-- Senator John McCain, Senate floor speech, all-night debate, July 18, 2007
Campaigning down in Tyler, Texas early today (02/27/08), Republican Presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, delivered a direct ripost to a comment made by Democrat hopeful, Senator Barack Obama during the final Democrat presidential debate last night. Senator Obama said, in response to a question, that if al-Qaeda came back to Iraq and established a base after he, as President withdrew the troops, then he would send military troops back to Iraq.
But as John carefully and pointedly explained today, al-Qaeda is already in Iraq. "It's called al-Qaeda in Iraq!" he said. And he further noted that al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) does not want a base; they want to take the country. McCain said, "I will not surrender to al-Qaeda."
Here is the video*:
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The words in the title quote (above) of our post today, were taken from a early morning speech delivered by McCain during the debate over a Democrat proposal to force the Administration into a timetable to withdraw troops from Iraq, way back on July 18, 2007.
It was, in my opinion, one of the great speeches in American history, coming as it did at a pivotal moment in our nation's contentious internal debate and, at that moment, institutional confrontation over the future of our commitment to the struggle in Iraq. Yet, his stirring remarks went utterly unreported by any in our national media, save for a few bloggers who picked up the significance of his speech and shared them.
Most notably, Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters quickly turned around a transcription of McCain's remarks, which the Senator actually finished delivering at about 4:10 am, and Ed astonishingly was able to have them posted them on his blog, along with commentary, by 10:46 a.m. that morning!
Ed properly entitled that post, employing John's own words, ones embodying his determination that whatever the ultimate verdict of history, or the shorter term judgment of the people, that "I will stand where I stand." Ed introduced the Senator's remarks thusly:
Harry Reid wanted a debate, and he got one, especially from John McCain, during last night's stunt -- which Reid himself mostly skipped. It didn't change a single vote, and more importantly, Reid didn't get what he wanted -- a Republican refusal to engage. Instead, Republicans made it clear that they had no intention of allowing Congress to usurp the role of the executive, and McCain made it clear why. Here's his entire statement from the debate early this morning:
. . . .
The AP reported on the debate back then in a story that began:
"WASHINGTON (AP) - Senate Republicans scuttled a Democratic proposal ordering troop withdrawals from Iraq in a showdown Wednesday that capped an all-night debate on the war.Had the Democrats succeeded in forcing a withdraw back then, our nation would now be humiliated and retreating, having opted to abandon an ally whose people we freed, and having, in our cravenness, emboldened al-Qaeda to become a major force, not only in Iraq, but throughout the Middle East, freely recruiting future terrorists. And, we would have also clearly signaled our other allies, both there in the region, and throughout the world that we can no longer be relied upon.
The 52-47 vote fell short of the 60 votes needed to cut off debate under Senate rules."
. . . .
One wonders how long would it have been before al-Qaeda operatives and other terrorists would have been back on our shores, and at our throats? But because of the surge, which the Democrats opposed -- AQI is quickly becoming a discredited and defeated force, with recruitment down, prospects dimmed and increasingly, a Sunni populace that has rejected their approach.
During that all night debate, at a little after 4 am, John McCain, his campaign for the Presidency on the brink of collapse, nevertheless stood and delivered one of the great speeches in all of American history. Yet no one but a few bloggers such as Ed Morrissey reported his stirring words at that moment.
Senator McCain concluded his speech as follows:
"I am privileged, as we all are, to be subject to the judgment of the American people and history. But, my friends, they are not always the same judgment. The verdict of the people will arrive long before history’s. I am unlikely to ever know how history has judged us in this hour. The public’s judgment of me I will know soon enough. I will accept it, as I must. But whether it is favorable or unforgiving, I will stand where I stand, and take comfort from my confidence that I took my responsibilities to my country seriously, and despite the mistakes I have made as a public servant and the flaws I have as an advocate, I tried as best I could to help the country we all love remain as safe as she could be in an hour of serious peril."
"I will stand where I stand . . ." should, and one can only hope will likely become words embodying courage and steadfastness of purpose at a moment of real peril. That, it seems to me, is the very mark of good leadership. Please, go to the post and read the Senator's full remarks.
Finally, as we noted in a comment on that post at Captains Quarters, McCain's remarks were immediately followed by those of Hillary Clinton. Imagine, if you will, being in her position that day. She no doubt figured that, as the putative Democrat candidate, she had been given the advantage of the final word, by being scheduled to speak after him. But as she listened to his remarks, surely it had to cross her mind that something quite extraordinary had just been said. I wonder if, for even one brief second, a thought crossed her mind that she was indeed on the wrong side of history. We'll never know; she would likely never admit to it. And, neither will many likely know or care what she had to say that early morning. The moment had passed her by.
Thank you President Bush and John McCain, and General Petraeus, and thank you to all those brave troops who have put their lives on the line for our nation, and so effectively taken on an implacable enemy of this nation. We must not abandon them.
*A news report, from Brietbart, embedding the video of the Senators remarks today can be found located here. Reader comments are also linked to that post. (No comments were permitted with the original Dailymotion video, posted above.)
** The McCain campaign website indicates that he began speaking at about 3:45 a.m., which may only be slightly inconsistent with the AP report published the 18th that indicated he finished at 4:10 a.m -- it was not a 25 minute speech.