Earlier today, I participated in a conference call with Senator John McCain, arranged by Mitt Romney’s campaign as an answer session after the debate. McCain came out attacking Obama for several statements made during the debate, both in McCain’s brief opening remarks and the Q&A session that came afterward. He vented particular anger over Barack Obama’s snide comment about horses and bayonets in regard to the size of the US Navy, calling them “astonishing,” “unpresidential,” and accused Obama of “showing a lack of maturity as well as a lack of judgment.”
McCain also disputed Obama’s insistence that he never sought to keep troops in Iraq after the deadline in the Status of Forces Agreement signed by George W. Bush and Nouri al-Maliki. McCain traveled to Iraq along with other members of Congress, he stated, in an attempt to close a deal that would have kept thousands of troops in the country. Furthermore, McCain said “I was stunned” by Obama’s remarks on sequestration, since Obama hadn’t bothered to work with Congress at all yet to stop it — and it will take legislation to do so.
Finally, McCain reacted with some amusement to the release of Obama’s second-term agenda this morning. “It’s all retreads and recycling,” McCain said, urging people to read it and see if they can find “a path to a balanced budget … and fiscal solvency.” If anyone can, McCain requested, “get back to me.”
Here are my notes from the Q&A, taken as I wrote them:
- Is it possible to win the election without the Latino vote? Is the goal to get as many Latinos as in 2008, and how far away from those goals? — Latinos have been especially hurt in this recession. Obama reneged on his promise to bring comprehensive immigration reform to Congress. Unemployment disproportionally hitting Latinos. “We have a hill to climb” with Latinos.
- How important is foreign policy in this election? It’s valuable to establish Romney as a potential C-in-C. Women now see that Romney isn’t anxious to get into more conflicts, but we are weaker than four years ago. Qualified to lead.
- Could you address the questions about the status of the US Navy, especially as it relates to shipyards? We will have the smallest Navy since 1914 if sequestration takes place. We have “pivoted” to Asia-Pacific, but that means a need for more ships. Obama’s comments demonstrated ignorance of the issue, a misunderstanding of the size of the challenge we face in the Asia-Pacific region. Comments “inappropriate, and also wrong.” Sequestration will have a “draconian” effect on shipbuilding.
- What does Bill Clinton’s role in the Obama campaign tell us about the status of the campaign? “Some think this has a lot to do with 2016 … there are some real jerks around that say that might be the case. [Laughter]” The deployment of Clinton coincided with Romney’s rise in the polls, McCain pointed out.