McCain: Setting Iraq Withdrawal Date Would Be 'Chaos'

Republican candidate says if exit is rushed 'we'll be back' anyway

Feb. 17, 2008— -- Republican frontrunner Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says he agrees with Senators Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., that President Bush should bring the Iraq Status of Forces Agreement to Congress.

In an exclusive "This Week" interview, McCain told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos, "I don't have a problem with going to the Congress, because I think the issue takes care of itself when we succeed. I still say setting a date for withdrawal is chaos, genocide, and we'll be back, because Al Qaeda will then succeed."

Status of Forces Agreements (SOFA) are made between countries when one has an agreed-upon military presence in the other. The host country and the country providing the military presence outline everything from the location of bases to the duration of the stay.

" . . . If we succeed in Iraq, which I believe we are, the rest of it takes care of itself," said McCain. "We have status of forces agreements with a number of countries that have never been approved by Congress; we have some others that have been approved by Congress," he explained.

McCain left open, however, the possibility that the same would not apply to military action against Iran. As president, McCain said he would come to Congress before acting against Iran "under most -- almost all, reasonable scenarios." But he clarified that he would only act outside of Congress if "it was some dire emergency that required -- you know, I mean, they were about to launch or something like that."

"I really believe that, having been a member of Congress all these years, that we have to have more of a partnership with the Congress. We have to have more consultation. We have to do those things. But there still is only one title of commander-in-chief, one person with that title."

On the number one issue facing voters, the economy, McCain vowed not to raise taxes under any circumstances. "No new taxes," he asserted. "To impose on the American people what essentially would be a tax increase of thousands of dollars per family in America ... would be bad for the economy of this country," he explained.

McCain believes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke failed to lower interest rates early enough. "I personally would have liked to have seen those rate cuts earlier. A lot of the people that I respect that are advising me, like Phil Gramm and Jack Kemp and so many others that are in our team, on our team, said that they would have liked to have seen it earlier … I would have liked to have seen faster rate cuts and earlier than they were done by him."

McCain clarified that his dissatisfaction with Bernanke "doesn't mean I want him fired; it doesn't mean that I've lost confidence," but he was unclear as to whether he would reappoint Bernanke when his term expires in 2010. "I would have to consider that at the time, obviously," he said.