John McCain Says Obama's ISIS Strategy Reminds Him of Vietnam

PHOTO: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, speaks during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 15, 2014. David Azia/AP Photo
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., center, speaks during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, March 15, 2014.

Sen. John McCain compared President Obama’s ISIS strategy today to the “gradualism” of Vietnam.

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"He just announced 1,500 more troops to be sent to Iraq. We knew he was going to have to do that, we predicted it," McCain said in an interview with ABC News Radio. "And I predict he'll have to send some more."

McCain, a Navy pilot who was shot down during the Vietnam War and spent more than five years as a prisoner of war, just released a new book along with aide Mark Salter entitled “13 Soldiers.” The book details the stories of service members who fought in every American war.

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee also said he worries that Obama is “desperate” for a deal with Iran, and expressed confidence that the new freshman class of Republicans will help House Speaker John Boehner get the votes to pass immigration reform.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

What should drive the new Republican majority in congress? The objective has to be that we will have a positive agenda and govern, and show the American people that Republicans can govern. If we don’t do that, we will not elect a Republican president in 2016... It has to be an agenda that we Republicans can go to the electorate in 2016 and say, “Look, we know how to govern.”

Will some of the Senate Republicans running for president make it tougher to do that? Oh, I think it’s going to present some obstacles. There obviously will be some that think that by just blocking everything that the president wants to do is the way we should proceed. I just don’t agree with that. But there will be a debate within the Republican Party. And there’s also going to be a debate on this so-called ‘isolationist and internationalist.’ The McCain-Lindsay Graham wing of the party, I think, just with Dan Sullivan, [senator-elect from Alaska and a Marine Corps reservist], Joni Ernst, [elected from Iowa, where she serves in the National Guard and has deployed to Iraq], Tom Cotton [of Arkansas], who obviously served as well [as an active duty soldier] – we’re going to have our “internationalist caucus. It just got increased with some really remarkable talent.

On ISIS strategy Do you know of any living American who knows what the president's strategy is? He just announced 1,500 more troops to be sent to Iraq. We knew he was going to have to do that, we predicted it. And I predict he'll have to send some more. Not the 82nd Airborne, but some more forward air controllers, special forces, other specially-talented people who have specific specialties. And he'll have to do it again. This gradualism, unfortunately, is beginning to remind me of the Vietnam war, which we know we lost.

He says congress will approve the extra $5.6 billion Obama has requested to fight ISIS. But… I don’t believe that the majority of Republicans in congress are just in favor of turning on a spigot of money when we don’t have the specific strategy that will achieve the objective and goal that the president has articulated.

On nuclear negotiations with Iran It appears to many of us, this president is so desperate for some kind of success that he is willing to make an agreement that many of us, including our Israeli friends, think is very dangerous. We need to have congressional, senate approval. It needs to be treated as a treaty.

Should Obama wait for 114th Congress to act on immigration apple before acting on his own? I think with the expanded numbers in the House that there’s a significant majority that know we have to move forward. And by the way, we want it to start with the House this time, not with the Senate. There is a broad agreement among most Republicans that we have to act on this issue. We need to have our border secure. We can’t see this reenactment of these thousands of children showing up on our border. We’ve got to fix that problem. So I think that there’s areas where the congress would act. I know that the Speaker would like to act, if he could get the endorsement of his conference, which I think he could.

Will the new class of freshmen help him? I think there’s a number of them who would be very helpful in pursuing that goal. And if they want to do it step-by-step, piece-by-piece – whatever they want to do is fine with me.

Should congress take a look at the recent vote in DC to legalize marijuana? Oh, I think congress ought to take a look, but I also have always believed that local government and the decision of the people is what probably matters on an issue like this. We voted in Arizona to some degree, we see Colorado, we see these decisions being made by the people that are the citizens, the voting citizens. I don’t happen to agree with it, but that’s the decision that I think was made by the people of the District.