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Sen. John McCain's Remarks From New Hampshire

Republican John McCain says his Democratic rival Barack Obama is wrong on Iraq. McCain says U.S. troops will withdraw from Iraq with honor and victory. Video by AP

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008; 6:08 PM

SPEAKER: SEN. JOHN MCCAIN ( R-ARIZ.): (JOINED IN PROGRESS) ... our progress in Iraq.

Now, my friends, if we had failed in Iraq, you would have seen increased Iranian influence, you would have seen an increase in sectarian violence. We would have seen al Qaeda establishing another foothold.

And by the way, al Qaeda's on the run, but they're not defeated. And this success is fragile, and we cannot reverse it. And we cannot reverse it by doing what Senator Obama has said that he wants to do. He refuses to acknowledge the conditions on the ground.

Now, the benefits of success are very clear to me. And that is, we will have restrained Iranian influence in the region, who, by the way, is still sending the most lethal explosive devices into Iraq, killing young Americans.

We will have a stable and pro-American and pro-western government in Iraq. You will have seen -- we will see and are seeing economic, political, judicial progress in that country.

Now, they have a long way to go, and it's very tough and long and hard, but we have seen the prospects of success and the enormous reduction in violence, in sectarian violence, as the government takes and maintains control of Mosul, Basra and Baghdad. So the benefits of this success are tangible, and we cannot let that all disappear by doing what Senator Obama wants to do. And this is a clear choice that the American people have.

I had the courage and the judgment to say that I would rather lose a political campaign than lose a war. It seems to me that Senator Obama would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign.


And by the way, my dear friends, the same strategy that has succeeded in Iraq will succeed in Afghanistan, as well. It's not just more troops.

Things are tough in Afghanistan, but the same strategy of clear and hold and build. But there's also other elements associated with it, including the poppy crop, including the Pakistan situation, and the situation on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

So we do need more troops there. But we also need our NATO allies and others to be of more assistance to us. And we're appreciative of their assistance, including the Canadians, including others who have been very helpful.

And by the way, Senator Obama just made his first trip to Afghanistan ever. So I hope -- I hope that he will have the courage to reverse his position. And I look forward to having town hall meetings with him -- with him. I've requested to have town hall meetings with him so that Americans can make their comments, ask their questions, and we can understand better and be a better representative to our party and our nation for having had the experience.

Now, my friends, I would like to say, again, thank you for being here. And I'd like to mention that in the audience is always -- is a wonderful organization of younger people and people who are more senior. Is that a appropriate way of saying?

And that's Divided We Fail. This is an organization sponsored by AARP, which makes sure that we candidates are committed to fixing health care in America.

And I thank you for your involvement and your engagement.


Thank you. Thank you very much.


MCCAIN: The federal government is going to have to make a significant investment. But I believe we can bring down the costs of health care and keep inflation under control by taking a series of steps, and that will free up this money so that we can provide health insurance and health care to every single American because that's our obligation as a government. And I thank you, I thank you for your comment.

MCCAIN: And I'll be glad -- I'll be glad to send her additional information if she needs it and tell her God bless.

Yes, sir?

QUESTION: Senator, welcome back to New Hampshire, as always. We love you here and I'm sure I speak on behalf of my friend Brad, it has been an honor to work for your campaign, sir.

MCCAIN: I'm grateful.

QUESTION: A two-pronged question. First of all, in reading your books, one of the things I learned about you about you among your many enduring qualities, was your capacity to forgive. And I want to know if you've forgiven Mitt Romney?

And my second question...


QUESTION: My second question is just a single word with a question mark, Russia?

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, Mitt has been of tremendous help to my campaign. He has been on television, he does a better job for me than he did for himself, I told him. He has been great. He and the entire Romney family -- he and the entire Romney family have been wonderful. His wife Ann, as you know, is a woman of enormous courage. And we're very grateful. And I'm grateful. Our party is united now. We've got a lot of energizing work to do. But we are united.

I'm very concerned about Russia. I'm very concerned that just recently because the Czechs agreed with us on a missile defense system that they cut the gas supplies, the oil supplies to the Republic of Czechoslovakia -- excuse me, the Czech Republic. I used to call it and -- the Czech Republic, as you know, has been a very staunch ally and friend.

And as you know, the Czech Republic and Slovakia split years ago, and from time to time some of us misstate and Czechoslovakia, when the fact is, it's the Czech Republic. And so they are staunch allies and so the Russians in response to their agreement on missile defense, the Czechs have had their oil supplies reduced.

And that's not the way we expect Russia to behave. They're putting enormous pressures on Georgia. They have not agreed with us and helped us in trying to restrain the Iranian progress towards the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

So the Russian behavior is more and more autocratic, and the internal stifling of dissent is of grave concern. And by the way, our friends the Czechs have been our friends for a long time. They were behind the Iron Curtain, as you know. And both the Czech Republic and Slovakia have been good friends of ours since they split.

So we need to make sure that we can help them and particularly point out that the Russian behavior of basically blackmailing their neighbors is not something that's acceptable in the world today.

So I worry about Russia, I don't think there's going to be a return to the Cold War. That's not what I'm talking about. But Russian behavior becomes less and less in the interests of us throughout the world, frankly, than we had hoped and anticipated when the Berlin Wall came down. So that's basically the way that I feel.

Yes, ma'am? Here's the microphone.

QUESTION: Thank you. Senator, we entered the Iraq War illegally, immorally, and against international law. According to a poll in The Washington Post in May of this year, 81 percent of U.S. voters believe our country is on the wrong track. A majority of Americans support a timeline for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. And now the prime minister of Iraq, in response to pressure from the Iraqi people, is also calling for a timeline for withdrawal.

Given the $720 million a day we're spending in Iraq, the fact that neither Americans nor Iraqis support the occupation, that our presence there is, in fact, inflaming the Muslim world and creating more terrorists that our money, our, our tax dollars...


MCCAIN: Now, now, one at a -- wait, wait, please. One of the fundamental -- please, please, sir.

QUESTION: Don't I have a right to speak?

MCCAIN: Yes, ma'am. Yes, ma'am. That's what I'm trying to ensure right now.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you. I appreciate it.

MCCAIN: Please, could we all be respectful of everybody's point of view? And that's the important thing about a town hall meeting. Please go ahead. Thank you, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you. As I said, our tax dollars are needed here for health care, quality education, infrastructure repairs, and real energy alternatives to combat real climate change. Isn't it time to end the occupation, Senator?

MCCAIN: Thank you very much, and you obviously represent a -- the views of many Americans and I respect those views. When I took the position that we needed to have 30,000 additional troops over there, those numbers were a lot worse than the ones you cite, because my first obligation is my country, not my political ambitions. That's my first obligation.


MCCAIN: And I tell you -- and I tell you I respect your view. And I respect the fact that you would come here and state your view because I think that's the important way we should have this discussion in America. And I thank you for that. It's far better, frankly, than some of the...



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