Senator John McCain told me this morning that he spoke with the President yesterday on Afghanistan and said he’s “confident the president will make the right decision.”
Here’s the exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you spoken directly to the president about your concerns?
STEPHANOPOULOS: And what did — what did you say to him?
MCCAIN: We had a good conversation, as we always do. And I pointed out what — the point you made earlier, that, in Iraq, the Maliki government was certainly failing. And this — this election in Afghanistan, it was corrupt. There is corruption from the — the cop on the beat to — to the — to the president's brother, Karzai's brother, and that issue has to be addressed if we're going to succeed. But we're not going to have a chance to succeed if we withdraw. And by the way, we've really got the status quo, which Admiral Mullen and General McChrystal say is not succeeding, or we can implement this new strategy, which is really an old strategy called counterinsurgency, or we'd better get out.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You and the president…
MCCAIN: A half-measure — a half-measure does not do justice. And time is important, because there's 68,000 Americans already there. And casualties will go up.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Are you concerned that the president is going to choose a half-measure? Or do you see the possibility for a meeting of the minds between you and the president on this?
MCCAIN: I'm very hopeful that the president will make the right decision, which is to — to commit the necessary troops. And, again, as much as I respect Secretary Gates, I'm not sure how you make an informed decision if you don't take into consideration the resources that are necessary to exercise one of those options. And, by the way, I think it's the worst — one of the many worst-kept secrets in Washington. It's 30,000 to 40,000 troops.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And — and he says that decision will come in a few weeks. So what's your betting on what the president's going to do?
MCCAIN: I — I can't bet, but I know what the president said during the campaign about the war in Afghanistan, that we couldn't muddle through. I know the president, as short a time ago as March, said we could not allow the Taliban to achieve — allow Al Qaida back again in Afghanistan to serve as a base for attacks on the United States and our allies. And — and, by the way, the Taliban are not — are not popular with the people of Afghanistan. They don't want to go back to that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So one final question. Does the president get your argument?
MCCAIN: I think the president — as I said, I think he has a very difficult decision. The base of his party, Americans are weary. Understandably they're weary. And it's a very difficult decision for him. But I — I believe he'll make the right decision.
- George Stephanopoulos