John McCain came to speak at his home legislative district meeting (LD11) in Phoenix, Arizona, this evening, April 14, 2008. This is a very rare event, indeed, as the Senator has not come to speak in an open, uncontrolled meeting of Republican elected precinct committeemen in a long time. He has not been to a county or state Republican convention in 5 or 6 years. In the 2008 presidential election, the senator's home precinct in central Phoenix was carried by Barack Obama.
Here are some highlights:
A member of the audience asked, "What is the end game or exit strategy for Afghanistan?"
John McCain replied:
"...the same as in Iraq, that the country cannot be used as a base for attacks against the United State."
The senator continued:
"... but more than that, there must be a relatively well-functioning democracy, there must be relatively reliable elections. We will stay there until we train military forces as we did in Iraq."
(ed note: 'nation building'?)
The audience member continued: "Does that mean that we will need to remain in Afghanistan for the long term or for decades?"
The senator responded:
"We will stay there until we accomplish our mission. When you set out on a mission you set objectives and a timetable for meeting objectives. Then you meet your objectives and your timetable."
This was in addition to the senator's earlier comments where he stated:
"We need to go into the south of Afghanistan. There will be no Anbar awakening."
Later the senator stated: "We are in an ideological struggle. While we do not need to intervene in every country in the Middle East, there will be Muslim extremism for a long time."
Some observers noted afterward that the senator's comments seem to contradict the senator's comments during the primary campaign. In the last debate held at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, CA, Mitt Romney made the very statements regarding mission objectives and the standard by which a mission is recognized as accomplished. In response, Senator McCain roundly criticized Romney as being "soft" on the War on Terror because, according to McCain, there should be no timetable for withdrawl.
Other items of note that the Senator mentioned tonight were.....
1) Due to the profligate spending, including the first TARP that John McCain admitted to supporting, taxes will be going up
2) The current administration's economic policy is essentially spending and running the printing presses which will lead to a debasement of the currency.
(Interesting - sounds like Ron Paul......)
3) The mission in Afghanistan and recent developments in Pakistan mean that we are going to be there for a while longer. The senator stated that America will need to bear most of the burden of this effort and it will cost more in terms of American blood and American money.
4) There were several questions about (seeming to be both in favor and, interestingly, against - posed by a self-described hispanic american) "pandering" to minorities. The Senator stated that Republicans will be in a "permanent minority" unless we bring hispanics into the party.
Ed note: John McCain has previously announced that he is running again for his Senate seat in 2010.