Face The Nation: Graham Gives McCain Credit For The Surge; Durbin Chides McCain For Not Supporting The GI Bill
Here all this time I thought Bush was listening to the "generals on the ground" when he decided to authorize the escalation that he likes to call a "surge". How silly of me. Senator Lindsey Graham gives credit where credit is due: John McCain was the person to suggest adding more military personnel to Baghdad to allow the Iraqis the subdued violence necessary to get their fledgling government working. So, how'd that turn out, Lindsey? By the way, did you hear that al-Sistani has issued a new fatwa against Americans in Iraq? Heckuva a job there.
By all means, let's tie John McSame to the surge. I'm sure the families of all the troop members killed and injured during the last 16 months would like to know who was responsible. And as Sen. Dick Durbin points out, it's not as if McCain cares about them once they're home either, given his opposition to the Webb GI Bill. The Republican defense, as delivered by Graham (but verbatim from every other GOPer on a news show): it encourages people to leave the service. No, you farkin' idiot, stop lossing troops through 3, 4 and 5 tours of duty in Iraq encourages people to leave the service. Supporting them for their service is the least we can do.
Durbin took exception with Graham's remarks, however, likening them to an ad created by a 527 committee, Veterans for Freedom (on whose advisory board Graham and Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., both sit). That ad accuses Obama of refusing to meet with General David Petraeus or go to Iraq.
"I would say to Senator Graham and Senator Lieberman, take a look at this ad," Durbin said. "This really is misleading and it really shouldn't be out in this part of the campaign. And I wonder how their being involved in it ... is consistent with Senator McCain's recent statement saying that if you have a title or a position in his campaign, you shouldn't get involved in a 527 that produces negative ads."
Full transcripts below the fold.
SCHIEFFER: OK. Well, let's talk about some of the issues that are going to be coming up in the fall campaign if Senator Obama or Senator Clinton gets the nomination, running against Senator McCain. And I would just say, my guess is that the war, even though we haven't talked about it very much lately, is going to be one of the major divides in this campaign. Senator Graham, how is Senator McCain going to handle this? After all, it's a war that not many people are very enthusiastic about right now.
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, I think Senator McCain'll make a--make a case that he saw what was wrong in Iraq for four years, Bob. As you know, we had the wrong strategy. I went with--to Iraq many times with Senator McCain, and it was clear to him we did not have enough troops and we were going backwards instead of forwards. And he's the one that advocated more troops when most people in Congress wanted to pull out. After we lost the 2006 election, the Republicans lost the House and the Senate, people running for the exit signs. And John McCain said, `No, the right strategy is better security. We need additional combat power to allow the Iraqi people some breathing space.' And the surge was accepted by President Bush. And now here we are a year and a half later. In July of last year, 59 votes to set timetables to withdraw. This supplemental that was voted on Thursday, not one person came to the floor and said `the war was lost, we need to get out of Iraq.' And Senator Obama keeps talking about an immediate withdrawal, as soon as he gets to be president. The last time, I understand, he was in Iraq was in 2006. I would recommend that he go back. So much has happened since 2006 on the ground. It's been extraordinary. He's never really had a one on one with General Petraeus. Go back and talk--go to Iraq and talk to General Petraeus, talk to the Maliki government and see how things have changed. And he's a good man. I think if he would look at what's happened in Iraq, talk to General Petraeus and Maliki, I think he'd have a different view of what you need to do next. And I know it's the campaign season. You know, I would recommend to Senator McCain that they both go together, go to Iraq, get a briefing from our generals and talk to Prime Minister Maliki about the way ahead, the way forward. Because a lot's changed in 2006. I think it'd serve the country well to have that joint briefing.
SCHIEFFER: Well, do you think Senator McCain'd be interested in going to Iraq with Senator Obama? Are you proposing that, Senator Graham?
Sen. GRAHAM: Well, I think it'd be good for the country, because the next president's going to have to deal with Iraq. And so much has changed since Senator Obama was there. The testimony recently of General Petraeus and Odierno--the progress by the Iraqi government toward reconciliation, the fighting in the Sadr City against the Iranian militia--yes, I would think it would be good for Senator Obama to go back and see what's happened in two years.
Sen. GRAHAM: And sit down with General Petraeus, what he hasn't done, and I--and if it's a campaign issue, I think both of them should go together. I'd recommend that...
SCHIEFFER: All right. Well...
Sen. GRAHAM: ...they have the same briefing.
SCHIEFFER: We're going to have to take a break for a commercial, but I want to get to Senator Durbin's reaction to that suggestion when we come back in just 60 seconds.
SCHIEFFER: Senator Durbin, what about this idea that Lindsey Graham has just proposed, that Senator McCain and Senator Obama go to Iraq together, get some briefings and just make an assessment of what's going on there, and doing it during the campaign, before the election?
Sen. DURBIN: I'm not going to suggest what Senator Obama's schedule or Senator McCain's schedule's going to be in the remaining few months before the November election. I would hope that Senator McCain would join Senator Obama in meeting with some returning veterans and soldiers who enthusiastically support the GI Bill which John McCain opposes. I think that Senator McCain would come to realize that these veterans deserve the same good treatment coming back from this war as those who returned from World War II. The second point I'd like to make is Senator Obama is not calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops, he's calling for an orderly, responsible withdrawal from Iraq. In the sixth year of this war, I think that that's long overdue, and I think he's on the right track. But the last point I want to make, Bob, is one that I noticed in some of the comments of my friend Lindsey Graham. He made reference to this one on one with Petraeus. I can just tell you point blank that Barack Obama has had his opportunity to meet with Genera Petraeus, he has questioned him in committee. They have had this exchange in dialogue. So this is nothing new. But this is unfortunately coming out of a script from a group called Veterans for Freedom, which Senator Graham and Senator Lieberman are on the advisory board of. This is a 527 that has produced an attack ad on Barack Obama, and that's unfortunate. It's unfortunate because they use an Illinois soldier, a Guardsman named Garrett Anderson, a staff sergeant who was a victim of an IED who lost part of his right arm and had traumatic head injuries. Senator Obama and I both worked hard for this veteran to get him the disability that he was entitled to. I visited with him in his home and I just--I would say to Senator Graham and to Senator Lieberman, take a look at this ad. This really is misleading and it really shouldn't be out in this part of the campaign. And I wonder how their being involved in it--these senators being involved in it--is consistent with Senator McCain's recent statement saying that if you have a title or position in this campaign, you shouldn't get involved in a 527 that produces negative ads.
SCHIEFFER: OK. Well, let's give Senator Graham a chance to quickly respond to that.
Sen. GRAHAM: I haven't been involved in anybody's ad. The facts are that Senator Obama hasn't been to Iraq since 2006. A lot has changed. He has said that if he got to be president, everybody'd be out by next year. General Petraeus at the hearing said he thought a precipitous withdrawal would undercut our efforts. He's never sat down and talked with the commander of the forces over in Iraq. I would recommend that he go back to Iraq. A lot's changed in two years. And if it's politics, let both of them go. Nobody's at a disadvantage. As far as veterans, Senator McCain wants to do two things: help those who serve and leave, but he's not going to support a bill that CBO says will hurt retention by 16 percent, give $52 billion to the people who want to leave the military and nothing for those who will stay. Sit down with military families who want to make the military a career, and ask them about Senator McCain's proposal to allow more benefits if you stay around longer and let the military member transfer the benefits to their child or their spouse, so they can go to college. Sit down with the people in uniform and see if they would like something for their continued service. The idea of Iraq is important. You need to make informed judgments. How can you make an informed judgment about Iraq if you haven't been there in two years?
SCHIEFFER: All right. Thirty seconds to respond, Senator Durbin. We're out of time here.
Sen. DURBIN: I can just tell you, the major veterans' groups support this bipartisan bill. When Senator Graham tried to raise an alternative bill by Senator McCain on the floor, six of his Republicans joined with Senator Webb and Warner and Hagel in a bipartisan effort for a bill that John McCain opposes, a bill for a new GI Bill that will give our returning veterans the same benefits as those who returned after World War II. Barack Obama supports that. I think it's the right thing to do for our troops.