Doubling down with criticism, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke today from the American embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, today on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to say that neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton are qualified to address the ongoing crisis in the Middle East. Appearing next to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), McCain said "I don't think either one of them have displayed what I think is the necessary strategy and outlook, the planning and reliance on our military leaders that will be necessary to succeed." McCain said, "I hope that whichever one is president that they would call in the David Petraeuses and the Robert Fords and the Ryan Crockers and those individuals, both military and State Department diplomats who succeeded in Iraq before the president gave it all away who know what we need to do to defeat this threat."
Apparently hedging his bets said when asked whether he would endorse Trump, McCain answered, "Well, as I've said, I would support the nominee of the party." He added, "I have strong disagreements, and we've just been through several of them, and that's my position."
For his part, Graham said that Clinton’s policy proposals appear reasonable. He said that her suggestion of a no-fly zone over Syria is a "step in the right direction" He criticized Trump for the latter’s suggestion that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could stay in office. "When Trump says he would allow Assad to stay that tells me he has no idea what that means for the region," he said. "...Mr. Trump, when you said Assad should stay, you need to rethink that."
However, both Graham and McCain criticized President Obama's strategy toward Syria and suggested that pulling out American forces could further destabilize the Middle East. "The U.S. response should have been a long time ago not to withdraw everybody from Iraq, and now the president is on the verge of doing the same thing here in Afghanistan where things are not going well and he's insisting on cutting the numbers in half while the situation deteriorates," McCain said. "But what he should have done was to remain in Iraq while al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and now we see what we're seeing."
When asked what next steps he would contemplate for the conflictive region, McCain said, "What we need to do is go to Raqqa and kill them ... go take them out in Raqqa where they are now basing most of these, or at least some of these attacks." Once the ground war is won, McCain suggested, a battle for the hearts and minds of the people can begin. "And then get into the long ideological struggle to defeat this metastasizing evil that is afflicting all of the Middle East and parts of the world."
Emphasizing the stakes faced by America, McCain was critical of the legacy Obama is leaving behind. Removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, he said, could lead to future terrorist attacks on the homeland. "What we're doing in Syria is buying time, President Obama is passing this on to the next president, and I hope to god we don't get hit in the United States from an attack planned in Syria like you saw in Turkey," he said, referring to the deadly attack at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport last week. "And I'm afraid that's going to happen if we don't speed up the demise of ISIL."
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