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10 Claims John McCain will Make in Tonight's Debate

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Here are ten claims to watch for from John McCain tonight:

Claim 1: McCain will say his foreign policy is different from that of George W. Bush.
Reality:
On the critical issues, ranging from advocating the invasion of Iraq only days after 9/11 to declaring premature victory in Afghanistan, to saber rattling on Iran and refusing to use tough diplomacy, John McCain's policies are in lock step with those of George W. Bush.

Claim 2: John McCain will tout his judgment, saying he hates war.
Reality:
John McCain has taken a dangerously aggressive approach to foreign policy advocating attacking six different countries in the last eight years. Moreover, McCain retains many of the same Neocon advisors who pushed for the war in Iraq in the first place.

Claim 3: McCain will say he has long been a critic of the war in Iraq.
Reality:
McCain was an early supporter of the Iraq War, linking Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. He supported the Rumsfeld strategy of going with a minimal number of troops and said the war would be "easy." He continued to argue for staying the course until 2006.

Claim 4: McCain will take credit for the "surge" and argue that the troop increase is responsible for the entire decline in violence and that as a result we have succeeded.
Reality:
Military leaders have acknowledged that there were numerous reasons for the reduction in violence including the Anbar Awakening and political engagement with Muqtada al-Sadr. In fact, McCain confused the sequence of events in Iraq arguing that the troop increase caused the Anbar Awakening, even though the Anbar Awakening came first. Moreover, General Petraeus has warned that it is too early to declare victory as John McCain and his allies are doing.

Claim 5: McCain will say he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Reality:
McCain has continued to make Iraq the number one priority and has not explained how he will keep large troop levels in Iraq while meeting the requirements in Afghanistan and elsewhere laid out by military commander and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He has shown little interest in Afghanistan saying we can just "muddle through" in 2003 and declaring victory in 2005. In fact, McCain had no policy on Afghanistan until July 15, 2008 and Afghanistan did not come up once in all of the major speeches during the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, Barack Obama and progressives have been sounding the alarm for years.

Claim 6: McCain will say he will get Osama Bin Laden and go after Al Qaeda.
Reality:
John McCain was a strong early supporter of the Iraq war - a war that resulted in assets and focus being pulled away from the hunt for Bin Laden and Afghanistan. While Obama has supported going after high-value targets in al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan, McCain has criticized Obama for a position that has now become official U.S. policy.

Claim 7: McCain will cite his response to the crisis in Georgia as evidence of good judgment.
Reality:
McCain recklessly issued bellicose statements without waiting for all the facts, while Barack Obama, other world leaders, and even President Bush took a more measured approach. McCain then went on to claim that "we are all Georgians." In fact, McCain has had a dangerous policy towards Russia for some time, proposing to kick them out of the G8 - a policy that would preclude any cooperation on critical issues such as nonproliferation.

Claim 8: McCain will say that talking to Iran is weak and naive.
Reality:
There is a bipartisan consensus on the need to talk to Iran. Five secretaries of state including Henry Kissinger and Jim Baker all agreed recently that we have to talk to them directly. Obama's plan calls for tough direct diplomacy in combination with sanctions and other pressures. McCain's plan of refusing to talk is the same policy that George Bush pursued until very recently - a policy that has failed and that if continued will one day force the U.S. to make a no-win decision between attacking Iran or allowing it to attain a nuclear weapons capability.

Claim 9: McCain will say he can work effectively with our allies.
Reality:
John McCain has a long history of belligerence and heated rhetoric towards our allies. In the run up to the Iraq War he called France and Germany "vacuous and posturing" and referred to them as our "adversaries." Recently he said he might not meet with Spain's Prime Minister and on top of that he is quite unpopular internationally.

Claim 10: McCain will say he will cut wasteful defense spending.
Reality:
McCain has been all over the map on defense spending. His plan to add about 200,000 ground troops to the military would cost $25 billion a year. Meanwhile, in his budget plan released in July he promised to cut $160 billion from the budget by opposing the Future Combat System, yet he now criticizes Obama's promise to cut spending on that same program.

GENERAL FOREIGN POLICY

Claim 1: McCain will say his foreign policy is different from that of George W. Bush.
Reality:
On the critical issues from advocating the invasion of Iraq only days after 9/11 to declaring premature victory in Afghanistan to saber rattling on Iran and refusing to use tough diplomacy John McCain's policies are in lock step with those of George W. Bush.

After 9/11, John McCain advocated attacking Iraq, Iran, or Syria instead of staying focused on the real threat in Afghanistan. "That's where the tough part of this whole scenario is going to begin. And that is that, after the Taliban are overthrown -- which I believe they will be -- I have very little doubt in my mind -- after bin Laden is either taken prisoner or killed and his network is destroyed, then what's next? Obviously, Iraq is still bent on -- Saddam Hussein is still bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, the Iranians are still supporting terrorist organizations, as are the Syrians. That's where the tough choices and decisions are going to be made." [MSNBC, Hardball, 10/3/01]

Like George Bush McCain completely misjudged the difficulties of invading Iraq, saying that the war would be "easy." McCain said, "I believe that the success [in Iraq] will be fairly easy." McCain also said, "I believe that the United States military capabilities are such that we can win a victory in a relatively short time... I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time." In January 2003, McCain again predicted the same about invading Iraq, saying, "we will win this conflict. We will win it easily." In March 2003, McCain repeatedly said that US troops would be welcomed as liberators. Chris Matthews asked McCain, "Do you believe that the people of Iraq or at least a large number of them will treat us as liberators?" McCain answered: "Absolutely. Absolutely." Two weeks later, McCain said: "There's no doubt in my mind that once these people [loyalists to Saddam] are gone that we will be welcomed as liberators," McCain said. [MSNBC, Hardball, 3/12/03; 3/24/03; CNN, "Larry King Live," 9/24/2002; CNN, 9/29/02; CNN.com, 1/22/2003]

McCain has consistently failed to accurately assess the situation in Afghanistan, calling the war in 2005 a "remarkable success" and said that "nobody in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America." On CNN McCain said, "[C]ould I add, it was in Afghanistan, as well, there were many people who predicted that Afghanistan would not be a success. So far, it's a remarkable success." On Fox, McCain said, "Think we should have had a larger peacekeeping force. But nobody in Afghanistan threatens the United States of America and nobody is running terrorist training camps to orchestrate attacks on the United States of America." [CNN, 3/2/05. Fox News, "Hannity & Colmes," 4/10/03]

Claim 2: John McCain will tout his judgment saying he hates war.
Reality:
John McCain has taken a dangerously aggressive approach to foreign policy advocating attacking six different countries in the last eight years. Moreover, McCain retains many of the same Neocon advisors who pushed for the war in Iraq in the first place.

In 2000 McCain called for overthrowing the regimes of Iraq, North Korea and Libya - In 2000 Republican primary campaign McCain argued that the United States should overthrow Iraq, North Korea and Libya. "McCain called Tuesday for the overthrow of Iraq, Libya and North Korea if they continue to develop weapons of mass destruction. "I'd institute a policy that I call 'rogue state rollback.'" [Agence France Presse, 2/16/2000]

Less than a month after the 9/11 attacks McCain advocated going after Syria and Iran. "After bin Laden is either taken prisoner or killed and his network is destroyed, then what's next? Obviously, Iraq is still bent on -- Saddam Hussein is still bent on developing weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, the Iranians are still supporting terrorist organizations, as are the Syrians. That's where the tough choices and decisions are going to be made." [MSNBC, Hardball, 10/3/01]

After 9/11, McCain supported invading a number of countries. During an appearance on CNN's "Newsnight with Aaron Brown," John McCain said, "once we take care of the problem in Afghanistan and eradicate al Qaeda, and either kill or capture bin Laden, then we have to move to the next country." [CNN, "Newsnight with Aaron Brown," 11/23/01]

McCain's extreme foreign policy views have made him the Neocons' candidate the past decade. In the 2000 campaign, McCain argued that the United States should overthrow Iraq, North Korea and Libya in a policy he called "rogue state rollback." Neoconservatives have had a prominent role in the McCain campaign. "Mr. McCain and his aides were consulting regularly with the circle of hawkish foreign policy thinkers sometimes referred to as neoconservatives -- including Mr. Kristol, Robert Kagan and Randy Scheunemann, a former aide to Mr. Dole who became a McCain campaign adviser -- to develop the senator's foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign." Robert Kagan, one of the most prominent neoconservatives, also wrote McCain's speech at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. [Agence France Presse, 2/16/2000. NY Times, 8/16/08. WSJ, 3/6/08. Wonk Room, 3/17/08. NY Times, 4/10/08]

IRAQ

Claim 3: McCain will say he has long been a critic of the war in Iraq.
Reality:
McCain was an early supporter of the Iraq War linking Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. He supported the Rumsfeld strategy of going with a minimal number of troops and said the war would be "easy." He continued to argue for staying the course until 2006.

McCain fully endorsed the Bush-Rumsfeld plan for invading Iraq with few troops. On Face the Nation in 2002 McCain said, "I think we could go in with much smaller numbers than we had to do in the past... I don't believe it's going to be nearly the size and scope that it was in 1991." McCain, like Rumsfeld, thought air power would make up for fewer troops and like Rumsfeld, he never thought about the aftermath. McCain said on Larry King in 2002, "Our technology, particularly air-to-ground technology is vastly improved. I don't think you're going to have to see the scale of numbers of troops that we saw, nor the length of the buildup, obviously, that we had back in 1991." He said later on Hardball, "I believe that the kind of technology and the kind of military that we have today doesn't require massive numbers of troops. You might have noticed the conflict in Afghanistan, we had a few soldiers on the ground and used very incredibly accurate air power." McCain later predicted in late 2002 McCain said that "We're not going get into house-to-house fighting in Baghdad." [CBS, Face the Nation, 9/15/02. CNN, Larry King Live, 12/09/02. MSNBC, Hardball, 10/16/02. CNN, Late Edition, 9/29/02]

McCain was one of the most fervent war supporters and supported the President's approach throughout the course of the war. McCain was a cheerleader for invading Iraq, said "I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short period of time." He hyped the threat of Iraq saying Saddam Hussein is a "threat to civilization." He also said that failing to remove Saddam from power would "make the violent century just passed seem an era of remarkable tranquility in comparison." In the midst of looting following the invasion McCain praised Rumsfeld, saying "I'm a great admirer of Rumsfeld." He added "I think the president is blessed to have two extremely talented people (Powell and Rumsfeld), experienced people, working for him, and others, but particularly those two." [CNN Late Edition, 9/29/02. Washington Times, 2/14/03. MSNBC Hardball, 4/23/03]

• McCain said Bin Laden and Saddam connected because they share "common cause."
"But what I think it's ample evidence of is that bin Laden will do anything he could to harm the United States of America, and he has common cause with Saddam Hussein who will do anything he can to harm the United States of America. And the two of them together can make a very potent recipe." [NBC Today Show, 2/13/03]

McCain said mistakes were made but favored continuing the President's failed strategy saying that we need to "stay the course" with the President's Iraq strategy in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006. McCain was a forceful advocate of continuing the President's approach in Iraq. Throughout 2004, 2005, and 2006 McCain consistently said we should "stay the course" in Iraq. In 2005 on ABC McCain said "some serious mistakes were made, but...I think we've got to stay the course here." In 2006 McCain said on CBS Bush had "laid out recently a pretty cogent argument why we must, quote - I hate to use the phrase - stay the course'[in Iraq.]" [NPR, 4/28/04. ABC News, 10/24/04. Fox, 8/14/05; ABC News, 9/25/05; CBS News, 6/29/05; The Hill, 12/8/05. MSNBC, 6/8/06. CBS News, 9/24/06]

Claim 4: McCain will take credit for the "surge" and argue that the troop increase is responsible for the entire decline in violence and that as a result we have succeeded.
Reality:
Military leaders have acknowledged that there were numerous reasons for the reduction in violence including a willingness to talk to our enemies though the Anbar Awakening and the ceasefire with Muqtada al-Sadr. In fact, McCain confused the sequence of events in Iraq arguing that the troop increase caused the Anbar Awakening, even though the Anbar Awakening came first. Moreover, General Petraeus has warned that it is too early to declare victory as John McCain and his allies are doing and that political progress is still slow in coming.

A number of factors caused the reduced levels of violence in Iraq, including a willingness to talk to our enemies in the Sunni insurgency, and the Shi'a cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. Levels of violence in Iraq have fallen because of four factors: 1) the increased American military presence and new counterinsurgency tactics; 2) an alliance among a number of Sunni tribal groups against Al Qaeda in Iraq; 3) the segregation of the population along sectarian lines, thanks to massive ethnic cleansing; and 4) a cease fire by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army. [Washington Post, 9/8/08]

McCain confused the history of the surge. McCain misstated the history of the surge in an interview with Katie Couric. McCain said, "Colonel McFarlane [phonetic] was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that's just a matter of history." In reality, the Anbar Awakening preceded the surge. [CBS, 7/22/08]

The Anbar Awakening, which began well before the President's announcement of the "surge" in January 2007, was crucial to the decline in violence. The Obama campaign was quick to note that the Anbar Awakening began in the fall of 2006, several months before President Bush even announced the troop escalation strategy, which became known as the surge. (No less an authority than Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, testified before Congress this spring that the Awakening "started before the surge, but then was very much enabled by the surge.") Furthermore, progressives noted that the sheik who helped form the Awakening, Abdul Sattar Buzaigh al-Rishawi, was assassinated in September 2007, after the troop escalation began. [NY Times, 7/24/08]

General Petraeus himself has pointed out that the situation is more complicated than how John McCain and his allies portray it. "This is not the sort of struggle where you take a hill, plant the flag and go home to a victory parade... it's not war with a simple slogan." [BBC News, 9/11/08]

AFGHANISTAN / PAKISTAN

Claim 5: McCain will say he wants to send more troops to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Reality:
McCain has continued to make Iraq the number one priority and has not explained how he will keep large troop levels in Iraq while meeting the requirements in Afghanistan and elsewhere laid out by military commander and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He has shown little interest in Afghanistan saying we can just "muddle through" in 2003 and declaring victory in 2005. In fact, McCain had no policy on Afghanistan until July 15, 2008 and Afghanistan did not come up once in all of the major speeches during the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, Barack Obama and progressives have been sounding the alarm for years.

McCain has not said where these troops will come from and his focus continues to be on Iraq. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, noted that more U.S. troops are needed in Afghanistan to help control an increasingly active insurgency but, due to the war in Iraq, insufficient forces are available for such action. "I don't have troops I can reach for, brigades I can reach to send into Afghanistan until I have a reduced requirement in Iraq," Mullen said. "Afghanistan remains an economy of force campaign, which by definition means we need more forces there. We have the ability in almost every single case to win from the combat standpoint, but we don't have enough troops there to hold. That is key to the future of being able to succeed in Afghanistan." Despite this, McCain has called for a long-term commitment to Iraq that would not allow us to have the necessary troops for Afghanistan. [Washington Post 7/2/08. NY Times, 7/02/08]

McCain has shown little interest in Afghanistan compared to Iraq, believing we can "muddle" through in Afghanistan. After a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington D.C., McCain was asked about the deteriorating scenario in Afghanistan. He said, "There has been a rise in al Qaeda activity along the border. There has been some increase in U.S. casualties. I am concerned about it, but I'm not as concerned as I am about Iraq today, obviously, or I'd be talking about Afghanistan. But I believe that if Karzai can make the progress that he is making, that -- in the long term, we may muddle through in Afghanistan." [McCain Speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, 11/5/03]

Afghanistan was completely ignored at the Republican National Convention, despite gravely deteriorating situation. Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, in a harrowing assessment for West Point, said that Afghanistan "is in misery," yet John McCain and his fellow conservative Republicans offered nothing to address this spiraling crisis. Afghanistan went unmentioned in all the major Republican convention addresses, a glaring absence that echoes the Bush Administration's neglectful policies toward the country, and the broader region. [General Barry McCaffrey, 7/30/08. President George W. Bush, 9/02/08. Senator Fred Thompson, 9/02/08. Senator Joseph Lieberman, 9/02/08. Mitt Romney, 9/03/08. Mike Huckabee, 9/03/08. Rudy Giuliani, 9/03/08. Governor Sarah Palin, 9/03/08]

Until July 15th 2008, McCain had no strategy for Afghanistan included in his national security policy platform. Until July 15, 2008, John McCain's website contained no articulated strategy for Afghanistan. There is still scant mention of a strategy, in either his national security policy section or his Iraq policy section. [John McCain.com, 7/15/08]

Progressives have called for more troops and a greater focus on Afghanistan for years. After years of neglect, deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan are raising questions for President Bush and John McCain. Democrats have been there all along - and since 2002 have been making the case that Iraq is distracting us from the main fight against Al Qaeda. Senator Kerry made this argument a central part of his campaign in 2004 and Barack Obama has been very clear about the importance of Afghanistan since early in the primary campaign. [NSN, 7/15/08. Senator Barack Obama, 10/2/02. Senator Barack Obama, 8/01/07. Senator Biden, NY Times, 3/2/08, NY Times, 10/1/03. John Kerry, U.S. Presidential Debates, 9/30/04. Senator Reid, 7/12/07. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Larry King Live, 4/24/2008. Senator Jack Reed, 3/15/07. Senator Carl Levin, 3/4/2008]


Claim 6: McCain will say he will get Osama Bin Laden and go after Al Qaeda.
Reality:
John McCain was a strong early supporter of the Iraq war - a war that resulted in assets and focus being pulled away from the hunt for Bin Laden and Afghanistan. While Obama has supported going after high-value targets in al Qaeda's safe haven in Pakistan, McCain has criticized Obama for a position that has now become official U.S. policy.

McCain was an early supporter of the war in Iraq calling for toppling Saddam Hussein only a month after 9/11. This strategy diverted crucial resources from focusing on Osama Bin Laden. The New York Times reports that, "the White House shifted its sights, beginning in 2002, from counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan to preparations for the war in Iraq." According to current and former military and intelligence officials the war in Iraq has consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the fight against al Qaeda. Intelligence officials report that by 2006 the Iraq war had drained away most of the C.I.A. officers with field experience in the Islamic world. "You had a very finite number" of experienced officers, said one former senior intelligence official. "Those people all went to Iraq. We were all hurting because of Iraq." In fact, "when American military and intelligence officials requested additional Predator drones to survey the tribal areas, they were told no drones were available because they had been sent to Iraq." [New York Times, 6/30/08]

Senator Obama advocates unilaterally striking terrorist targets in Pakistan. "They are plotting to strike again... If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will." [Washington Post, 8/02/07]

McCain attacked Obama for his willingness to strike at Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan, accused Obama of "confused" leadership and said he wanted to bomb "our ally" Pakistan. "Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan?" On Larry King, McCain was asked "If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?" McCain responded "I'm not going to go there. And here's why, because Pakistan is a sovereign nation." [MSNBC, 2/20/08. Larry King Live, 7/28/08]

Obama's position has become official U.S. policy. President Bush recently approved orders allowing unilateral strikes against terrorist targets inside of Pakistan. "President Bush secretly approved orders in July that for the first time allow American Special Operations forces to carry out ground assaults inside Pakistan without the prior approval of the Pakistani government, according to senior American officials. The classified orders signal a watershed for the Bush administration after nearly seven years of trying to work with Pakistan to combat the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and after months of high-level stalemate about how to challenge the militants' increasingly secure base in Pakistan's tribal areas." [NY Times, 9/10/08]

RUSSIA / GEORGIA

Claim 7: McCain will cite his response to the crisis in Georgia as evidence of good judgment.
Reality:
McCain recklessly issued bellicose statements without waiting for all the facts, while Barack Obama, other world leaders, and even President Bush took a more measured approach. McCain then went on to claim that "we are all Georgians." In fact, McCain has had a dangerous policy towards Russia for some time proposing to kick them out of the G8 - a policy that would preclude any cooperation on critical issues such as nonproliferation.

McCain's response to Russia - without waiting for the facts -- was reckless and dangerous, another example of how his foreign policy would be more "aggressive" than Bush. "McCain took a remarkably -- and uniquely -- more aggressive stance, siding clearly with Georgia's pro-Western leaders and placing the blame for the conflict entirely on Russia." McCain's statement "put him more closely in line with the moral clarity and American exceptionalism projected by President Bush's first term." He went on to state that "I know I speak for every American when I say to him today, we are all Georgians." [Politico, 8/10/08. CBS, 8/12/08]

• McCain has attacked Obama for not being aggressive in his response, yet Obama's initial response was in line with almost all world leaders, including George Bush.
"While virtually every other world leader called for calm in Georgia last Thursday morning, John McCain did something he's done many times over his career in public life: He condemned Russia...though neither he nor any other leader has suggested that the West has any real way to blunt Moscow's ultimate intentions. He's also faced the accusation that his encouragement of Georgia's dramatic defiance of Russia helped trigger the crisis." [Politico, 8/13/08]

The conflict was more complicated than how McCain portrayed it. "According to the Republican presidential candidate, 'today we are all Georgians.' Actually, the events of the past week in Georgia have little in common with either Hitler's dismemberment of Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II or Soviet policies in Eastern Europe. They are better understood against the backdrop of the complicated ethnic politics of the Caucasus, a part of the world where historical grudges run deep and oppressed can become oppressors in the bat of an eye... When it comes to apportioning blame for the latest flare-up in the Caucasus, there's plenty to go around. The Russians were clearly itching for a fight, but the behavior of Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili has been erratic and provocative. The United States may have stoked the conflict by encouraging Saakashvili to believe that he enjoyed American protection, when the West's ability to impose its will in this part of the world is actually quite limited." [Washington Post, 8/17/08]

McCain has on numerous occasions called for kicking Russia out of the G-8 - an idea that would almost certainly lead to a new Cold War and preclude any cooperation on key non-proliferation issues. In a Foreign Affairs article published late last year, McCain advocated kicking Russia out of the G-8: "Today, we see in Russia diminishing political freedoms, a leadership dominated by a clique of former intelligence officers, efforts to bully democratic neighbors, such as Georgia, and attempts to manipulate Europe's dependence on Russian oil and gas. We need a new Western approach to this revanchist Russia. We should start by ensuring that the G-8, the group of eight highly industrialized states, becomes again a club of leading market democracies: it should include Brazil and India but exclude Russia." McCain repeated this suggestion in his Los Angeles World Foreign Affairs Council speech that the G-8 should "include India and Brazil, but exclude Russia." [Foreign Affairs, 11-12/07. McCain, 3/26/08]

IRAN

Claim 8: McCain will say that talking to Iran is weak and naive.
Reality:
There is a bipartisan consensus on the need to talk to Iran. Five secretaries of state including Henry Kissinger and Jim Baker all agreed recently that we have to talk to them directly. Obama's plan calls for tough direct diplomacy in combination with sanctions and other pressures. McCain's plan of refusing to talk is the same policy that George Bush pursued until very recently - a policy that has failed and that if continued will one day force the U.S. to make a no-win decision between attacking Iran or allowing it to attain a nuclear weapons capability.

Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher all agree we need direct talks with Iran without pre-conditions. Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State under Presidents Nixon and Ford, not only indicated that he "was in favor of negotiating with Iran," but said that such negotiations should occur "without conditions," and should begin at a high level." Former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright advised that "You need to engage with countries you have problems with," and said "I believe we need to engage with Iran." Colin Powell, Secretary of State under George W. Bush echoed the need for negotiations stating: "Let's get together and talk about nuclear weapons." [AP, 9/15/08. ABC News, 9/15/08. Reuters, 9/16/08]

The Bipartisan Iraq Study Group believes the US should have direct talks with Iran. "Given the ability of Iran and Syria to influence events within Iraq and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage them constructively. In seeking to influence the behavior of both countries, the United States has disincentives and incentives available." [Iraq Study Group, 12/06]

• Even the Bush administration is moving toward Senator Obama's strategy of diplomatic engagement with Iran.
The Bush Administration is beginning to embrace a number of foreign policy positions favored by Senator Obama. "On a range of major foreign policy issues over the past year, Bush has pursued strategies and actions very much along the lines of what Sen. Obama has advocated during his presidential race..." "On the diplomatic front, Obama has made a point of advocating dialogue with Iran" and though he has been vilified by conservatives for it, "in July, Bush sent a high-level U.S. emissary to attend nuclear talks with Iran..." In June, the Washington Post reported that "Senior officials at the State Department and beyond are mulling a proposal to open an interest section in Tehran, similar to the one the United States has operated in Havana since 1977." [Washington Post, 9/15/08. Washington Post, 6/23/08]

McCain's policy of refusing to engage Iran is a continuation of a failed Bush policy that even the current administration has begun to back pedal from. Senator McCain has consistently derided Barack Obama as naïve for his willingness to have tough direct diplomacy with Iran. McCain has instead called for more sanctions and the continuation of a policy that has not worked for the past five years while Iran has developed 4,000 centrifuges. He even put out an advertisement two weeks ago reaffirming this position and deriding Obama's position on Iran. [John McCain conference call, 5/15/08. JohnMcCain.com]

WORKING WITH ALLIES

Claim 9: McCain will say he can work effectively with our allies.
Reality:
John McCain has a long history of belligerence and heated rhetoric towards our allies. In the run up to the Iraq War he called France and Germany "vacuous and posturing" and referred to them as our "adversaries." Recently he said he might not meet with Spain's Prime Minister and on top of that he is quite unpopular internationally.

McCain attacked our allies as "vacuous and posturing" for opposing war in Iraq. "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that "Iraq is the test" of both the U.N. and NATO. He charged that the alliance is failing the test because of the "flawed calculations" and "vacuous posturing" of Germany and France. McCain and Rumsfeld both said that recent French and German foot-dragging over even discussing the possible deployment of NATO assets, such as Patriot anti-missile batteries, to Turkey also threatened to damage the alliance." [Washington Post, 2/9/03]

John McCain engaged in the anti-French bashing of the far right because they opposed the invasion of the war. "The Lord said the poor will always be with us, and the French will be with us, too," said McCain, a member of the Armed Services Committee. "This is part of a continuing French practice of throwing sand in the gears of the Atlantic alliance. But now they're playing a dangerous game, and coming close to rendering themselves irrelevant." A few days later he even said that, "Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) likened France to an aging '40s starlet "still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn't have the face for it." [NY Times, 2/14/03. NY Daily News, 2/17/03]

McCain attacked Germany for opposing the war - saying they lacked "political courage." McCain said that former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder "looks little like the ally that anchored our presence in Europe throughout the Cold War...A German Rip Van Winkle from the 1960s would not understand the lack of political courage and cooperation with its allies on the question of Iraq exhibited in Berlin today." [Washington Times, 2/14/03]

McCain is very unpopular around the world, and surveys have shown that the majority of the international community is rooting for him to lose. A recent BBC study found that of all the countries polled, none hope for a McCain presidency. In fact, in the case of a McCain administration, 36% of those polled thought that American relations with the world would stay the same, while a full 16% thought relations would further deteriorate.

John McCain refused to say whether he would invite Spain's Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero to the White House. The interview - conducted in English and translated into Spanish - was with the Florida affiliate of Spain's Union Radio. In the interview McCain appeared to have no idea who Prime Minister Zapatero was, apparently assuming he was a Latin American leader who might or might not be a friend of the United States. This confusion occurred despite the reporter explicitly saying "I'm talking about Spain." Ironically, just before McCain was asked about Prime Minister Zapatero, he asserted "I know the issues, I know the leaders." McCain's confusion puts that statement in serious doubt. Spain is an important NATO ally, plays an extremely influential role in Latin America, was brutally attacked by Al Qaeda terrorists in 2004, has nearly 1000 troops in Afghanistan, has lost more than 20 soldiers in Afghanistan, and has the eighth largest economy in the world. Senator McCain has campaigned for President on his foreign policy experience. Such confusion over the leader of a very important ally raises serious doubts about John McCain's foreign policy competence. [Huffington Post, 9/18/08. Interview with Condoleezza Rice, 6/01/07. Radio Caracol Miami, 9/17/08]

DEFENSE SPENDING

Claim 10: McCain will say he will cut wasteful defense spending.
Reality:
McCain has been all over the map on defense spending. His plan to add about 200,000 ground troops to the military would cost $25 billion a year. Meanwhile, in his budget plan released in July he promised to cut $160 billion from the budget by opposing the Future Combat System, yet he now criticizes Obama's promise to cut spending on that same program.

McCain has made grandiose promises on defense that are not grounded in reality and represent the exact opposite of the fiscal reform that he will supposedly bring to the White House. John McCain has pledged to expand the ground forces by about 200,000 over current levels. He also says he will modernize the armed forces by "procuring advanced weapons systems." Yet at the same time, McCain has pledged to control defense spending. This doesn't add up. The CBO estimates that increasing the ground forces to the current goal of about 750,000 will cost about $110 billion over seven years; this is roughly $15 billion per year. Using the same projections, increasing the size of the ground forces by an additional 150,000 over this same period would cost an additional $175 billion or $25 billion per year. The costs would likely be much higher as McCain is proposing a 25 percent increase in the size of the ground forces and attracting that many volunteers will require significant funding. [Foreign Affairs, 11-12/08. John McCain.com 9/10/08. CBO, 4/16/07]

John McCain's own budget plan - the one that he claims will reform Washington - opposes the Future Combat System and claims he would cut $160 billion in spending. McCain's plan submitted in July 2008 to the Washington Post specifically claims that balancing the budget "requires slowing outlay growth to 2.4 percent. The roughly $470 billion dollars (by 2013) in slower spending growth come from reduced deployments abroad ($150 billion; consistent with success in Iraq/Afghanistan that permits deployments to be cut by half -- hopefully more), slower discretionary spending in non-defense and Pentagon procurements ($160 billion; there are lots of procurements -- airborne laser, Globemaster, Future Combat System -- that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed)." And Senator McCain has long been an opponent of the Future Combat System. [Washington Post, 7/14/08. The Hill, 4/05/05]

John McCain blasted Barack Obama for opposing Future Combat System - but McCain also opposed it. Barack Obama stated clearly that he would "cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," by "slowing the development of Future Combat Systems," while also working separately to "increase the size of our military," so the present strain on the armed forces would diminish. McCain misrepresented these separate positions, calling Obama a flip-flopper before audiences in Missouri "Of course, now he wants to increase it," McCain told an audience in Lee's Summit, Missouri on Monday. "But during the primary he told a liberal advocacy group that he'd cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars.'" [CNN, 9/08/08]