John McCain on Homeland Security

Republican nominee for President; Senior Senator (AZ)


3% increase in military is not enough; we need more

MCCAIN: Ronald Reagan dealt with Brezhnev and other Soviet Union leaders, but he dealt from a position of strength. And for the last ten to eight years, we have let our defenses decline. We have cut spending on defense. We are not ready. We have one-third of the aircraft. Half the F-18s in the Navy can't fly right now. Marine Corps pilots are flying fewer hours a month than their Russian and Chinese counterparts. Air Force maintainers are stealing parts from museums in Tucson, Arizona. Two of the 60 Army brigade combat teams are at the highest level of readiness. That's the result of eight years of Obama. And I'm glad the president is committed to rebuilding our military. That is only a 3 percent increase. We need a much larger increase in defense spending.
Source: CNN 2017 Town Hall debates: John McCain vs. Lindsey Graham , Mar 1, 2017

Vietnam POW: Ashamed of signing false confession

Most Americans are by now familiar with the outlines of the story of John's 5-1/2 years of captivity in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp. But what most Americans may not know is that John McCain doesn't consider himself a hero. Why? Because, under constant beatings and torture, and after repeatedly refusing to be released before Americans who had been imprisoned longer than he, John signed a confession written by his captors. Here is how he describes the scene:

"I couldn't rationalize away my confession. I was ashamed. I felt faithless, and couldn't control my despair."

It is impossible for me to truly understand how John endured what he did, much less how he could feel shame for breaking under the cruelty of his captors. But such is the remarkable character of this man and the men and women of our armed forces.

Source: America by Heart, by Sarah Palin, p. 50-53 , Nov 23, 2010

Obama opposed surge even after it appeared effective

A campaign ad claimed that Obama, while he was in Germany, "made time to go to the gym, but cancelled a visit with wounded troops--seems the Pentagon wouldn't allow him to bring cameras." On the trail, McCain spat venom over an interview from abroad in which Obama said that, although the surge appeared to have been effective, he still opposed it. "It seems to me that Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign," McCain said. McCain's advisers doubted that any of it was working.
Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.329-330 , Jan 11, 2010

2008: guaranteed college for vets creates retention problems

In 2008, Obama criticized McCain for coming out against a new GI Bill that would have guaranteed money for college to anyone who served three years in the military. "I can't believe that he believes it is too generous to our veterans," Obama tut-tutted.

McCain didn't believe any such thing; he worried that the bill would create retention problems in the armed forces. Having his commitment to veterans questioned set off McCain's first flare of genuine ire toward Obama. "I will not accept from Senator Obama, who did not feel it was his responsibility to serve our country in uniform, any lectures on my regard for those who did," McCain snapped.

Source: Game Change, by Heilemann & Halpern, p.325 , Jan 11, 2010

FactCheck: Pushed for immediate withdrawal from Somalia

McCain lamented having to “withdraw in humiliation” from Somalia in 1993, but failed to mention his own role. McCain said, “We went in to Somalia as a peacekeeping organization, we ended up trying to be peacemakers and we ended up having to withdraw in humiliation.”

What McCain isn’t saying is that he led an attempt to force the Clinton administration to withdraw more quickly. After the First Battle of Mogadishu (immortalized in the book and film “Black Hawk Down”), Clinton proposed a six-month plan for withdrawing combat troops. McCain introduced an amendment to cut off funding for combat in Somalia and force an immediate withdrawal. The amendment was tabled and the Senate backed Clinton’s plan. In his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For,” McCain called his amendment “hasty” and wrote that he “regretted” what he came to see as “a retreat in the face of aggression from an inferior foe.”

Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 second presidential debate , Oct 7, 2008

FactCheck: Voted against Lebanon deployment, but post-hoc

McCain repeated an error he made in the last debate when he said, “In Lebanon, I stood up to President Reagan, my hero, and said, if we send Marines in there, how can we possibly beneficially affect this situation? And said we shouldn’t. Unfortunately, almost 300 brave young Marines were killed.” In fact, as we noted previously, McCain wasn’t elected until three months after the Marines had been deployed. He did vote against the post-hoc War Powers Act authorization of the deployment (after the troop deployment had already occurred); Reagan signed it into law in October 1983, 11 days before a suicide bomber set off a blast that killed 241 servicemembers in their barracks.
Source: FactCheck.org on 2008 second presidential debate , Oct 7, 2008

Credit Bush, troops, & luck, for not another 9/11

Q: Why do you think there has not been another terrorist attack on US soil since 9/11?

A: I think we ought to give credit to the administration, to the president, and to the dedicated people who have worked from the level of our intelligence agencies around the world, to the local policemen, firemen, first responders, who have done such a magnificent job. I also think there’s always an element of luck involved. But I also think that we should unleash more of America’s technology.

Q: When you say technology, more technology, what exactly do you mean?

A: There’s satellites. There’s the kinds of technologies that are being developed in our national labs. And, by the way, part of that technology, is human intelligence. Our technological capabilities are pretty good. They’re gonna get better and we’ve got to work on getting them better. But we still haven’t got the kind of human intelligence that can tell us the intentions of the enemy.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric , Sep 17, 2008

I hate war; it’s terrible beyond imagination

In Vietnam, where I formed the closest friendships of my life, some of those friends never came home with me. I hate war. It’s terrible beyond imagination. I’m running for president to keep the country I love safe and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has. I will draw on my experience with the world & its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal--diplomatic, economic, military, and the power of our ideals --to build the foundations for a stable & enduring peace.
Source: Speech at 2008 Republican National Convention , Sep 4, 2008

Clinton & Bush missed opportunities to get bin Laden

Q: Obama said: “John McCain says he’d follow bin Laden to the gates of hell, but he won’t even follow him to the cave where he lives.”

A: Well, look, President Clinton [had] opportunities to get Osama bin Laden. President Bush had opportunities to get Osama bin Laden. I know how to do it and I’ll do it. And I understand and I have the knowledge and the background and the experience to make the right judgments. Sen. Obama does not. He was wrong on Iraq. He underestimated Iran. He has no knowledge or experience or judgment. That’s -- he doesn’t know how -- how the world works nor how the military works. I do and I can lead and I’ll secure the peace.

Source: ABC News: 2008 election interview with Charlie Gibson , Sep 3, 2008

Disagrees with Bush often; but credits no attacks since 9/11

Q: Obama and Democrats continue to try to wrap President Bush around you. Big question: How do you assess the Bush presidency?

A: I think history will judge that. I do think it’s a fact that America has not been attacked again since 9/11. I think the president deserves credit for that. I think history will judge the president. As is well-known, I was adamantly opposed to the spending spree that we went on, and predicted that we would be in difficulties if we continued the largest increase in government since the Great Society. And I urged vetoes. I believe strongly that we needed to address the issue of climate change in a comprehensive fashion. I obviously don’t want to torture any prisoners. There is a long list of areas that we were in disagreement on.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Aug 31, 2008

Applying habeas to Guantanamo let 30 terrorists attack US

John McCain made it very clear that he did not approve of the recent Supreme Court decision establishing habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees. He called the ruling “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country,” echoing the position of Justice Antonin Scalia, who predicted that it would cause “more Americans to be killed.” According to the Republican nominee, 30 released detainees “have already tried to attack America again.”
Source: GovWatch on 2008: Washington Post analysis , Jun 30, 2008

GovWatch: Only 13 Gitmo recidivists & none attacked US

McCain said on June 17, “Thirty of the people that have already been released from Guantanamo Bay have already tried to attack America again. One of them just a couple of weeks ago as a suicide bomber in Iraq.”

Is that true? The latest Pentagon “fact sheet”, dated June 13, states that 37 former Guantanamo detainees are “confirmed or suspected” of having returned to “terrorist activities” since their release. It puts the so-called recidivism rate at “between 5% and 7%.”

The Pentagon names 13 former GITMO prisoners whose participation in various types of terrorist activity has been “confirmed,” in most cases because they have been killed or captured. There is no evidence that any of the 13 killed Americans.

McCain is wrong to claim that 30 former Guantanamo detainees “have tried to attack America again.” Defense Secretary Gates was a lot less specific than McCain, saying “We don’t have a lot of specific cases. We’re talking about 1, 2, 3 dozen that we have some information on.”

Source: GovWatch on 2008: Washington Post analysis , Jun 30, 2008

Improve human intelligence to get Osama bin Laden

Q: What will you do differently to get Osama bin Laden?

A: Most importantly, I’ll improve our human intelligence.

Q: How?

A: Well, we’re going to recruit, and send people in who can blend into the culture, into the tribal communities. I didn’t say it was going to be easy. But I will get him. And why is it so important? One, he killed 3,000 Americans. But two, he is recruiting & instructing radical Islamic extremists who want to destroy everything we stand for. This guy is a continuing threat.

Source: Meet the Press: 2008 “Meet the Candidates” series , Jan 6, 2008

Surveillance of overseas communications is ok

Q: Does the president have inherent powers to conduct surveillance for national security purposes without judicial warrants?

A: There are some areas where the statutes don’t apply, such as in the surveillance of overseas communications. Where they do apply, however, I think that presidents have the obligation to obey and enforce laws that are passed by Congress, no matter what the situation is.

Q: So is that a no?

A: I don’t think the president has the right to disobey any law.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power , Dec 20, 2007

Ok to hold even US citizens as enemy combatants

Q: Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

A: The Supreme Court ruled in 2004 that, under the Congressional authorization of the use of force, the US can hold even American citizens under the law of war if they are enemy combatants. But the Court also said that US citizens must have due process to challenge their detention. And I think that is very important when it comes to American citizens.

Source: Boston Globe questionnaire on Executive Power , Dec 20, 2007

Consult lawyers on war decisions; no half-cocked war basis

Q: [to McCain]:You didn’t think much of the answer of Gov. Romney in the last debate, when he said that he would ask his lawyers whether he needed congressional authorization to use military force against Iran. Why not?

MCCAIN: Because I don’t think that’s the time to call in the lawyers, when we’re in a national security crisis. Those are the last people I’d call in. I’d call in my wisdom, my knowledge, my background, my experience, and my ability to lead this nation.

ROMNEY: I want to make one thing very, very clear, and that is if there were ever a question of a security threat to this country, I would act immediately to protect the interests of America and our citizens. No question about that. But every president has of course met with White House counsel and they have written opinions about the involvement of Congress. The decision to take our men and women to war is the most grave decision and I would do that on a very deliberate and careful basis, not a half-cocked basis.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida , Oct 21, 2007

Ran the largest squadron in the US Navy

Q: This country hasn’t elected a senator to be president since jack Kennedy in 1960. And generally, voters go for governors who have run something. What have you ever run in your career?

A: I’ve run the largest squadron in the US Navy, and I didn’t run it, I led it. It was tens of millions of dollars of assets, training brave young Americans to go fight and defend the country. I’ll defend my leadership of 1,000-men and -women organization with the management of anything that anybody else has done.

Source: FOX News Sunday, 2007 presidential interviews , Oct 21, 2007

After 9/11, ask Americans to join military or AmeriCorps

Q: You were critical of Pres. Bush for the lack of asking for sacrifice after September 11th, adding that “Just go shopping” wasn’t enough. What would you have asked?

A: I would have asked Americans, when Americans were ready to serve a cause greater than themselves, I would have told them, first of all, consider the military; also the Peace Corps, also AmeriCorps, also neighborhood watches, also volunteer organizations that we would form up all over America. That way we would all serve this nation.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan , Oct 9, 2007

Let loose smart, tough spies to catch Bin Laden

Q: How would you catch bin Laden?

A: I would establish an organization not unlike the OSS in World War II. People who are smart, people who are tough; people who are used to operating independently, and the smartest and most talented people I know. And I would let them loose, and I’d say find this guy and do whatever is necessary to get him.

Source: 2007 Republican debate in Dearborn, Michigan , Oct 9, 2007

His Military Commissions Act ended up denying habeas corpus

As a direct result [of the media’s lack of analysis of McCain’s epic bio], much of what we think we know about John McCain is wrong. He does not, for instance, talk particularly straight. Nor is McCain much of a reformer, hard as that might be to accept.

His two most significant reform laws--the line-item veto and McCain-Feingold--were both judged to be largely unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. (Indeed, most of McCain’s ideas for reform involve increasing federal power at the expense of civil liberties.) A third law, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, will be adjudicated by the high court in the fall of 2007, and is a classic example of a legislative cure be

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. xix , Oct 9, 2007

1973: Spokesperson for Operation Homecoming

[While a POW, McCain] did receive special treatment because of his father, especially (ironically enough) in Hanoi, where he likely would have been left for dead had his captors not learned of his identity. Of the 591 POWs who came back to the US in the first months of 1973 as part of Operation Homecoming, only one was offered an extraordinary 13-page spread in US News & World Report in which to write about his experience, thereby launching a national profile. This certainly wasn’t because of McCain’s own rank, flight record, or length of imprisonment.

[Based on that article,] McCain became a trusted Congressional advisor on POW issues, a status most of the other 590 men likely did not enjoy. Although McCain had help getting his foot in the door, he made the most of his opportunities. The remarkable, gracious, and nearly bitterness-free bit of writing [in US News & World Report] foreshadowed the literary success he would have with Faith of My Fathers.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 47 , Oct 9, 2007

1977:Appointed as Navy liaison to Congress

McCain was appointed to his father’s old post as Navy liaison to congress in 1977. Long accustomed to Washington socializing and the Navy’s organizational concerns, he was ideally suited for a job that largely involved accompanying senators on long-distance trips and making sure the Navy’s interests were being represented on Capitol Hill.

Unsurprisingly, he proved to be one of the most popular Navy liaisons in history. John McCain, as a Navy captain, “knew on a personal basis more senators and was more warmly received than virtually any lobbyist I have ever known in this town; they loved to see him,” McCain’s liaison office colleague said.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p. 48-49 , Oct 9, 2007

1970s: Communists negotiate when faced with force

McCain gave hawkish testament to the "courage" of Pres. Nixon in bombing Cambodia, acts he credited with ending the war. "He has a long background in dealing with these people. He know how to use the carrot and the stick," he wrote. "We're stronger than the Communists, so they were willing to negotiate. Force is what they understand. That's why it is difficult for me to understand now, when everybody knows bombing finally got a cease-fire agreement, why people are still criticizing his foreign policy."
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.122 , Oct 9, 2007

I admire TR's zest for combat & pugnacious vitality

In the Teddy Roosevelt chapters in Worth Fighting For and Character is Destiny, McCain writes, "I have never entirely lost my adolescent admiration for that kind of pugnacious vitality, and Roosevelt's extraordinary zest for combat, both the physical and rhetorical varieties, remains the source of much of his appeal to me."

There is literally no Roosevelt military action that McCain finds deserving of retrospective criticism. Asserting "the right to intervene militarily in Latin American countries where disorder might attract the unwelcome attention of other great powers"? Check. Fomenting insurrection in Panama to dig and control a canal? Check.

Teddy Roosevelt was the architect of America's empire. McCain wrote in Faith of My Fathers, before relating this rough-and-ready quote from Jack McCain: "People may not love you for being strong when you have to be, but they respect you for it and learn to behave themselves when you are."

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.143-148 , Oct 9, 2007

Leading proponent for drastically expanding National Service

"In the Teddy Roosevelt code," McCain writes approvingly, "the authentic meaning of freedom gave equal respect to self-interest and common purpose, to rights and duties. And it absolutely required that every loyal citizen take risks for the country's sake." McCain has long been the leading proponent for drastically expanding national service, warning frequently about the "growing gap" between military and civilian life. As he wrote in the liberal Washington Monthly just after the September 11 massacre, "Americans did not fight and win World War II as discrete individuals. Their brave and determined energies were mobilized and empowered by a national government headed by democratically elected leaders. That is how a free society remains free and achieves greatness."
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.146 , Oct 9, 2007

Boost standing army from 750,000 to 900,000

McCain proposes putting the country on much more of a war footing than President Bush has ever contemplated. For instance, he would boost the standing of Army and Marine troop levels from 750,000 to 900,000, create a 20,000-strong "Army Advisor Corps" to "work with friendly militaries abroad," increase spending on weapons systems, and drastically ramp up language instruction in the military. These initiatives would cost real money, "But we can also afford to spend more on our defense," he argues when unveiling some of these plans in New Hampshire this past July. "Our defense budget currently consumes less than 4 cents of every dollar that our booming economy generates--far less than we spent during the Cold War.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.169 , Oct 9, 2007

Half of world's defense spending should be US as global cop

McCain wants to overthrow the governments of rogue states, back all U.S. threats and covert activities with force, and greatly increase the size of the military and its defense budget. He has consistently called for drastically more boots on the ground in every intervention of the past decade and is a firm believer in the Powell Doctrine of using overwhelming force. He thinks the United States should account for al least half of the world's defense spending, embrace its role as global cop, and try to squeeze out more support from its too-grudging allies.

To support this expansive foreign policy, McCain wants to narrow the gap between civilians and military, create more opportunities for civilians to join the struggle, and increase opportunities for immigrants to gain citizenship through war.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.203 , Oct 9, 2007

I’ve spent my life leading on national security issues

A: [to McCain]: Mayor Giuliani says his leadership after the 9/11 attacks shows he is the best candidate for national security, and you say nothing he has done shows any real experience in foreign policy or national security affairs. Tell me why?

A: I’ve spent my life in national security issues. I’ve taken unpopular stance because I knew what was right. Back in 2003, amid criticism from my fellow Republicans, I spoke strongly against the Rumsfeld strategy, which I knew was doomed to failure and cause so much needless sacrifice. I advocated very strongly the new strategy that some Democrats have called the McCain strategy--which it is not. And I believe that this strategy is winning. I know the conflict. I know war. I have seen war. I know how the military works. I know how the government works. I understand national security. I was once the commanding officer of the largest squadron in the US Navy. I didn’t manage it. I led it.

Source: 2007 GOP debate at UNH, sponsored by Fox News , Sep 5, 2007

Radical Islamic extremism is a hydra-headed challenge

I firmly believe that the challenge of the 21st century is the struggle against radical Islamic extremism. It is a transcendent issue. It is hydra-headed. It will be with us for the rest of the century. I have served my nation and my country and the people of this country for all of my adult life. I am the most prepared. I have been involved in these issues. I have served this nation in the military and in the Congress, and I’m the best prepared and need no on-the-job training to meet that challenge
Source: 2007 GOP Iowa Straw Poll debate , Aug 5, 2007

I support the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war

Q: Do you believe in the Bush doctrine? In 2002, the president said we have a right to a pre-emptive attack, that we can attack if this country feels threatened. And on that basis we went into Iraq. Do you agree with the doctrine, or would you change it?

A: I agree with the doctrine. And I’d also like to give President Bush a little credit. Right after 9/11, every expert in the world said there would be another attack on the US. There hasn’t been. Now, maybe that’s all by accident. But if there had been, I think it’s very clear where the responsibility would have been placed. We created the Department of Homeland Security, and America is safer. I’d like to give the president some credit for that. Now, I strongly disagreed with the strategy employed by Secretary Rumsfeld. And I’m the only one at the time that said we’ve got to employ a new strategy and outlined what it was, which is the Petraeus strategy. But we are succeeding now in Iraq.

Source: 2008 Facebook/WMUR-NH Republican primary debate , Jan 5, 2006

We must provide our children a strong, better country

The sacrifices borne in our defense are not shared equally by all Americans. But all Americans must share a resolve to see this war through to a just end. We must not be complacent at successes, AND we must not despair over setbacks. We must learn from our mistakes, improve on our successes, and vanquish this unpardonable enemy. If we do less, we will fail the one mission no American generation has ever failed-to provide to our children a stronger, better country than the one we were blessed to inherit
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Speech , Aug 30, 2004

A lack of complacency shouldn’t provoke a lack of confidence

No American will ever forget what happened on the morning of 9/11, the moment when the pendulum of history swung toward a new era. It shook us from our complacency in the belief that the Cold War’s end had ushered in a time of global tranquility. The opening chapter was tinged with great sadness and uncertainty. But an absence of complacency should not provoke an absence of confidence. What our enemies have sought to destroy is beyond their reach. It cannot be taken from us, but only be surrendered.
Source: 2004 Republican Convention Speech , Aug 30, 2004

We don’t have as much to fear as we had in the past

Crime rates rise and fall and rise again, and claim victims and leave tragedies behind, but lawlessness is still much less prevalent today than it was a century ago. We are the world’s only superpower, with armed forces so powerful that they deter all but the most irrational of adversaries from significantly challenging our security. We don’t have as much to fear as we had in the past. Courage may be in scarce supply, but the demand appears down as well. And we have come to grade courage on the curve.
Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 21 , Apr 1, 2004

Those who gave their lives deserve to be remembered

Those who gave their lives in service to their country deserve to be remembered. Should, as we hope & intend, another people in a country far from ours gain & keep their own right to self-determination, that would be an accomplishment worth remembering. But will it? The thrill of it will fade away. We constantly seek new ones and the shelf life of their effect contracts correspondingly. Will we attempt to inspire our own courage some distant day by recalling the heroics of our compatriots in Iraq?
Source: Why Courage Matters, p. 24 , Apr 1, 2004

First reaction to Sept 11: “This is war”

On Sept. 11, McCain drove to his office (Unlike many senators, McCain refuses to be chauffeured). Shortly after his car crossed the 14th Street bridge into Washington, he heard the news on the radio that a plane had slammed into the World Trade Center.

Staff members in the cramped office, watching TV, saw a second plane hit the other tower. “This is war,” McCain said quietly.

[Before McCain left the office, he] issued the statement they’d decided on: “There are no words to describe adequately the enormity of these attacks on the US or the depravity of those who are responsible for them. These were not just crimes against the US, they are acts of war. We will prevail in this war, as we have prevailed in the past.“

[Over the next few days, McCain] offered more leadership then than did the President. ”The best thing that we can do as Americans is to remain calm,“ McCain told ABC. ”Obviously, this is an act of war that has been committed against the US,“ he told another interviewer.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p.131-132 , May 7, 2002

Argued for base closings even in the wake of 9/11

[In the days after 9/11,] McCain took on a contentious issue: closing of unneeded military bases. Senators with bases in their states objected, as usual, and in the last few years they had prevailed.

But this was an issue that went to McCain’s disdain for pork, particularly when military funds would be wasted, particularly now. He was disturbed that even in a national crisis parochial interests might prevail. Speaking with some agitation on the Senate floor, McCain said, “The fact is, at a time when we rally around the president and our military and civilian leadership. It is that clear.“ He became a bit testy with his friend and usual ally, Susan Collins, who had just argued against more base closings. ”I would like for the Senator from Maine to talk to General Schwarzkopf & the Joint Chiefs of Staff,“ he said. ”It’s business as usual in the US Congress. We’re not prepared to give up anything to fight this war on terrorism.“ McCain’s position on the base-closings prevailed, on a close vote.

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p.151 , May 7, 2002

Channel fear into productive missions and activities

McCain gave an interview on the subject of fear, in the wake of 9/11. McCain, earlier in his life, in the North Vietnamese prison camps, had confronted fear. McCain said, “The way you live with fear is that you suppress it.” He said, “Anyone who is faced with a life-threatening situation will have fear. Anyone who says they don’t is either crazy or a liar. The trick is to channel it into productive missions and activities. That’s the way I’ve handled it in the past.”

[On another show], McCain said, “I think you have to recognize that there is a reason for fear...but you have to suppress it. You have to channel it, and it can be beneficial in a way because it will make you more alert. It’ll make you more efficient. And it will make you more aware of everything that’s going on around you. You know, Ernest Hemingway’s famous definition on courage was ‘grace under pressure.’ You’ve got to show grace under pressure and that grace is to go on with your life, not let it rule you, not let it overcome you.“

Source: Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew, p.157-158 , May 7, 2002

1993: Led effort to normalize relations with Vietnam

[Based on his poor treatment as a POW], most men would be bitter, vengeful. Yet despite this inhuman treatment, Senator John McCain led the effort to normalize relations with Vietnam. In 1993 he privately told Bill Clinton, the leader of the other party and whose evasion of the draft during the Vietnam War infuriated more than a few veterans, that "I'll provide any cover you want for Vietnam." When President Clinton first journeyed to the Vietnam Memorial he was accompanied by John McCain.
Source: Profiles in Courage For Our Time, by Caroline Kennedy, p.258 , Oct 1, 2001

Accused in 2000 SC primary of ignoring veterans' groups

In Feb. 2000, McCain had scored a huge upset in the NH primary; with a win in South Carolina, he would be on his way to the Republican presidential nomination.

The big guns trained on him. A self-styled leader of an obscure veteran's group publicly accused McCain of not caring about veterans. This was mild compared to the stuff below the radar screen. A professor at fundamentalist Bob Jones University sent out an email alleging McCain had sired two illegitimate kids. (In fact, he had adopted his first wife's two kids.) There were vicious fliers about the candidate's current wife's drug habits and charges that he had a black daughter. (His wife years ago had an addiction to pain medication, which she acknowledged and has overcome, and the McCains have an adopted daughter from Bangladesh.)

The successful Palmetto State jihad against McCain was orchestrated by Pat Robertson and the religious right, with the knowledge and subtle assistance of some party leaders.

Source: Profiles in Courage by Caroline Kennedy, p.249-250 , Oct 1, 2001

Focuses on issue-specific waste, not overall Pentagon reform

Relatively speaking, McCain has been silent on the politics of military reform. Presumably, he has opinions on how to shake up the military bureaucracy--as sprawling a bureaucracy as one would find in the entire political universe--but those opinions did not figure prominently in his rhetoric about changing the status quo in Washington.

Early in his political career, McCain had actually bragged that he could bring back fat defense contracts to his Arizona district. McCain emerged, not only as a sophisticated voice on national security issues, which he was, but also sufficiently secure to rail against Pentagon procurement waste on an issue-specific basis, and to do so while still maintaining his hawkish credentials.

Only the former POW, third generational scion of a military family, and currently second-ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, could begin that overdue house-cleaning at the Pentagon, which so many idealistic, committed officers view as necessary.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.230&232 , Sep 20, 2000

“Rogue state rollback” avoids use of US troops

Q: You’ve talked about something that you have called “rogue state rollback,” which means, as I understand it, arming and paying for rebel armies in countries like Iraq to overthrow governments that we don’t like. Will we have a moral obligation under your policy to send American armed forces to help those folks out? A: No, that’s a very narrow interpretation of “rogue state rollback.” That means that you do whatever you can, whether it be the use of propaganda, whether it be used to organize groups outside the country, whether it be arming and training and equipping, depending on what the possibilities are. No, this is an attempt to avoid US military involvement. We do what we can to overthrow these countries which pose a clear and present danger to the security of the US. So you really kind of have two choices: you react militarily, risking American lives, or you try to overthrow that government.
Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles , Mar 2, 2000

Accepts gays in military under current policy

KEYES [to McCain]: I have signed the following pledge: In the interest of national security and the morale of our armed forces, if elected president of the US I pledge to reinstitute the ban on homosexuals serving in our nation’s military. Would you join me, sir, in signing that pledge?

McCAIN: No, I will not. [I agree when] military leaders that you and I respect say that this policy is a good one. I will support the present policy.

Source: Republican Debate in West Columbia, SC , Jan 7, 2000

Military’s political leaders need military backgrounds

I think the state of our military is still important. I think the fact that we have a president of the United States, National Security Adviser, a Secretary of State and a Secretary of Defense, none of whom have ever spent one minute wearing the uniform of the United States of America’s military is a disgrace, and we’re going to change that.
Source: Republican Debate in West Columbia, SC , Jan 7, 2000

Women have proven themselves in combat-no restrictions

Q: Do you think it’s a good idea to prohibit women from combat? A: No, I don’t and it’s already been proven in the Persian Gulf War that women performed extraordinarily with heroism and skill and courage including in a POW experience.
Source: Des Moines Iowa GOP Debate , Dec 13, 1999

Bombing useless targets in Vietnam destroyed US morale

When I was first on the Forrestal, every man in my squadron had thought Washington’s air war plans were senseless. The target list was so restricted that we had to go back and hit the same targets over and over again. It’s hard to get a sense that you are advancing the war effort when you are prevented from doing anything more than bouncing the rubble of an utterly insignificant target. When President Johnson ordered an end to Operation Rolling Thunder in 1968, the campaign was judged to have had no measurable impact on the enemy. Most of our pilots flying the missions believed that our targets were virtually worthless. In all candor, we thought our civilian commanders were complete idiots who didn’t have the least notion of what it took to win the war. I found no evidence in postwar studies of the Johnson administration’s political and military decision-making during the war that caused me to revise that harsh judgement.
Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, p. 185-6 , Nov 9, 1999

Pres. needs experience more than briefing books

McCain said there are times when the commander-in-chief “can no longer rely on briefing books & talking points. When a President makes life & death decisions he should draw wisdom from the deep experience with the reasons for and the risks of committing our children to our defense. No matter how many others are involved in the decision, the President is a lonely man in a dark room when the casualty reports come in. I am not afraid of that burden. I know both the blessing and the price of freedom.”
Source: Alison Mitchell, New York Times, p. A20 , Sep 28, 1999

Discard ABM Treaty and develop a missile defense

A massive nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union is no longer our central preoccupation. The threat is much more diverse, and more difficult to deter. We urgently need a practical ballistic missile defense, and the ABM Treaty is for the moment blocking us from obtaining it. [We should develop] a defense against terrorists and rogue states that will benefit all nations. Let us praise the good intentions that created the ABM Treaty, then consign it to the history pages where it belongs.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 4/30/99 , Apr 30, 1999

Use force, with US control, only for vital interests

Force has a role in but is not a substitute for diplomacy. All means short of force should be employed first. [We should not risk] American lives in quarrels that are entirely someone else’s affair, where no faction is committed to our values, and no vital interest is at stake. When force must be used, have clear rules of engagement, define an achievable mission, and bring [US troops] home as soon as possible. And never accept foreign or “dual key” authority for the command of US military operations.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 4/30/99 , Apr 30, 1999

John McCain on Defense Spending

Make all defense contracts fixed-cost; costs out of control

We have to do away with cost-plus contracts. We now have defense systems that the costs are completely out of control. We tried to build the Littoral Combat Ship that supposed to cost $140 million, ended up costing $400 million and we still haven’t done it. We need to have fixed-cost contracts. We need very badly to understand that defense spending is very important and vital, particularly in the new challenges we face in the world, but we have to get a lot of the cost overruns under control.
Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

Cited 245 pork projects, or $3.5M waste in defense bill

McCain for years has made exhaustive lists of Senators’ pet projects, many of them not remotely military-related, slipped into massive defense bills. He’s gone after weapons systems the military branches don’t need, and sweetheart financing arrangements, all while steering clear of writing his own pork into legislation. Rhetorically, on both defense pork and run-of-the-mill earmarks, John McCain has been one of the best public servants in Washington

[When discussing] the 2002 defense bill, McCain liste 245 gratuitous pork projects totaling more than $3.5 million in wasteful spending. “This bill chooses to fund pork-barrel projects with little relationship to national defense at a time of scarce resources & under-funded urgent defense priorities,” McCain rightly noted.

[One observer said], “I gave this body motion like, ‘Ok, what are you going to do now?’ And McCain’s body motion response was, ‘That’s it. The speech.’ ” The bill passed 94-2, with only McCain and Sen. Phil Gramm voting no.

Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.110-111 , Oct 9, 2007

Clean up waste in defense acquisition

Q: What specific programs would you cut if you were president?

A: Line-item veto is the best tool. We need it very badly. There are a whole variety of programs that need to be cut, & I would start in cleaning up defense acquisition. The cost overruns associated with the purchase of our weapons systems is completely out of control. There’s a $160 million combat ship that is now $400 million. We’ve got to get that under control first. Let’s stop the pork- barrel spending; then we’ll go at programs.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate, at Reagan library, hosted by MSNBC , May 3, 2007

Eliminate defense pork, but increase most other defense

Source: 2004 Congressional National Political Awareness Test , Nov 1, 2004

Terminate C-130, B-2, and Seawolf; use funds to modernize

McCain asserted that US military preparedness is dangerously inadequate, and names specific weapons systems he considered unnecessary, elimination of which would provide some of the funds needed to modernize the military and increase preparedness. He said that the C-130 military transport aircraft, the B-2 stealth bomber, and the Seawolf submarine should all be taken out of production. He noted that for years Congress has forced the Air Force to buy more C-130s than its leaders wanted.
Source: Boston Globe, p. A19 , Dec 8, 1999

Politicians keep unneeded bases open for political purposes

McCain said numerous unneeded military bases, which have been kept open by congressmen eager to avoid unemployment & dislocation in their districts, should be closed. That, along with eliminating unnecessary weapons systems, would save up to $20 billion that could modernize forces to face current threats, he said. McCain took pains to absolve military leaders of blame for the lack of preparedness, faulting instead what he called gross neglect of real military needs by politicians from both parties.
Source: Boston Globe, p. A19 , Dec 8, 1999

Keep health care promises to aging veterans

McCain fears the dying generation of WWII veterans is being shortchanged in health care at an age when the old soldiers’ medical needs are more expensive than ever. “Our WWII veterans, the greatest generation, they’re dying at 30,000 a month, & they’re not getting the care they’ve been promised,” McCain said. “If you’ve got a flat budget, and millions of Americans who need expensive long-term and geriatric care, it doesn’t match up.” McCain said he plans to announce soon a “Contract with Veterans.”
Source: The Sunday Enterprise (Brockton, MA), p. A7 , Nov 21, 1999

$6.4B of military spending waste is a disgrace

The President and the Congress have allowed the military to deteriorate. I identified $6.4 billion worth of waste, worth of projects we don’t need or want. It is enraging. I get angry when we spend $350 million on a carrier the Navy doesn’t want or need; 500 and some-million dollars on an airplane, a C-130, that the Air Force has said for years they don’t need. And meanwhile, we have 12,000 enlisted families on food stamps. That’s a disgrace! I am going to fix it as president.
Source: Republican Debate at Dartmouth College , Oct 29, 1999

Raise military pay to avoid military draft

McCain opposes reviving a military draft even though enlistments are down and the services could be forced to return to selective conscription if they can’t fill the ranks with higher pay and improved benefits. The modern military requires technical skills to operate today’s sophisticated weapons, and it takes a long time to acquire those skills, McCain said. McCain blamed Congress for the shortage, saying it has failed to provide the necessary funding to raise military pay & benefits.
Source: Associated Press , Aug 3, 1999

Military personnel on food stamps is a national disgrace

The military is not seen as an attractive option, McCain said. McCain told the local Rotary Club that there are 11,000 military personnel on food stamps. “That’s a national disgrace,” he said.
Source: Associated Press , Aug 3, 1999

Europeans should spend more on defense, within NATO

As we approach the 50th anniversary of NATO, the Atlantic Alliance is in pretty bad shape. Our allies are spending far too little on their own defense to maintain the alliance as an effective military force. [And Europeans have a] growing determination to develop a defense identity separate from NATO. We [should encourage defense growth] only within the institutions of NATO. Defense structures accountable to the WEU or any other organization other than the alliance will ultimately kill the alliance.
Source: www.mccain2000.com/ “Position Papers” 4/30/99 , Apr 30, 1999

John McCain on Torture

2005: interrogations must follow US Army Field Manual rules

The CIA developed a list of enhanced interrogation techniques, & wanted to determine that they complied with the law, including international treaty obligations such as the UN Convention Against Torture. After that review process, which took several months, the program was approved by the president.

Despite the invaluable intelligence we were obtaining through the program of enhanced interrogation, in 2005 there was a move on Capitol Hill, led by Sen. John McCain & Lindsey Graham, to end it and require that all government interrogations be conducted under the rules of the US Army Field Manual.

In an effort to reach an agreement with McCain and explain to him how damaging his proposed amendment would be, the CIA Director and I met with him in a secure conference room at the Capitol and tried to brief him about the program and the critical intelligence we had gained. But John didn't want to hear what we had to say. We had hardly started when he lost his temper and stormed out of the meeting.

Source: In My Time, by V.P. Dick Cheney, p.358-359 , Aug 30, 2011

Bush administration’s waterboarding was torture

Q: When you say that you disagree with Bush that you “don’t want to torture any prisoners”--you’re not suggesting he did want to torture prisoners?

A: Well, waterboarding to me is torture, OK? And waterboarding was advocated by the administration, and according to a published report, was used. But the point is we’ve had our disagreements and I’ve been called a “maverick.” And I’m not the most popular person in my party.

Source: 2008 Fox News interview: “Choosing the President” series , Aug 31, 2008

McCain Amendment: Torture ban passed by veto-proof majority

You'll recall the strange and perverted legal memorandum from inside the administration that actually sought to justify torture. The uproar caused by the disclosure of this legal analysis forced the administration to claim it was throwing out the memo and to dismiss it as irrelevant and over-broad, but the administration still refuses to acknowledge that the memo's original audacious claims that the president can ignore the law are just wrong.

Congress was understandably unmoved by these disclaimers and enacted the McCain Amendment, preventing not only what the memo regards as torture but also "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" of detainees. Despite the threat of a veto, the legislation passed by overwhelming, veto-proof majorities in both houses. Rather than see his veto overridden, the president signed the law but simultaneously issued a signing statement indicating that he would not be bound by the new law.

Source: The Assault on Reason, by Al Gore, p.153-154 , Jul 1, 2008

Hiding torture is wrong, and harms US credibility abroad

Q: This report that the CIA destroyed tapes of its interrogation of two terror detainees--do you believe that the agency was trying to hide something?

A: I do not know. But the actions were absolutely wrong. I’m glad that the attorney general is going to investigate it. This harms the credibility and the moral standing of America in the world, again. There will be skepticism and cynicism all over the world about how we treat prisoners and whether we practice torture or not.

Q: The CIA director says the tapes were destroyed to protect the identity of the officers involved in the interrogation. Do you buy that?

A: We certainly want to do everything we can to protect the identities of those in the CIA. But he was advised not to [destroy the tapes] b several people, including high-ranking members of the administration. We’re also setting up a false argument here between torture & moral high ground. That doesn’t have to be. We have to keep the moral high ground. We can do it without torturing people.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Dec 9, 2007

Waterboarding is torture; we’re not going to torture people

Q: [to Romney]: Considering that Mr. McCain is the only one with any firsthand knowledge on the subject of waterboarding, how can those of you sharing the stage with him disagree with his position against torture?

ROMNEY: I do not believe that as a presidential candidate, it is wise for us to describe precisely what techniques we will use in interrogating people.

McCAIN: I am astonished that Mitt would think such a torture would be inflicted on anyone who we held captive and anyone could believe that that’s not torture. It’s in violation of the Geneva Convention. It’s in violation of existing law. If we’re going to get the high ground in this world and we’re going to be the America that we have cherished and loved for more than 200 years. We’re not going to torture people. It’s clear the definition of torture. [Waterboarding] is in violation of laws we have passed.

Source: 2007 GOP YouTube debate in St. Petersburg, Florida , Nov 28, 2007

Waterboarding is torture; & as A.G., Mukasey will declare it

Q: You say you’re going to vote for Michael Mukasey’s nomination to become the next Attorney General, even though you are strongly opposed to waterboarding [which Mukasey would not condemn as torture]. Explain to our viewers why.

A: Mukasey said that he believes that the president does not have the authority to violate existing law concerning treatment of prisoners. That means clearly that waterboarding is illegal. He also has said that he finds waterboarding repugnant. I have written him saying then there is no doubt that once you get briefed then you will declare waterboarding as torture. And so I am confident that he will declare that practice illegal, and therefore I will vote to support his nomination.

Q: You yourself say there is no doubt about it, waterboarding is torture.

A: It is torture. There’s no doubt about it. Mr. Mukasey will get briefed on the specific procedures that are being used. And I have every anticipation that he will say that it’s illegal and that it is torture.

Source: CNN Late Edition: 2007 presidential series with Wolf Blitzer , Nov 4, 2007

Torture supported only by people without military experience

TANCREDO: [to McCain]: I would certainly waterboard--I don’t believe that is “torture.” I would do what is necessary to protect this country.

McCAIN: It was interesting during the debate on torture, retired military, from Colin Powell on down, and others, sided with me. Those who had no military experience took the other side. [The military consensus is that] any information that we may gain through the use of torture can never, ever be counterbalanced by the damage it does to America’s reputation

Source: 2007 GOP debate at UNH, sponsored by Fox News , Sep 5, 2007

Torture is ineffective as interrogation & for world opinion

Q: Let’s say terrorists mounted 3 successful suicide attacks in the US, and a 4th attack was averted and the terrorists captured. How aggressively would you interrogate those being held about where the next attack might be?

A: That is a million-to-one scenario. But I would take that responsibility [to authorize aggressive interrogations. However,] we could never gain as much from that torture as we lose in world opinion. We do not torture people. When I was in Vietnam, one of the things that sustained us as we underwent torture, is the knowledge that if we had our positions reversed, we would not impose that kind of treatment on them. It’s not about the terrorists, it’s about us. It’s about what kind of country we are. The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they’re going to tell you what they think you want to know. We have procedures for interrogation, adequate in 999,999 [out of a million] cases, and if we agree to torture people, we will do ourselves great harm in the world.

Source: 2007 Republican Debate in South Carolina , May 15, 2007

Close Guantanamo Bay prison; announce no-torture policy

Q: How would you fight the War on Terror differently than it’s being fought now?

A: I would probably announce the closing of Guantanamo Bay. I would move those detainees to Fort Leavenworth. I would announce we will not torture anyone. I would announce that climate change is a big issue, because we’ve got some image problems in the world. Clearly, in the area of “propaganda,” in the area of the war of ideas, we are not winning--well, in some ways we are behind. Al-Jazeera and others maybe, in my view--may sometimes do a better job than we are. At the end of the day, it’s how people make up their minds as to whether they want to embrace our values, our standards, our ideals, or whether they want to go the path of radical Islamic extremism, which is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in.

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Torture has never worked throughout history

Q: Former CIA Director Tenet now says that the intelligence that they got from harsh interrogation techniques was more valuable than all other CIA programs. Were you wrong to limit what CIA interrogators could do?

A: If you torture someone, they’re going to tell you anything they think you want to know. It is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in. Every retired military officer, everybody who’s been in war doesn’t want to torture people and think that it’s the wrong thing to do. And history shows that. We cannot torture people & maintain our moral superiority in the world.

Q: But George Tenet says...

A: I don’t care what George Tenet says. I know what’s right. I know what’s morally right as far as America’s behavior.

Q: But Tenet says we saved live through some of these techniques...

A: I don’t accept that fundamental thesis, because it’s never worked throughout history. That’s just a fundamental fact. We’ve gotten a huge amount of misinformation from these techniques

Source: Fox News Sunday: 2007 “Choosing the President” interviews , Apr 2, 2007

Abusing prisoners hurts America's cause in War on Terror

Senator John McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, has criticized the way detainees have been treated by US forces, and he and other Republican senators have proposed legislation that would prohibit the US military from engaging in "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" of detainees, or from hiding prisoners from the Red Cross, and would set uniform standards for interrogating anyone detained by the Defense Department. These powerful Republican senators have quoted comments from 15 top-ranking military officers: "The abuse of prisoners hurts America's cause in the war on terror, endangers US service members who might be captured by the enemy, and is anathema to the values Americans have held dear for generations." McCain said, "The enemy we fight has no respect for human life or human rights. They don't deserve our sympathy. But this isn't about who they are. This is about who we are."
Source: Our Endangered Values, by Jimmy Carter, p.131-132 , Sep 26, 2006

John McCain on Vietnam

Experience has taught me: the US military must not fail

Q: What do you see as the lessons of Iraq?

A: I have a record of being involved in national security issues which involve the toughest decisions that any president can make, and that is to send our young men and women into harm’s way. I had a town hall meeting and a woman stood up and she said, “Senator McCain, I want you to do me the honor of wearing a bracelet with my son’s name on it.” He was 22 years old and he was killed in combat outside of Baghdad. Then she said, “Senator McCain, promise me one thing, that you’ll do everything in your power to make sure that my son’s death was not in vain.“ That means that that mission succeeds.

A war that I was in, where we had an Army, that it wasn’t through any fault of their own, but they were defeated. And I know how hard it is for a military to recover from that. And it did and we will win this one and we won’t come home in defeat and dishonor.

Source: 2008 first presidential debate, Obama vs. McCain , Sep 26, 2008

Inappropriate to lie to public; tell Americans what we face

Q: Describe a situation when you think it’s appropriate to lie to the American people.

A: I can’t imagine it, to start with. I just think that the one thing you have to have, as president, is your credibility.

Q: What about in a national security situation?

A: I guess you could draw a scenario where Americans were facing a threat to our very existence and you had to not have them panic or something. But if you deceive the American people, and you don’t tell them the truth about a national security challenge, then they become disillusioned. That’s happened in the past.

Q: Vietnam, for example.

A: Yeah. the Vietnam War. “The light is at the end of the tunnel,” and it turned out to be a train. I think one of the reasons why America came out of the Great Depression is that FDR went on the radio and said “here’s what we’re facing but here’s what we’re going to do.” And every time the great presidents have not told the American people the complete truth, then they’ve paid a price for it.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric , Sep 23, 2008

1973: America is better country than when I left 6 years ago

In 1967, McCain--now thirty years old, married, and with children--was deployed to Vietnam. On October 26, 1967, on a bombing run over Hanoi on e month into his tour, McCain's plane was hit by a surface-to-air missile. McCain was held captive by the Vietnamese for the next five & a half years, a hellish period that saw him tortured, offered an early release (which he rejected), and forced into a false confession. Then he was released in 1973, he was greeted as a hero, with a front page photo in the New York Times. For a brief moment following his return, McCain was a celebrity. In a lengthy article for U.S. News and World Report, McCain displayed an enthusiasm about his country that hit the right notes following the bitter feelings of the Vietnam era. "I think America today is a better country than the one I left nearly six years ago," he wrote. "One of the most important things in life--along with a man's family--is to make some contribution to his country."
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 45 , Mar 25, 2008

Vietnam generation still haunted by specter of Vietnam

John McCain said to the BBC, on July 4, 2005: “In the case of Vietnam, obviously it was a tragic failure in many respects, but it impacted the conduct of our national security policy in a very negative way for at least 20 years, that I know of. And the specter of Vietnam still haunts us. I’ve got to tell you, my friends, I spent the last 30 years trying to heal the wounds of the Vietnam War and help many of our veterans to come all the way home. I was astonished at what a poor job that I, working with John Kerry, had done, because we spent five weeks of the last presidential campaign arguing over a war that was over 30 years ago. I’ve become tragically convinced that my generation may have to die off before the wounds of that conflict are finally healed.
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.119 , Oct 9, 2007

Casualty of Vietnam was loss of America’s faith in herself

The single-worst thing about the Vietnam war, McCain has said repeatedly, is the list of 58,000 dead American soldiers, commemorated at the Vietnam Wall he visits so often and praises its power of “reconciliation.” But runner-up is what Vietnam did to th country he loves. “A lost war is a terrible calamity and, in this instance, all the more so for its last casualty, America’s faith in herself,” he wrote in Worth the Fighting For. Restoring that faith-- the same faith that helped sustain him in Vietnam-- became the object of his post-Vietnam reconciliation project, made all the more urgent by what he felt was the dangerously pessimistic drift of the 1970s Democratic Party. “It had become an antiwar party, and opposition to the Vietnam War was growing inexorably into a general suspicion of the military, of an assertive foreign policy, even of that sense of American exceptionalism that had been the transcendent faith of American leaders since our founding.”]
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.128-129 , Oct 9, 2007

Worked with John Kerry on Vietnam POWs

Sorting out the competing claims of the POW saga [and claims that there are still POWs in Vietnam], separating wishful activist hyperbole from arrogant government malfeasance, is a task beyond our purview here. The recently published book “An Enormous Crime” [includes] a few contextual comments can be stated confidently:
Source: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch, p.130 , Oct 9, 2007

Immutable principle of war: luck is unreliable

On my last combat mission in Vietnam, having survived several mishaps that could have but did not cost me my life, I wasn’t as acutely aware of the danger to my own well-being that the mission entailed. Instead of interpreting my previous experiences as evidence that things can and often will go wrong when flying --an awareness that should have made me more heedful of the danger--I had developed a false sense of my own invulnerability. And that characteristic of my ego, which I felt no need to check, discounted the danger I personally faced. I placed too much faith on what was beyond my knowledge or control: luck. And my luck ran out that day.

When I heard the warning tone that an enemy SAM battery had locked onto me, I was moments away from dropping my bombs on target. I thought I had enough time to do my job and still evade the missile. I had 5-1/2 very long years to regret my decision and the lapse that had blinded me to one of the immutable principles of war and life: luck is unreliable.

Source: Hard Call, by John McCain & Mark Salter, chapter 1 , Aug 14, 2007

Vietnam not wrong, but how it was fought and led was

By the time my study at the War College ended, I had satisfied my curiosity about the Vietnam War. The experience did not cause me to conclude that the war was wrong, but it did help me understand how wrongly it had been fought and led. I did resent how badly civilian leaders had mismanaged the war. Most appalling was how Americans had let the least fortunate among us to fight the war for them, while sons of privilege were afforded opportunities to stay home. Before we enter war, we ought to know that most Americans share the commitment and are prepared for the personal sacrifices it entails. If only the poor are expected to fight for us, the country should belong to them and no one else.
Source: Worth the Fighting For, by John McCain, p. 11-12 , Sep 24, 2002

Disagrees with Perot: No more POWs in Vietnam

Like a lot of POWs in Vietnam, McCain came to know Ross Perot after the POWs were released in 1973. By then, Perot had become well-known for his efforts to help POWs and their families.

Both McCain and Perot remained active in POW matters after the war. But over time they found themselves at opposite ends of the most important issue: Whether American servicemen were still being held in Southeast Asia. Through the early 1990s, Perot insisted that government officials had ignored evidence of servicemen still in captivity, while McCain doubted a conspiracy occurred and believed much evidence of prisoner sightings was discredited. Perot [was accused of] the rash pursuit of conspiracy theories, while McCain became angered by people he thought were creating false hopes that missing servicemen were still alive. Their disagreement led to sharp words at a Senate committee hearing in 1992.

Source: New York Times, p. A10 , Feb 26, 2000

Vietnam was a worthy cause despite losing

My country had failed in Vietnam. There is much to regret about America’s failure. The reasons are etched in black marble on the Washington Mall. But we had believed the cause that America had asked us to serve in Vietnam was a worthy one, and millions who defended it had done so honorably.
Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, p. 348 , Nov 9, 1999

John McCain on Voting Record

Keep “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy - it works

Q. Would your Joint Chiefs of Staff support allowing gays to serve openly in the military? A: I would make sure that a policy that’s working and is working and should work was continued. Yes, [the policy] has troubles; yes, it needs some reviews or changes, fine tuning; and I’ll be glad to support such a thing. But, I cannot change a policy that’s working. And our military leaders are the ones whose advise we should rely on.
Source: Republican Debate in Durham, NH , Jan 6, 2000

Voted YES on extending the PATRIOT Act's roving wiretaps.

Congressional Summary: A bill to extend expiring provisions of the USA PATRIOT Improvement and Reauthorization Act of 2005 and Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 relating to access to business records, individual terrorists as agents of foreign powers, and roving wiretaps until December 8, 2011.

Proponent's Argument for voting Yes:
[Rep. Smith, R-TX]: America is safe today not because terrorists and spies have given up their goal to destroy our freedoms and our way of life. We are safe today because the men and women of our Armed Forces, our intelligence community, and our law enforcement agencies work every single day to protect us. And Congress must ensure that they are equipped with the resources they need to counteract continuing terrorist threats. On Feb. 28, three important provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act will expire. These provisions give investigators in national security cases the authority to conduct "roving" wiretaps, to seek certain business records, and to gather intelligence on lone terrorists who are not affiliated with a known terrorist group. The Patriot Act works. It has proved effective in preventing terrorist attacks and protecting Americans. To let these provisions expire would leave every American less safe.

Opponent's Argument for voting No:
[Rep. Conyers, D-MI]: Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows a secret FISA court to authorize our government to collect business records or anything else, requiring that a person or business produce virtually any type record. We didn't think that that was right then. We don't think it's right now. This provision is contrary to traditional notions of search and seizure which require the government to show reasonable suspicion or probable cause before undertaking an investigation that infringes upon a person's privacy. And so I urge a "no" vote on the extension of these expiring provisions.
Status: Passed 86-12

Reference: FISA Sunsets Extension Act; Bill H.514 ; vote number 11-SV019 on Feb 17, 2011

Voted NO on limiting soldiers' deployment to 12 months.

Vote on an amendment, SA2032, which amends HR1585, the Defense Authorization bill: To limit the deployment of a unit or individual of the Armed Forces for Operation Iraqi Freedom to no more than 12 consecutive months; and to limit Marine Corps deployment to no more than 7 consecutive months; except in time of national emergency.

Proponents support voting YES because:

Sen. HAGEL: The war in Iraq has pushed the US Army to the breaking point. When we deploy our military, we have an obligation to ensure that our troops are rested, ready, prepared, fully trained, and fully equipped. Today's Armed Forces are being deployed repeatedly for increasing periods of time. This is quickly wearing down the troops and their families, impacting the mental and physical health of our troops. Further, these deployments are affecting the recruiting and retention rates of the military. For example, the Army reached only a little over 80% of its recruiting goal for June. This is the second month in a row that the Army has failed to recruit the number of new soldiers needed to fill the ranks. And this is with $1 billion in large cash bonus incentives.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Sen. KYL: Time in theater and dwell times should be a goal, rather than an absolute fixed requirement that becomes the policy of the US military determined by congressional action. By mandating a certain policy for deployment time or dwell time, the Congress is engaged in the most explicit micromanaging of what is obviously a function for the Commander in Chief and military commanders to perform. This is not something Members of Congress are knowledgeable about or would have the ability to dictate in any responsible fashion. It also would be unconstitutional. Clearly, the dwell times of troops or the amount of time in theater is an obligation of the Commander in Chief, not something for the Congress to determine.

Reference: Hagel Amendment to Defense Authorization Bill; Bill SA2032 to HR1585 ; vote number 2007-243 on Jul 11, 2007

Voted NO on preserving habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees.

Sen. Specter's amendment would strike the provision regarding habeas review. The underlying bill authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. Excerpts from the Senate floor debate:

Sen. GRAHAM [recommending NO]: The fundamental question for the Senate to answer when it comes to determining enemy combatant status is, Who should make that determination? Should that be a military decision or should it be a judicial decision? That is something our military should do.

Sen. SPECTER [recommending YES]: My amendment would retain the constitutional right of habeas corpus for people detained at Guantanamo. The right of habeas corpus was established in the Magna Carta in 1215 when, in England, there was action taken against King John to establish a procedure to prevent illegal detention. What the bill seeks to do is to set back basic rights by some 900 years. This amendment would strike that provision and make certain that the constitutional right of habeas corpus is maintained.

GRAHAM: Do we really want enemy prisoners to bring every lawsuit known to man against the people fighting the war and protecting us? No enemy prisoner should have access to Federal courts--a noncitizen, enemy combatant terrorist--to bring a lawsuit against those fighting on our behalf. No judge should have the ability to make a decision that has been historically reserved to the military. That does not make us safer.

SPECTER: The US Constitution states that "Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." We do not have either rebellion or invasion, so it is a little hard for me to see, as a basic principle of constitutional law, how the Congress can suspend the writ of habeas corpus.

GRAHAM: If the Supreme Court does say in the next round of legal appeals there is a constitutional right to habeas corpus by those detained at Guantanamo Bay, then Sen. Specter is absolutely right.

Reference: Specter Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5087 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-255 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted NO on requiring CIA reports on detainees & interrogation methods.

Amendment to provide for congressional oversight of certain Central Intelligence Agency programs. The underlying bill S. 3930 authorizes trial by military commission for violations of the law of war. The amendment requires quarterly reports describing all CIA detention facilities; the name of each detainee; their suspected activities; & each interrogation technique authorized for use and guidelines on the use of each such technique.

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

I question the need for a very lengthy, detailed report every 3 months. We will probably see those reports leaked to the press.

This amendment would spread out for the world--and especially for al-Qaida and its related organizations--precisely what interrogation techniques are going to be used.

If we lay out, in an unclassified version, a description of the techniques by the Attorney General, that description will be in al-Qaida and Hezbollah and all of the other terrorist organizations' playbook. They will train their assets that: This is what you must be expected to do, and Allah wants you to resist these techniques.

We are passing this bill so that we can detain people. If we catch someone like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, we have no way to hold him, no way to ask him the questions and get the information we need, because the uncertainty has brought the program to a close. It is vitally important to our security, and unfortunately this amendment would imperil it.

Reference: Rockefeller Amendment; Bill S.AMDT.5095 to S.3930 ; vote number 2006-256 on Sep 28, 2006

Voted YES on reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act.

This vote reauthorizes the PATRIOT Act with some modifications (amendments). Voting YEA extends the PATRIOT Act, and voting NAY would phase it out. The official summary of the bill is:
A bill to clarify that individuals who receive FISA orders can challenge nondisclosure requirements, that individuals who receive national security letters are not required to disclose the name of their attorney, that libraries are not wire or electronic communication service providers unless they provide specific services, and for other purposes.
Reference: USA PATRIOT Act Additional Reauthorizing Amendments; Bill S. 2271 ; vote number 2006-025 on Mar 1, 2006

Voted YES on extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision.

Vote to invoke cloture on a conference report that extends the authority of the FBI to conduct "roving wiretaps" and access business records. Voting YES would recommend, in effect, that the PATRIOT Act be extended through December 31, 2009, and would makes the provisions of the PATRIOT Act permanent. Voting NO would extend debate further, which would have the effect of NOT extending the PATRIOT Act's wiretap provision.
Reference: Motion for Cloture of PATRIOT Act; Bill HR 3199 ; vote number 2005-358 on Dec 16, 2005

Voted NO on restricting business with entities linked to terrorism.

Vote to adopt an amendment that makes US businesses and their subsidiaries liable to prosecution for dealing with foreign businesses which have links to terrorism or whose parent country supports terrorism. Voting YES would:
Reference: Stop Business with Terrorists Act of 2005; Bill S AMDT 1351 to S 1042 ; vote number 2005-203 on Jul 26, 2005

Voted NO on restoring $565M for states' and ports' first responders.

Amendment intended to protect the American people from terrorist attacks by restoring $565 million in cuts to vital first-responder programs in the Department of Homeland Security, including the State Homeland Security Grant program, by providing $150 million for port security grants and by providing $140 million for 1,000 new border patrol agents.
Reference: State Homeland Security Grant Program Amendment; Bill S AMDT 220 to S Con Res 18 ; vote number 2005-64 on Mar 17, 2005

Voted NO on adopting the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

Adoption of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty would ban nuclear weapons testing six months after ratification by the 44 nations that have nuclear power plants or nucelar research reactors.
Status: Resolution of Ratification Rejected Y)48; N)51; P)1
Reference: Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; Bill Treaty Document #105-28 ; vote number 1999-325 on Oct 13, 1999

Voted YES on allowing another round of military base closures.

Vote on an amendment to allow one round of military base closures beginning in 2001 as determined by an independent panel.
Reference: Bill S.1059 ; vote number 1999-147 on May 26, 1999

Voted YES on cutting nuclear weapons below START levels.

The Kerrey (D-NE) amdt would strike bill language requiring that U.S. strategic nuclear forces remain at START I levels through the end of fiscal 2000 unless Russia ratified START II.
Status: Motion to Table Agreed to Y)56; N)44
Reference: Motion to table Kerrey Amdt #395; Bill S. 1059 ; vote number 1999-149 on May 26, 1999

Voted YES on deploying National Missile Defense ASAP.

Vote that the policy of the US is to deploy a National Missile Defense system capable of defending against limited ballistic missile attack as soon as it is technologically possible, and to seek continued negotiated reductions in Russian nuclear forces.
Reference: Bill S 257 ; vote number 1999-51 on Mar 17, 1999

Voted YES on military pay raise of 4.8%.

Vote to pass a bill to authorize a military pay raise of 4.8% in 2000 and annual pay increases through 2006 of 0.5% above the inflation rate. The bill would also provide additional incentives to certain enlisted personnel who remain on active duty.
Reference: Bill S.4 ; vote number 1999-26 on Feb 24, 1999

Voted NO on prohibiting same-sex basic training.

Byrd Amdt (D-WV) that would prohibit same-sex military barracks and basic training.
Status: Amdt Rejected Y)39; N)53; NV)8
Reference: Byrd Amdt #3011; Bill S. 2057 ; vote number 1998-180 on Jun 25, 1998

Voted NO on favoring 36 vetoed military projects.

Overturning line-item vetoes of 36 military projects vetoed by President Clinton.
Status: Bill Passed Y)69; N)30; NV)1
Reference: Line Item Veto Cancellation bill; Bill S. 1292 ; vote number 1997-287 on Oct 30, 1997

Voted YES on banning chemical weapons.

Approval of the chemical weapons ban.
Status: Resolution of Ratification Agreed to Y)74; N)26
Reference: Resolution of ratification of the Chemical (Comprehensive) Weapons (Convention) Ban; Bill S. Res. 75 ; vote number 1997-51 on Apr 24, 1997

Voted YES on considering deploying NMD, and amending ABM Treaty.

Vote to consider establishing a policy requiring the deployment of a national missile defense system by the end of 2003. The bill would also urge discussions with Russia to amend the ABM Treaty to allow deployment of the system.
Reference: Bill S 1635 ; vote number 1996-157 on Jun 4, 1996

Voted NO on 1996 Defense Appropriations.

Approval of the 1996 Defense Appropriations bill.
Status: Bill Passed Y)62; N)35; NV)3
Reference: Defense Approps Bill FY 96; Bill S. 1087 ; vote number 1995-397 on Sep 5, 1995

Federalize aviation security.

McCain co-sponsored the Aviation Security Act

H.R. 2951 is the corresponding House bill. Became Public Law No: 107-71.
Source: Bill sponsored by 31 Senators and 25 Reps 01-S1447 on Sep 21, 2001

Rated 0% by SANE, indicating a pro-military voting record.

McCain scores 0% by SANE on peace issues

Peace Action, the merger of The Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (SANE) and The Freeze, has effectively mobilized for peace and disarmament for over forty years. As the nation's largest grassroots peace group we get results: from the 1963 treaty to ban above ground nuclear testing, to the 1996 signing of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, from ending the war in Vietnam, to blocking weapons sales to human rights abusing countries. We are proof that ordinary people can change the world. At Peace Action we believe...

As the Pentagon’s budget soars to $400 billion, 17% of American children live in poverty. For what the US will spend on Missile Defense in one year we could: put over a million children through Head Start OR provide healthcare for over 3.5 million children OR create over 100,000 units of affordable housing OR hire over 160,000 elementary school teachers. At Peace Action our priorities are clear.

The ratings are based on the votes the organization considered most important; the numbers reflect the percentage of time the representative voted the organization's preferred position.

Source: SANE website 03n-SANE on Dec 31, 2003

Sponsored bill giving higher priority to rail security.

McCain sponsored giving higher priority to rail security

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: A bill to provide increased rail transportation security.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: We must do what is possible to protect Americans at home. Our Nation's transit system, Amtrak, and the freight railroads, I am sad to say, remain vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Though we have increased dramatically our security capabilities since 9/11, we have more to do. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security has not yet completed a vulnerability assessment for the rail system, nor is there an integrated security plan that reflects the unique characteristics of passenger and freight rail operations.

This legislation would authorize resources to ensure rail transportation security receives a high priority in our efforts to secure our country from terrorism. The legislation directs DHS to complete a vulnerability assessment for the rail system and make recommendations for addressing security weaknesses within 180 days of enactment.

LEGISLATIVE OUTCOME:Referred to Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation; never came to a vote.

Source: Rail Security Act (S.1379/H.R.153) 05-S1379 on Jul 11, 2005

Sponsored bill banning torture of terrorists in US custody.

McCain sponsored prohibiting torture of terrorists in US custody

OnTheIssues.org Explanation: This amendment would ban waterboarding at Guantanamo prison. McCain specifies several international treaties which include bans on waterboarding; and cites "regardless of physical location" to include Guantanamo. McCain cites too that this ban is nothing new; but the US has, in fact, been using waterboarding at Guantanamo.

OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SUMMARY: To prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the United States Government.

SPONSOR'S INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: Sen. McCAIN: This amendment would prohibit cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of persons in the detention of the US Government. The amendment doesn't sound like anything new. That is because it isn't. The prohibition has been a longstanding principle in both law and policy in the United States. All of this seems to be common sense and in accordance with longstanding American values.