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McCain’s Senate Speech On Iraq

The McCain Presidential campaign may be cratering, but no one can say that it’s because McCain isn’t standing firm on his principles. Ed Morrissey has Senator McCain’s floor speech at yesterday’s Democratic surrender-fest which does an excellent job of putting the defeatist Democrats in their place:

Mr. President, we have nearly finished this little exhibition, which was staged, I assume, for the benefit of a briefly amused press corps and in deference to political activists opposed to the war who have come to expect from Congress such gestures, empty though they may be, as proof that the majority in the Senate has heard their demands for action to end the war in Iraq. The outcome of this debate, the vote we are about to take, has never been in doubt to a single member of this body. And to state the obvious, nothing we have done for the last twenty-four hours will have changed any facts on the ground in Iraq or made the outcome of the war any more or less important to the security of our country. The stakes in this war remain as high today as they were yesterday; the consequences of an American defeat are just as grave; the costs of success just as dear. No battle will have been won or lost, no enemy will have been captured or killed, no ground will have been taken or surrendered, no soldier will have survived or been wounded, died or come home because we spent an entire night delivering our poll-tested message points, spinning our soundbites, arguing with each other, and substituting our amateur theatrics for statesmanship. All we have achieved are remarkably similar newspaper accounts of our inflated sense of the drama of this display and our own temporary physical fatigue. Tomorrow the press will move on to other things and we will be better rested. But nothing else will have changed.

In Iraq, American soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen are still fighting bravely and tenaciously in battles that are as dangerous, difficult and consequential as the great battles of our armed forces’ storied past. Our enemies will still be intent on defeating us, and using our defeat to encourage their followers in the jihad they wage against us, a war which will become a greater threat to us should we quit the central battlefield in defeat. The Middle East will still be a tinderbox, which our defeat could ignite in a regional war that will imperil our vital interests at risk there and draw us into a longer and far more costly war. The prospect of genocide in Iraq, in which we will be morally complicit, is still as real a consequence of our withdrawal today as it was yesterday.

During our extended debate over the last few days, I have heard senators repeat certain arguments over and over again. My friends on the other side of this argument accuse those of us who oppose this amendment with advocating “staying the course,” which is intended to suggest that we are intent on continuing the mistakes that have put the outcome of the war in doubt. Yet we all know that with the arrival of General Petraeus we have changed course. We are now fighting a counterinsurgency strategy, which some of us have argued we should have been following from the beginning, and which makes the most effective use of our strength and does not strengthen the tactics of our enemy. This new battle plan is succeeding where our previous tactics have failed, although the outcome remains far from certain. The tactics proposed in the amendment offered by my friends, Senators Levin and Reed – a smaller force, confined to bases distant from the battlefield, from where they will launch occasional search and destroy missions and train the Iraqi military – are precisely the tactics employed for most of this war and which have, by anyone’s account, failed miserably. Now, that, Mr. President, is staying the course, and it is a course that inevitably leads to our defeat and the catastrophic consequences for Iraq, the region and the security of the United States our defeat would entail.

Yes, we have heard quite a lot about the folly of “staying the course,” though the real outcome should this amendment prevail and be signed into law, would be to deny our generals and the Americans they have the honor to command the ability to try, in this late hour, to address the calamity these tried and failed tactics produced, and salvage from the wreckage of our previous failures a measure of stability for Iraq and the Middle East, and a more secure future for the American people.

I have also listened to my colleagues on the other side repeatedly remind us that the American people have spoken in the last election. They have demanded we withdraw from Iraq, and it is our responsibility to do, as quickly as possible, what they have bid us to do. But is that our primary responsibility? Really, Mr. President, is that how we construe our role: to follow without question popular opinion even if we believe it to be in error, and likely to endanger the security of the country we have sworn to defend? Surely, we must be responsive to the people who have elected us to office, and who, if it is their wish, will remove us when they become unsatisfied with our failure to heed their demands. I understand that, of course. And I understand why so many Americans have become sick and tired of this war, given the many, many mistakes made by civilian and military leaders in its prosecution. I, too, have been made sick at heart by these mistakes and the terrible price we have paid for them. But I cannot react to these mistakes by embracing a course of action that I know will be an even greater mistake, a mistake of colossal historical proportions, which will — and I am as sure of this as I am of anything – seriously endanger the people I represent and the country I have served all my adult life. I have many responsibilities to the people of Arizona, and to all Americans. I take them all seriously, Mr. President, or try to. But I have one responsibility that outweighs all the others – and that is to do everything in my power, to use whatever meager talents I posses, and every resource God has granted me to protect the security of this great and good nation from all enemies foreign and domestic. And that I intend to do, Mr. President, even if I must stand athwart popular opinion. I will explain my reasons to the American people. I will attempt to convince as many of my countrymen as I can that we must show even greater patience, though our patience is nearly exhausted, and that as long as there is a prospect for not losing this war, then we must not choose to lose it. That is how I construe my responsibility to my constituency and my country. That is how I construed it yesterday. It is how I construe it today. And it is how I will construe it tomorrow. I do not know how I could choose any other course.

I cannot be certain that I possess the skills to be persuasive. I cannot be certain that even if I could convince Americans to give General Petraeus the time he needs to determine whether we can prevail, that we will prevail in Iraq. All I am certain of is that our defeat there would be catastrophic, not just for Iraq, but for us, and that I cannot be complicit in it, but must do whatever I can, whether I am effective or not, to help us try to avert it. That, Mr. President, is all I can possibly offer my country at this time. It is not much compared to the sacrifices made by Americans who have volunteered to shoulder a rifle and fight this war for us. I know that, and am humbled by it, as we all are. But though my duty is neither dangerous nor onerous, it compels me nonetheless to say to my colleagues and to all Americans who disagree with me: that as long as we have a chance to succeed we must try to succeed.

I am privileged, as we all are, to be subject to the judgment of the American people and history. But, my friends, they are not always the same judgment. The verdict of the people will arrive long before history’s. I am unlikely to ever know how history has judged us in this hour. The public’s judgment of me I will know soon enough. I will accept it, as I must. But whether it is favorable or unforgiving, I will stand where I stand, and take comfort from my confidence that I took my responsibilities to my country seriously, and despite the mistakes I have made as a public servant and the flaws I have as an advocate, I tried as best I could to help the country we all love remain as safe as she could be in an hour of serious peril.

Senator McCain may never be President, but he’s a valuable public servant nevertheless — and his clarity and perspective stand in direct opposition to the self-serving defeatism of the Senate Democrats who continue to push this country towards a unnecessary defeat for nothing more than their own political expediency.

This country needs more patriots like Senator McCain.

13 responses to “McCain’s Senate Speech On Iraq”

  1. Haggs says:

    If McCain hadn’t been such a strong supporter of his horribly idiotic war, then he might have had a chance.

  2. Mentoc says:

    Democratic surrender-fest

    No offense but I think you misspelled “Republican filibuster.”

  3. Jay Reding says:

    No offense but I think you misspelled “Republican filibuster.”

    Except for the fact that it wasn’t — nobody held up the floor vote other than Senator Reid, who knew he was going to lose. The whole thing was Senator Reid’s idea: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/16/AR2007071601597.html

  4. Eracus says:

    “The whole thing was Senator Reid’s idea.”

    Yeah, but Karl Rove tricked him. Again!!

  5. Mentoc says:

    Except for the fact that it wasn’t — nobody held up the floor vote other than Senator Reid, who knew he was going to lose.

    C’mon now, Jay. Refusing to vote for cloture is filibuster, and that’s exactly what Republicans did – blocked the cloture vote.

    That’s filibuster. Try not to pretend that IOKIYAR, ok? It was a Republican filibuster because it was the Republicans blocking the cloture vote. All Reid did was highlight that.

    I wouldn’t have presumed that a law student would need to have Senate procedures explained to him.

  6. Jay Reding says:

    C’mon now, Jay. Refusing to vote for cloture is filibuster, and that’s exactly what Republicans did – blocked the cloture vote.

    No, they did vote for cloture. The cloture vote failed, 52-47. Again, from The Washington Post:

    Senate Democratic leaders are planning a rare all-night session tonight, employing theatrics and scheduling votes that they hope will chip away at Republican resolve to back President Bush’s Iraq war strategy.

    This was entirely Reid’s doing, and it was a cheap trick that had no chance of success — the only reason why Reid scheduled it was to appease the MoveOn.org crowd.

    That’s filibuster. Try not to pretend that IOKIYAR, ok? It was a Republican filibuster because it was the Republicans blocking the cloture vote. All Reid did was highlight that.

    No, it wasn’t. You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts. The cloture vote could have taken place earlier, but Senator Reid chose to pull an all-nighter first.

    I wouldn’t have presumed that a law student would need to have Senate procedures explained to him.

    And I would presume that someone who admits to getting their information from Media Matters — that makes Granma look like a fount of journalistic objectivity — would have a complete lack of understanding about what’s really going on in Washington.

    Stop reading propaganda and pick up a newspaper — a democracy requires an informed citizenry, not one that’s been brainwashed.

  7. Mentoc says:

    No, they did vote for cloture. The cloture vote failed, 52-47.

    That’s what I said – they blocked cloture by voting against it.

    When you vote against cloture you’re voting to continue debate, and filibuster is when you prevent a simple majority vote by preventing the vote from coming up by continuous debate.

    It’s filibuster, plain and simple. How hard is this to understand?

    that makes Granma look like a fount of journalistic objectivity

    You can impugn the credibility of Media Matters all you like, but the only information I got from them was their mission statement, because we were talking about their mission. If there’s something that disqualifies them from being credible about their own stated purpose you have yet to explain what exactly that is.

    The Republicans filibustered the Democratic bill for withdrawl. That’s a matter of procedural fact. When you vote against cloture, you’re filibustering. It’s funny how, after complaining endlessly between 2000 and 2006 about Democrats filibustering judges, you – and the rest of the so-called “liberal” media – seem to have forgotten the word, entirely.

  8. Jay Reding says:

    That’s what I said – they blocked cloture by voting against it.

    Which is a cloture vote, not a filibuster.

    When you vote against cloture you’re voting to continue debate, and filibuster is when you prevent a simple majority vote by preventing the vote from coming up by continuous debate.

    Except the vote was to kill the amendment, not continue debate.

    The Republicans didn’t do anything. Senator Reid chose to hold the Senate in overnight to prolong the vote. There’s no reason why he had to do that other than to make a political point. Your attempts to lay the blame for this little publicity stunt on the Republicans is completely false — this was a procedural move by Harry Reid, not the Republicans. Again, read The Washington Post article.

    Or just look at the Congressional Record — Senator McConnell brought a floor motion to invoke cloture before the debate even began, which Reid tried to extend for political purposes. The vote could have happened right then and there, but Reid deliberately extended the debate to play to the anti-war base.

    This was Reid’s doing, and no amount of spin can undo the facts. The Republicans pushed for a cloture vote, but Reid decided to extend debate despite the fact that he knew he couldn’t win. This whole thing could have been over in an hour, had Reid not wanted to stage his show.

  9. Mentoc says:

    Which is a cloture vote, not a filibuster.

    Right. It’s a filibuster when you vote no on cloture, because debate continues – blocking the up-or-down passage of the bill.

    It’s not that complicated, Jay, and there’s a reason why nearly everybody on both the right and the left is calling this a Republican filibuster – because that’s exactly what it is.

    Again, read The Washington Post article.

    The one that everyone acknowledges got it completely backwards? Why would I do that? Here’s a much better article:

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/18016.html

    This whole thing could have been over in an hour, had Reid not wanted to stage his show.

    The point was to try to convince some Republicans to vote for cloture, instead of blocking it, so that the amendment could pass with the simple majority that it already had.

    But the Republicans filibustered, blocked cloture, and the amendment died because they couldn’t get 60 votes. That’s filibuster. This isn’t that complicated, honestly. Here, look:

    In the Senate, unlike the House of Representatives, the minority party can slow or block the passage of controversial bills through the threat of endless debate, known as a filibuster. If the minority insists, the party in power needs 60 of 100 votes rather than a simple majority to cut off that debate and move to a final vote.

    See? Saying it wasn’t a Republican filibuster is just nonsensical.

  10. Jay Reding says:

    The one that everyone acknowledges got it completely backwards? Why would I do that? Here’s a much better article:

    The headline of which reads “Senate Democrats plan faux filibuster to pressure Republicans on Iraq”?

    Normally I prefer a more erudite response, but all that’s required is this:

    pwned.

  11. Mentoc says:

    The headline of which reads “Senate Democrats plan faux filibuster to pressure Republicans on Iraq”?

    Did you stop there? Apparently. Because if you’d gone on:

    WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats are planning an all-night session Tuesday, daring Republicans to engage in an old-fashioned filibuster over Iraq troop withdrawals rather than just threatening one.

    First paragraph in the article. (And it’s actually spelled “pwn3d”. Which is what I just did to you.) The majority party can’t filibuster, by definition. They don’t have to, because they can win the up-or-down vote. Republicans refused to allow the amendment to come to an up-or-down vote, because they didn’t have the votes to defeat it; thus, they filibustered it.

  12. Jay Reding says:

    The majority party can’t filibuster, by definition.

    Which is why the Democrat’s plan was called a “faux filibuster”.

    They don’t have to, because they can win the up-or-down vote. Republicans refused to allow the amendment to come to an up-or-down vote, because they didn’t have the votes to defeat it; thus, they filibustered it.

    Yes, that’s right. It was all the Republicans fault — they used their evil mind control rays to make Harry Reid debate all night rather than proceeding with the cloture vote.

    Again, you can have your own opinions, but not your own facts. There was no Republican filibuster, this was a Democratic stunt, and if you want to make a ridiculous argument, fine, but it just makes you look like a fool. Reid was the one who wanted to hold the Senate all night, it was his choice, and it was his procedural moves. He knew he couldn’t win, so he decided to placate MoveOn.org — that wasn’t the GOP’s decision, and Senator McConnell called for a cloture vote at the beginning of the night. Spin all you want, but spin doesn’t change the facts.

  13. Mentoc says:

    Which is why the Democrat’s plan was called a “faux filibuster”.

    In a headline. I guess if that’s all you ever read, it’s no surprise that you come out with these hilarious whoppers.

    It was all the Republicans fault — they used their evil mind control rays to make Harry Reid debate all night rather than proceeding with the cloture vote.

    Funny, I’m pretty sure that’s not at all what I said. But it’s fairly rich to complain that Harry Reid sat up all night resisting the Republican attempt to block an up-or-down vote, instead of capitulating right away.

    Spin all you want, but spin doesn’t change the facts.

    The fact is, Republicans couldn’t defeat the amendment with an up-or-down vote, so they used the same filibuster that they were so bitterly complaining about not 2 years ago.

    If there was no filibuster, Jay, then why didn’t the amendment come up for an up-or-down vote? Why was it defeated in cloture?