Q&A with John McCain: Libyans paid price 'in blood' waiting for no fly zone

Obama's decision to seek a multinational response to Qaddafi's attacks means 'the Libyan people are paying a very heavy price in blood,' Sen. John McCain said April 6 at a Monitor breakfast.

Michael Bonfigli / The Christian Science Monitor
Senator John McCain, ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee speaks to reporters at a Monitor-sponsored Breakfast in Washington, DC on April 6.

Sen. John McCain was the Republican presidential candidate in 2008. A US Naval Academy graduate and a prisoner of war in Vietnam, he was elected to the Senate from Arizona in 1987. He is the ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee. He was the guest speaker at the April 6 Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C.

President Obama's national security policies:

"The president continues to rely on multinational efforts. I am all for multinational efforts.... But the United States still has to lead. And if the United States doesn't lead, then nobody leads.... If we had ... declared a no-fly zone ... [in Libya] three or four weeks ago, [Col. Muammar] Qaddafi would not be in power today.... The Libyan people are paying a very heavy price in blood because of our failure to act because of this overwhelming priority of having to act ... multinationally."

Mr. Obama's national security team:

"The international star is Secretary [of State Hillary Rodham] Clinton.... She has done a really tremendous job."

Whether defense spending should be part of a budget compromise to trim the federal deficit:

"I would be very reluctant to cut defense spending until we see really how these two conflicts we are in [in Iraq and Afghanistan] are going to come out and what the implications of this latest 'Arab Spring' are. At the same time, I remain incredibly frustrated and angry about the defense procurement as it exists today.... They screw up a contract beyond belief, we decide not to buy the product, and yet we are still paying for the product."

The Republican case against Obama's reelection in 2012:

"The case against the president is primarily that he promised change and we really didn't see a change. We increased spending and size of the federal government."

His use of social media after saying early in the 2008 campaign that he was unfamiliar with computers:

"There has been a quantum leap in social networking.... We are on Facebook all the time and we Twitter all the time. We [his Senate office] have 1.7 million followers on Twitter. We get a much larger response from Twittering something than from a regular press release.... It is fundamentally restructuring the whole nature of information and how it is dispensed in America."

Talking with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg after a recent Middle East trip:

"[I] told him ... he is a national hero and they wanted him to come and visit. They want him to come to Egypt and Tunisia, these young people do."

How 2012 presidential contenders should deal with political weaknesses:

"You've got to confront it directly and then when [reporters] ask the question again the answer is, 'I already addressed that issue' and not keep the story alive. As a candidate, I think you [have] got to have some honest observers and ... say, OK, what are my vulnerabilities?"

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