. That's how he was elected and reelected. The way he ridiculed Mitt Romney in the debate that they had. He is -- it's willful ignorance, in my view, because he's a very intelligent man and willfully ignoring the facts on the ground. He's being dragged step-by-step in every measure that Lindsey Graham and I, two years ago or more, said is going to have to be taken.

VAN SUSTEREN: People can read the article themselves. I have posted it on Gretawire. They can see the date of it and the facts laid out in the prediction.

Senator McCain, thank you for joining us.

MCCAIN: Thank you, Greta.