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McCain Conference Call: Tough On Defeatists, Nice to Bloggers, Sticking it Out

Opening remarks: 

"My remarks (at VMI) were centered around the criticality of this time in Iraq...Too often we misrepresented to the American people in past as to "a few dead-enders" and "mission accopmplished" and all that Now, we have a new general and new strategy, and I believe there are some signs of success...and we need to give it time to work."


The Malki government needs to make itself work, revenue-sharing and deBaathificaion have

"...long, difficult path, but I do believe there are some signs of success."

"It's tough and it's hard and my criticism of those who countenance a date with withdrawal or immediate withdrawal, is that they don't tell us how they're going to handle the situation after we leave."

"Al Qaeda will become more present and more of a threat to the United States of America. Unlike the Vietnam War when we came home and they didn't follow us, I believe these people certainly will follow us."

James Joyner: How do we convince people that we can actually win this thing and that we should stick it out?

"The only think I know is the bloggers are important... Bloggers I think pay closer attention to this than almost anybody....If I were the president, I think I would b going on C-SPAN...every week to give people an update about the war."

"I think we've got to get some of those more concrete details out there."

"Get some reproters in there, have a map of Iraq...Just kinda have an open exchange with them."

He also suggested that Bush should do the reporters-and-a-map thing because he's better in more informal settings. I totally agree, and I think have blogged that before.

Ed Morrissey:
E.J. Dionne's column this week said that you had shifted on Iraq, but I think people have instead shifted in your direction. We've been saying that we needed a bigger presence. Is this the size of increase that you think is necessary? How far behind the 8-ball have we gotten ourselves?


"For three years, I complained bitterly about the strategy we were employing...the rosy-scenario situation really frustrated Americans."
"We're really in, maybe not the last chance, but pretty close to it."

"It's important to note, it's not just a change in troop strength, but it's a change in strategy."

"It always helps to have a charismatic leader, and Petraeus is certainly that."

"I think for this month and maybe a period of time, you're gonna even maybe see American casualties up because they're going into places they haven't been before."

"We've got a chance, but we can't do it alone. The Maliki government is gonna have to govern."

"We see some signs that they're doing good and we see some signs that they're doing not so good."

Ed: Al Sadr pushing back against the Surge. Will it undermine the Maliki government?

"I heard several times that he was gonna order his people to attack Americans and they haven't yet."

"The demonstrations that took place just yesterday in Najaf were peaceful. And, there was no U.S. military there. There were only Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police watching over it."

"That's what we're, frankly, supposed to be encouraging."

"I believe that Sadr is in a bit of tenuous situation now."

Sign of progress: "A dramatic reduction in the number of bodies they're finding on the streets in Baghdad...It's not good enough. It's still terrible, but it's getting better."

"I'm diggin for the pony, here, but I think that Sadr is not gonna order his people to have an all-out fight with coalition troops."


Dave Adesnik: WaPo article: McCain to stake bid on need to win in Iraq. If, by the end of 2007, the war is looking grim, will your presidential chances also be looking grim?

"My only answer is that I've held this position for four years. I cannot let anything to do with my political career affect my judgment on Iraq."

"I don't know and I don't care what effect it will have on my political aspirations."

Bill: How and when would you determine success or failure in Iraq?

"Militarily, it has a lot of nuances."

"Now, the Sunni wanna be part of the political process. On the military side, to be honest with you, I think it's gonna be mixed. The most tragic element of this is the suicide bombers. Ask the Israelis how hard it is to deal with the suicide bombers."

"But that alone doesn't prevent victory"

"I think it's gonna be a tough road. For four years, we've been screwing this thing up. The new signs... have been a  bit encouraging."

"I talked to Gen. Petraeus on several occasions... If he thinks this strategy is not succeeding, he will tell the president and he will tell the American people. I really believe that."

Erick Erickson: With surge apparently working and news organizations changing their stories, some Dem groups starting to run some negative ads, including an ad in Kentucky showing American troops get blown up. What's your reaction to that?

"It's hard for me to respond to something like that. I said in my speech that the Dems on the floor of the house were smiling and cheering that they'd won their vote. What were they celebrating, surrender or defeat? It does harken back a little bit to me to the days of the Vietnam War when our country was so divided."

"It's disheartening to see that kind of behavior when we have men and women fighting and dying."


John Hinderacker: Is it taking a along time to get surge troops over there, or is my perception off?

"I think your perception is right. There are several problems...One of them is that our Army and Marine Corps are so small. It is one of a number of legacies that Sec. Rumsfeld has left us with that will need to be corrected."

"I think that there's not the sense of urgency in some quarters that there should be."

John: Which quarters?

"The Pentagon."

"The State Department is not yet fully engaged in this process."

Soren Dayton: Let's assume that the surge will succeed. There's still a problem of communicating that to the American people. Is there a way to get more of those specific numbers out?

"I think one of the ways is websites. I really do...We also have to be very careful that we don't exaggerate."

"There will be setbacks. These are not dumb people that we're fighting."

"But, it's also not suicide bombers who win or lose wars, except fromt he psychological effect."

"I think we've gotta do...I think some of the MSM is not gonna report alot of the good news. That's just my impression. I hope I'm wrong. So, let's go to other sources-- the blogs, the websites..."

Doug Lambert: You mention that 16 of 24 sheiks changed sides in Anbar. Why, and have they just decided to come with us for the moment?

"Al Qaeda has been so incredibly ham-fisted and cruel...which offended these sheiks and they finally turned on al Qaeda."

"I think we've opened lines of communication. I think we're getting projects into their area that al Qaeda can't give them."

"Frankly, these sheiks saw their own power threatened, too."


Doug: Who do you hold responsible for the screw-ups of the last four years?

"First, I have to hold the President of the United States responsible, but I'm glad that he's so committed to this new strategy. I do blame Rumsfeld, obviously, and I do blame the past generals." (Pace and Sanchez were mentioned)

Odierno: "If you asked for an Army General from central casting, you'd get this guy. He's one, tough charismatic leader."

Petraeus and Odierno have brought a lot of the people they trust with them, which will help on all levels of command.

"Yes, I blame them and I think history will judge them very harshly."

David All: If you become America's next president, what role would bloggers, left and right, play in your communications strategy?

"I feel strongly that bloggers now are a vital part ofthe information technology in America and the world, and it's anunusual and incredible development."

2000: "I don't know if they existed, but if they did, I sure as hell didn't know about them."

"IfI were president and this war were still going on, it'd be Important todo two things. Every two weeks, have a regular briefing talking aboutthe good news and the bad news on the ground...Now, maybe only theC-SPAN people would watch that, but at least you're communicating withthe American people."

"And, the second: be on with thebloggers every two weeks... Maybe there's too many bloggers and maybewe wouldn't get all the questions in, and maybe my answers would be toolong as they are now...But maybe by lottery. Anyone who wants to ask aquestion, we'll throw your name in a hat and pick thetop 15, soeventually all the bloggers get a chance."

"One editorialcomment--I think the bloggers have a lot of maturing to do in someareas, but...It is a phenomenon that historians will look back on assomething that had an incredible impact on the Americans communicatewith each other and the world."


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