No good option if Iraq strategy fails, McCain says
Calls nonbinding resolutions insult to public, troops
DES MOINES -- Presidential contender John McCain said yesterday that there aren't any good options if the buildup of US troops doesn't stabilize Iraq.
The Arizona senator said during a campaign stop in Iowa that he would be hard pressed to find an option that the public would support if the troop increase fails.
"I don't know what the other options are, because if we fail here, I think it's going to be very difficult to maintain the support of the American people," he said. "And when the American people don't support a war . . . then we aren't able to maintain a foreign endeavor."
McCain, a Republican, supports President Bush's strategy to add 21,500 troops in Iraq to try to end the violence.
Polls suggest widespread opposition to the escalation of military efforts in Iraq, but a majority opposing cuts in funding for the troops.
McCain attended events in Iowa while the Senate voted on an attempt to rebuke President Bush over his military strategy.
Republicans foiled the measure by a vote of 56 to 34, four short of the 60 needed to advance it.
House Democrats prevailed Friday on a nonbinding measure that disapproved of Bush's decision to send more troops and pledged to support and protect the troops.
McCain said that nonbinding resolutions on Iraq in the House and Senate are "insulting to the public and the soldiers" and that the United States would defeat extremism only with perseverance.
"It may be how Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi construe their responsibilities," he said, referring to the Senate majority leader and House speaker, who support resolutions denouncing increased troop levels in Iraq. "But it's not how I construe mine," he added.
About 375 people attended McCain's first public stop in Des Moines, where questions about Iraq dominated a one-hour question-and-answer session.
His comment about a lack of options in Iraq was made in response to a question from the audience.
McCain tied the need for success in Iraq with what he deemed a looming threat from Iran. He dismissed President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran as someone "whose name I refuse to learn to pronounce."
"Those are bad people," he said.
McCain said that some in Iran have tried to reject extremism but that the United States needs to push for democracy. He said he did not think the United States, or anyone in the Bush administration, was girding for war with Iran.
"We've got to help the process of democracy take place in Iran," he said, "but there are some very difficult decisions that have to be made if the Iranians actually acquire a nuclear weapon."
McCain's trip to Iowa also included stops in Cedar Rapids and Davenport later yesterday. McCain did not formally declare his candidacy but spoke as if it were simply a formality.
He reiterated that he is running as a "prolife conservative" and was introduced by a slew of prominent conservative backers, including former senator Phil Gramm of Texas and Maxine Sieleman, the Iowa-based founder of Concerned Women for America.
Terry Branstad and Robert Ray, former governors of Iowa, were also in attendance, although they have not endorsed a presidential candidate.
The two attended a rally for presidential hopeful Mitt Romney on Tuesday.