Senator John McCain (R-AZ) speaks during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 9, 2014.
Joshua Roberts/Reuters

McCain vs. McCain on ground troops

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) seemed disgusted, and perhaps a little hysterical, this week when condemning President Obama for targeting Islamic State terrorists without U.S. ground troops. “It’s going to take an army to beat an army,” Graham told Fox News, adding, “I will not let this president suggest to the American people we can outsource our security and this is not about our safety…. This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed back here at home.”
 
It was of interest, then, when Amanda Terkel reported that the South Carolina Republican, as recently as a few months ago, had effectively argued the opposite. “I don’t think we need boots on the ground,” Graham told Fox News on June 10. “I don’t think that is an option worth consideration.”
 
Now that President Obama agrees with Lindsey Graham I, Lindsey Graham II is outraged.
 
But as it turns out, the South Carolinian isn’t alone. This week, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has been in high dudgeon, demanding a more expansive U.S. military operation against ISIS in Syria, though a Democratic source alerted me overnight to comments McCain made to msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell on June 13.
“I think you have to explain to the American people what kind of a threat that an ISIS takeover of Iraq would pose to the United States of America. Can you imagine a caliphate or a center of violent Muslim extremism dedicated to attacking the United States, the consequences of that? That has to be explained to the American people.
 
“I would also explain to the American people that I do not envision a scenario where ground combat troops are on the ground.”
A few moments later, McCain added, “I would not commit to putting Americans boots on the ground.”
 
This sounds awfully similar to what the president is saying now, to McCain’s great consternation.
 
The senator might very well believe, as Lindsey Graham does, that ISIS seems more dangerous now than it did in June, when they argued against ground troops. That said, it’s nevertheless a bit jarring for some of Obama’s harshest critics to complain about a presidential position that’s in line with their position from a few months ago.
 
Indeed, just yesterday on the Senate floor, McCain said, “Why does the president insist on continuing to tell the enemy what he will not do? Why does the president keep telling the people that are slaughtering thousands, ‘Don’t worry, we will not commit ground troops’?”
 
If the senator considers such a position so contemptible, why did he tell a national television audience earlier this summer, “I do not envision a scenario where ground combat troops are on the ground…. I would not commit to putting Americans boots on the ground”?
 
Here’s McCain’s interview with Andrea Mitchell in June:

ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and John McCain

McCain vs. McCain on ground troops