CONCORD — As Sen. John McCain prepares to return to New Hampshire, his “second-favorite” state, on Monday, the Arizona Republican this afternoon blasted the “failed policies” of President Barack Obama, but was less harsh on Obama ally Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
In his first interview in advance of his return to the state that gave him two presidential primary victories, McCain told the New Hampshire Journal he will be here to help U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown, not necessarily to blast the Democratic incumbent, who, he said, he respects.
McCain will appear at a town hall-style meeting with Brown and Sen. Kelly Ayotte at Pinkerton Academy in Derry on Monday morning as part of Brown’s “New Hampshire Speaks” series of town halls. McCain took full advantage of the state’s tradition of having candidates appear at town halls during his 2000 and 2008 presidential primary campaigns.
McCain continued his harsh criticism of Obama’s foreign policy, putting the blame squarely on the President for the humanitarian crisis in the mountains of northern Iraq.
Obama on Thursday announced that U.S.-led airstrikes broke the siege by the Islamic militant terrorist group ISIL against religious minorities trapped on Mount Sinjar in Iraq, but the President said the U.S. mission in the region continues.
“We are of course glad that a lot of people were able to get off the mountain,” McCain said, “but there are people still up there. And they never would have been up there in the first place if it were not for the failed policies of this administration, beginning with a failure to leave a residual force there.
“Any humanitarian relief that is achieved, we are always glad to see, but the situation is continuing to deteriorate, and we have the richest, most powerful terrorist organization in history” threatening the region, as well as the United States, he said.
“I don’t know what he will do next,” McCain said of President Obama. “But as he talks about Iraq, he ignores Syria, where already 170,000 have been killed. Even Hillary Clinton is repudiating his decision not to arm” the Syrian army two years ago, “over the recommendation of his entire national security team.”
Brown has been attacking Shaheen for voting in lockstep with Obama, but McCain distanced himself from the criticism.
Asked for his view of her as a fellow senator, McCain said, “She has been independent in many areas, and in many other areas she has been a strong supporter of the President. Obamacare is probably the best example.
“But I respect Senator Shaheen,” McCain said. He said he is coming to the state “not as a matter of Senator Shaheen. I’m a very close associate of Scott Brown and I believe his background in the military is a very important asset to him and that he would be an asset to the Senate.
“I’m not going to be there campaigning against Jeanne Shaheen, but I’ll be there trying to help a close associate in Scott Brown,” McCain said.
Hillary Clinton, who won the 2008 Democratic first-in-the-nation presidential primary as McCain won on the GOP side, recently made national headlines criticizing Obama’s approach to foreign policy, telling the Atlantic, “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
They have since smoothed over the rift, but McCain, Obama’s GOP opponent in 2008, told the New Hampshire Journal, “I don’t know how much of (Clinton’s criticism) is in preparation for 2016. But it’s been known for a long time that the entire national security team – Leon Panetta, David Petreaus, Hillary Clinton – had all recommended arming the Free Syria Army, and if he had done that, things would be vastly different now.”
He said it is important for the GOP to win control of the Senate but did not make any predictions along those lines, saying only that he is “cautiously optimistic.
McCain said that with a GOP-controlled Senate that includes Scott Brown, “we could do many things that are not getting done now.
“We could actually put the brakes on sequestration,” he said, “which in the view of our military leaders is devastating our national security. We’d hold hearings on many of the crises that are unfolding throughout the world, much less the Middle East.
“We would set the agenda in hearings and legislation concerning our national security, and that makes a huge difference. We would have had hearings on Benghazi and on the latest reports on torture, in which I’m heavily involved.”
While the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill he strongly backed last year contained DREAM Act provisions now being criticized by Brown and conservatives, McCain said “having a flood of children showing up at our border is not an acceptable situation.
“Those who should be caring about them are not considering what happens when they come up there,” he said. “The worst people in the world are the coyotes who are bringing them and their families to the border.
“We should expand the capabilities of consulates and embassies to be sure they are equipped to handle them, and they should come to the embassies to apply. That should be the process. The people who say ‘let them come’ are ignoring the horrible things that happen to them on their way here.”
McCain said New Hampshire, where he won two presidential primaries, continues to be his “second-favorite” state. “I feel such affection and appreciation for the people of New Hampshire,” he said.
As for the potential 2016 GOP presidential field, McCain said that while it is “too early” to make any definitive judgments, he expects “a very significant clash of ideas between the more isolationist group of Republican and others, but in the end it will sort itself out.”