Throughout his campaign, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has disguised his support for a failed strategy in Iraq by regularly railing against Donald Rumsfeld. A lengthy Washington Times article today highlighting McCain’s advocacy for more troops (calling it a “David against Goliath” battle) reveals that McCain’s push for more troops may have been more tepid than he portrays.
In an August 2003 meeting with Rumsfeld, McCain “made a very passionate case that we need to look at adding more troops,” according to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). But in a note from Rumsfeld just after meeting, McCain reportedly told Rumsfeld, “the answer may not be more troops in Iraq“:
An aide to the secretary said Mr. McCain’s account is incorrect. “In November 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld and Senator McCain had one of a number of conversations that ended with the two in agreement on the need to win in Iraq,” Keith Urbahn said. “Senator McCain may prefer to characterize their meeting as a Showdown at the OK Corral, but that’s not straight talk. It’s a fairy tale.”
Mr. Rumsfeld wrote a two-sentence summary shortly after his meeting, according to his office. “I had breakfast with Senator McCain. He said, ‘The answer may not be more troops in Iraq, but the answer is not the status quo.’ I agree with him.”
On the campaign trail, McCain assails Rumsfeld as “one of the worst secretaries of defense in history.” Yesterday, however, The Jed Report unearthed a 2001 Larry King interview with McCain saying he would have hired Rumsfeld had he been elected President in 2000. McCain said Bush assembled the “strongest” national security team in history. Watch it:
“Oh yes, and Cheney,” he added gleefully, saying that he told Dick Cheney at the time, “If I had been elected President, you’d have been my nominee for Vice President.” “Hell, yeah,” McCain told Stephen Hayes about Cheney serving in a future McCain administration. But in 2007, McCain said Bush was “very badly served” by Cheney.
As ThinkProgress has documented, McCain continued to try to have it both ways despite criticizing Rumsfeld, stating in 2005, “we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course.”