McCain: Obama's Speech Reinforced an Ambiguity in Afghanistan That Risks Failure
This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," August 31, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: The American combat mission in Iraq has officially ended. That was the message tonight from President Barack Obama who addressed the nation from the Oval Office just a short time ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Tonight I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. Operation Iraqi Freedom is over. And the Iraqi people now have lead responsibility for the security of their country.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: And for days there have been questions over whether or not the president would acknowledge his predecessor George W. Bush during his remarks. And tonight those questions were answered.
Again, take a look.
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OBAMA: This afternoon, I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It's well-known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet, no one can doubt President Bush's support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: And joining me now with reaction to the president's address is the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Arizona Senator John McCain.
Senator, welcome back.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thank you, Sean. Thanks for having me back.
HANNITY: So -- you know, how ungracious of the president as we just see here. You know he said the minimal things. Well, George Bush supports our troops. He loves our country. That's the best he could muster?
MCCAIN: Well, it's -- it shows a real lack of generosity and spirit. Look, what he should have said, "I opposed the surge. I was wrong. I made a mistake. And George W. Bush deserves credit for doing something that was very, very unpopular at the time."
Instead, he had to say it's well-known that George Bush loves the troops? Really?
MCCAIN: And the fact is -- and the fact is that then-Senator Obama voted to cut off the funding. Not even Joe Biden that wanted to divide Iraq into three different countries voted against the funding for ongoing operations.
He unalterably opposed the surge and used Hillary Clinton's vote for the war as a way to defeat her in the presidential primaries for the Democratic nomination. I mean, you just can't make it up.
HANNITY: You know --
MCCAIN: So -- go ahead.
HANNITY: I don't know what he was trying to do tonight. It seems like in many ways he was trying to thread the needle, appeal to his left-wing base. I mean the closest he came to saying we were victorious was, "the American people who served in Iraq completed every mission that they were given. They defeated the regime that had terrorized its people. "
Well, yes, we toppled the regime a long time ago. How about we won the war, it was a success?
MCCAIN: Yes. He never did really articulate that. But if I could switch gears a second. The part that really disturbs me the most. I'm not surprised that he wouldn't give George Bush credit, that's just in the DNA of the individual apparently.
But when he said our withdrawal would be conditions-based and then contradicted that by saying we will beginning -- we will begin to withdraw the middle of 2011. That's an ambiguity --
HANNITY: In Afghanistan.
MCCAIN: Yes. That's an ambiguity in Afghanistan that could cause us to fail.
Sean, our friends are discouraged, our enemies are encouraged. Taliban captive said you've got the watches, we've got the time. Karzai's behavior indicates his uncertainty about our commitment.
Pakistan -- outside of Kandahar, last Fourth of July, I met a police chief, a non-corrupt police chief. He said yes, the Taliban are telling us you're leaving -- next year. And that those of us who cooperate they're going to cut off our heads.
And I said do you believe we're leaving? He said yes.
MCCAIN: And so, the fact that we are telling these people there, our friends and our enemies, that we are leaving, and again, the president reinforced that ambiguity again tonight, puts young Americans in harm's way unnecessarily --
HANNITY: Well --
MCCAIN: -- because I don't believe we can succeed if we don't say that it's strictly conditions-based.
HANNITY: I was watching --
MCCAIN: And the president has to say that.
HANNITY: I was watching Charles Krauthammer with Bret Baier immediately after the speech and he used the adjectives flat and odd and I think in many ways he's right. Because on substance what the president said here tonight when it comes to Afghanistan, he's reiterating the 2011 deadline when he said make no mistake, the transition will begin, and spoke against an open-ended war, when our enemies are doubting right now our staying power in Afghanistan.
Did Obama not give them reason to celebrate tonight?
MCCAIN: I think if not reason to celebrate, certainly reason to be encouraged to hold out and again to people like Karzai and other people who have to remain in the region, Pakistanis as well. The signal is, you better start accommodating to American departure.
And I appreciate what Secretary Gates has said. I even appreciate what Secretary Clinton has said. And General Petraeus is walking a very fine line as you might have noticed. But it takes the president of the United States to say, unequivocally, we are going to win and then we're going to withdraw, just like we were able to do in Iraq, with the success of the surge, which he unalterably opposed, and now seems to be taking credit for.
HANNITY: And if he had his way we wouldn't have had this today. But he couldn't even utter the words, we were victorious which if I was -- one of the brave men and women that served there, I think I would be a little offended tonight.
But, Senator, good to see you. Thanks for being with us.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Sean.
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