Arizona Senator and presidential hopeful John McCain says the lesson of the 2006 election is that too many Republican voters were disillusioned by corruption in the Republican-led congress and the failure of Republicans to hold the line on federal spending.
"I don’t think that we appreciate why we lost the elections and that spending was a major factor and corruption was a major factor," McCain says. "We’re going to have to clean up our act."
McCain adamantly dismisses the idea Republican electoral losses are primarily linked to the war in Iraq. "I am only relating the result of my experience of speaking before literally thousands of the Republican Party faithful," McCain says. "They are very upset about spending and they are very upset about the ethics and corruption that were associated with it."
McCain is in Iowa today, campaigning for president, and during a Saturday morning appearance in Des Moines McCain ridiculed fellow senators who stayed in Washington to decide how to proceed on an Iraq war resolution. "That brings us, my dear friends, to the issue that is now being bloviated on the floor of the senate floor this morning, the issue of a non-binding, meaningless, sense-of-the-senate resolution on Iraq," McCain said. "Your tax dollars at work."
McCain said whether the resolution being debated in the senate passes or fails, the troops are still going to be sent to Iraq. "What they’re doing in the United States Senate is purely a political stunt on the part of the Democratic leadership," McCain said.
McCain suggested the debate in the U.S. Senate could harm the morale of troops already serving or on their way to Iraq. "In this war, unlike another war, the American people still strongly support the men and women who are fighting it, and God bless them for doing so," said McCain, a Vietnam era veteran who was a prisoner of war for five and a half years.
A crowd of over 350 Iowa Republican activists crowded into a downtown Des Moines conference room to see McCain. The first 11 questions people in the crowd posed to McCain were about Iraq. McCain said the president’s "troop surge" idea is a "viable strategy" but there are no guarantees. "I know how frustrated Americans are. I know how saddened we are when we lose our most precious treasure. I understand your frustration," McCain said. "But I also want to tell you that I could not be honest with you without telling you…the consequences of failure are catastrophic and there would be genocide and chaos."
Larry Rissman of Des Moines said he was "lukewarm" about McCain’s candidacy before he heard what McCain had to say. "He had the right answer to everything he was asked," Rissman said after the event.
His wife, Paula, said McCain handled himself well today and will get her vote. "I was with him before and I’m still with him," Paula Rissman said.