DERRY – Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown, with two-time New Hampshire Primary winner Sen. John McCain at his side, on Monday decried a lack of presidential leadership in foreign policy at an open town hall at the Pinkerton Academy.
“There are so many issues on the table right now that are affecting our foreign policy,” Brown told about 200 people at the event, which his campaign said was “unfiltered” and open to Democrats and Republican alike. “And what is our President doing? He’s on vacation. He’s golfing. He’s coming back periodically.”
“Our allies don’t trust us. Our foes don’t fear or respect us,” Brown said. “We’re in trouble and we need good leadership.
“We do not need rubber stamping the policies of the President,” Brown said of Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
Brown called McCain “a national hero,” and a person who has “defined” the town hall tradition of New Hampshire.
McCain, making his first appearance for Brown in New Hampshire after several in Massachusetts during Brown’s prior campaigns, said the Veterans Affairs Department scandal, which was uncovered in his home state of Arizona, is being addressed by legislation that passed the Senate, “but we have a long way to go.”
He promised that in the Senate, “We will make sure the veterans get the health care and the benefits they deserve and it is unconscionable for us not to do so.”
The state Democratic Party greeted McCain with a new web video of the Arizona senator repeatedly backing Brown for “Massachusetts” during Brown’s unsuccessful bid for reelection from the Bay State in 2012.
“John McCain’s visit does provide a great reminder of whose priorities Brown really shares, and they’re most definitely not New Hampshire’s,” said NHDP spokesman Julie McClain. “Scott Brown is desperate to get back to the U.S. Senate, voting to protect the Big Oil and Wall Street special interests that fund his campaign. As Massachusetts Senator, Brown received more donations from Wall Street than anyone running for Congress, because he was such a loyal vote for their special interests.”
The party said, “McCain’s ‘straight talk’ persona provides a stark contrast with Brown who infamously hid in the bathroom recently to avoid taking questions from reporters about women’s health care.”
“Brown is no straight talker, and the more New Hampshire voters see of him, the more they don’t like him. Standing next to John McCain won’t change that,” McClain said.
At the hour-long town hall, Brown, promised to make treatment of veterans “one of my top priorities” and work to revise a system to allow veterans options for health care.
McCain agreed that veterans should be allowed to go “outside the system” to seek care if necessary.
McCain praised the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, which were ordered by President Barack Obama, for helping the Iraqi and Kurdish forces retake the key Mosul Dam in Iraq from ISIS.
But he said military leaders agree that ISIS remains a “direct threat to America” and he blamed Obama for not leaving a residual force in Iraq.
“We need to use airstrikes all throughout that country,” McCain said. “No one wants to see ground troops back in but we’ve got to stop ISIS.
“This President, since he’s become President, I have never seen the world in greater turmoil than it is today,” McCain said.
“We need to give the Kurds weapons, which they don’t have,” said McCain. “They have old Russian weapons. We need to have a change of government in Bagdad, and we need to make sure airstrikes take place in Syria as well because ISIS has erased the boundary lines between Iraq and Syria.
“We have to do it hard and we have to do it in a way that is not pinprick strikes,” he said. “You don’t break the enemy’s will by gradually increasing the efforts against them. ISIS is a threat to the United States of America. We have to do what’s necessary to destroy them without sending American combat troops there.”
Brown said ISIS is so dangerous that it “makes al-Qaida look like Boy Scouts.”
McCain also called for stronger border security and for the return of the illegal immigrant children who have been crossing the southern border.
“The only way we are going to stop this is to put them on planes and fly them back to the countries that they came from,” McCain said. He called for expanding embassy and consulate capabilities to help those who come and seek asylum.
“I think that would be perfectly legitimate,” he said.
McCain also said the “meat axe approach” of sequestration “one of the biggest mistakes, if not the biggest mistake” in recent congressional history, particularly as it has been applied to defense spending. And he said Congress must take control of the “cost overruns” in defense spending.
“I did not support that,” said Brown of sequestration. “Senator Shaheen did.”
Brown also voiced support for Israel, saying, “It is the worst state of affairs since the creation of Israel between this administration and Israel. It is our greatest ally.”
But he said, “Our allies don’t trust us. The President drew a line and said if you do ‘X,’ we are going to do ‘Y.” They did ‘X’ but we did nothing.”
McCain said, “Relations between the United States and Israel have never been worse and that is tragic in itself.” He said the Obama administration “has discredited themselves so much” that it now has “no role” in the relations between Israel and Hamas.
Brown said he supports the concept of “no budget, no pay” for Congress if Congress does not pass a budget. He said he has supported a line-item veto and a Balanced Budget Amendment.
McCain said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid restricts Republican-proposed amendments.
“In the last two years there have been eight Republican amendments debated and voted on,” he said. “That’s not what they used to call the world’s greatest debating society.”
Brown voiced support for the Keystone Pipeline and an “all of the above” approach to attaining energy independence.
When one audience member insisted that Obama needs to be impeached, Brown said, “I’m a realist. That’s not going to happen. We may have disagreements with the executive branch and there are checks and balances.”
He urged changing the Senate to GOP control including voting out of office Obama’s “Number one foot-soldier,” Shaheen.
Although the event was open to the public, only one questioner challenged the two Republicans.
Salem Democrat Jane Lang, a senior citizen, said she was concerned about potential cuts in Social Security and the cost of prescription medications.
“What are you going to do as a senator to help the seniors in New Hampshire?” Lang asked.
“Whatever changes are going to be made in Social Security, you are going to get your benefits,” said Brown. “The question is what about my kids and our grandchildren. What type of program will they have?”
He said that the Affordable Care Act is taking “three-quarters of a trillion dollars” from the Medicare program. “You’re going to get less services.”
On Social Security, “We need to be realistic,” and, “We need to have everybody at the table. To have one political party try to ram it through without any type of bipartisanship.”
“All we hear about is repeal it from the Republicans,” said Lang.
But Brown said, “I believe we can do it better than what the federal government says. We can revert it back to the states.”
“We have to work in a bipartisan manner with everybody and the President needs to come to the table, which they’re not,” Brown said.
“It’s disingenuous for them to say right now that they are trying to fix it because with all due respect they’re not,” he said.
Later, in an interview, McCain defended Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was indicted last Friday on charges related to abuse of power. McCain noted that even some Democrats have questioned the indictment.
He called it “outrageous.”
McCain reminisced about the friends he made in what he called “my second-favorite state” Granite State during his two campaigns, the first one dating back 15 years.
“Some of the happiest times of my life were spent here in this great state,” he said, “where people take their time in selecting who they want to vote for, particularly for President of the United States.”
“After I lost, I slept like a baby,” he joked, referring to his 2008 presidential campaign. “Sleep two hours, wake up and cry.”
Earlier, Sen. Kelly Ayotte, appearing briefly, called McCain “the guy who really represents what the New Hampshire town hall is all about,” a reference to his more than 150 town halls during his two runs in the New Hampshire primary.