December 1st, 2009
10:02 PM ET
8 months ago

McCain challenges Obama in private meeting

In a private meeting held hours before his prime-time address, President Obama was challenged by his 2008 presidential campaign rival Sen. John McCain.
In a private meeting held hours before his prime-time address, President Obama was challenged by his 2008 presidential campaign rival Sen. John McCain.

Washington (CNN) - Hours before he was set to address the nation on his new Afghanistan strategy, President Obama and members of his war council spent about an hour briefing senior members of Congress at a White House meeting that multiple sources described as businesslike and sobering.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who attended the meeting, said Obama laid out his plans to escalate the military mission before several lawmakers asked questions.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin told CNN the president emphasized that in addition to sending some 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, he also has a "target for when this is coming to an end."

"The president believes that gives the Afghans enough time, and the Pakistanis enough time to take control of the situation," Durbin said.

Three GOP sources told CNN that Sen. John McCain used the meeting to directly challenge the president on his exit strategy.

The sources said that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell deferred to McCain, who questioned the concept of announcing now plans to begin withdrawing in July, 2011.

These sources said the president responded to McCain by promising that the withdrawal would be based on conditions on the ground.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn was one of the only members of the Democratic leadership in either chamber to tell CNN "I'm very supportive of it."

Even Durbin, one of the president's closest allies, told CNN he is withholding judgment. "The president took some time to reach his decision, I'm going to need some time to reach mine," Durbin said.


Filed under: Afghanistan • Dick Durbin • Extra • John McCain • President Obama
soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. vic nashville , Tn

    Thanks to God I didn’t vote for Mc Cain (I am physical conservative )

    December 1, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  2. New Father

    Hey bad guys we are leaving a few months before the election that way I can say I tried to finish the war Bush started, and hopefully the bad guys will think if they just stop fighting for a few months before our election the big bad USA we retreat, surrender, and claim victory?

    December 1, 2009 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  3. We Shall Overcome

    The republicans are ridiculous. This war has gone on for 9 years without a timeframe. With no end in sight when Bush was president. Enough already!

    December 1, 2009 08:52 pm at 8:52 pm |
  4. Vets4Obama

    Just don't send McCain, he'll get over there and aid the taliban, much like he did for the enemy in vietnam. he'll jump on the radio and broadcast anti american sentiment and give out information about where the troops of the US are.

    Don't believe it? Google "Songbird McCain". He was a war hero, to the VIETNAMESE! (He did more for the enemy then he did for us. He killed more AMERICANS then he did ENEMY). He's nothing less then a traitor.

    December 1, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  5. Saul- Virginia Independent

    Somebody please tell McCain that he is not a general and having serve in the military does not make him a war expert. The president have a lot of decorated generals around him that help formulate this strategy.

    Thanks but no thanks to what ever he has to say!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 1, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  6. gary

    Yes cnn Mccain would rather be there for 100 years. What a retard.

    December 1, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  7. D.

    The role of a community organizer is to please all sides!
    The role of President of the USA is to make the wise decision regardless of politics, and make sure it is national security which is served!

    It seems to me the roles got somehow mixed up tonight!

    December 1, 2009 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  8. D.

    McCain has been studying war, has been in contact with the military for many years, has visited Iraq and Afghanistan many times, has studied the surge, openly and strongly opposed failed strategies of G.W. Bush and torture, and has put the success of this country first! It will be important for the president to listen and take seriously opinions of Senator John McCain.
    The election is over and it will be as useful to listen to past opponent like McCain just as well as listening to past opponents like J. Biden and H. Clinton. There is no Republican war and no Democratic war there is a war engaged by America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GBA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 1, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  9. Right wingnuts are the darlings of dementia

    John proposed a 100 year commitment to Iraq, so I can see why he opposes a timeline in Afghanistan. I am sure intelligent military leaders ignore McSurge.

    December 1, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  10. sandy

    You might knowMcCain would speak up so he would get his name in the paper. He was a flyboy, not a general and I think somebody should tell him so.

    December 1, 2009 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  11. lila

    Open end means dithering around. Obama has a goal.. Obama is goal oriented and that is one reason he is a winner. He sets a goal and keeps his eye on the ball. In 18 months if he is close to reaching his goal he will refine the time line to reach it. In 18 months if his goal is still far beyond reach.. we will not stay the course.. he will rethink the mission and what needs to be done based on conditions on the ground.

    December 1, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  12. m smith

    It took us along time to get here and it will take some doing to get us out. Everyone that makes comments are not in the position of the president so it is easy to critisize. It is always hind site to say what should have been done. As for the repos they have no plan about anything anyway.

    December 1, 2009 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  13. Dianne

    No matter what John McCain wants war forever. He didnot want to leave Iraq. He is old school and those ideas donot work in the 21st century. John McCain cannot begin to think that deep and use his brain instead of emotions. John McCain is predictable as usual (bomb, bomb). The Taliban does not know him and it is not easy for them to read him. The President controls himself and his emotions. To the enemy, this is a dangerous man, for one cannot rile him into foolish, emotional actions.

    December 1, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  14. ROBERT

    It is just terrible that John McCain's wife's taxes will increase. No wonder John McCain is so upset. She is exclusive beer distributor for Arizona. Just makes me sad to think she will pay her fair share.

    December 1, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  15. Joan

    Give me a break. If McCain was President you would also be at war with Iran right now. Plus you would have led the world into another depression. President Obama certainly does not need to take any advice from John McCain.

    December 1, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  16. Randy, San Francisco

    Question to Senator McCain: Are you and fellow Republicans willing to show your support for our troops by supporting a surtax on the war?

    December 1, 2009 09:46 pm at 9:46 pm |
  17. Lee in TN

    I think the American public has a great deal of respect for their POW's, but realizes John McCain's political posturing is just show. He offers no valid solutions to problems, just wants to be a member of the "party of no." He was a major supporter of a deceitful move to invade Iraq, which allowed Afganistan to fall back into the hands of the Taliban. John McCain would be wise to run and hide in shame!

    December 1, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  18. S M R

    A never ending war is the GOP'S American Dream.

    December 1, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  19. inuk of the north

    The first fifteen minutes of Obama's speech sounds like it could've been written by GWB, except the part where the USA surrenders in 2011. Obama wrote in that part himself.

    December 1, 2009 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  20. Hendrik

    I would have told that white haired white Republican to shut the xxxx up. Why does CNN make McCain relevant? McCain is a traitor.

    December 1, 2009 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  21. James, Ho. TX

    30,000 more troops to Afghanistan is a wrong move. The Troops there now should be on their way home; not 2011 ! as for McCain it remains that he was a P.O.W.@ Hannoi Hilton; Gave up Flag and Colors in lieu of his skin. this guy shouln't even be in Congress. Too many Chiefs screwing the Indians all for the sake of power !

    December 1, 2009 09:56 pm at 9:56 pm |
  22. Saul- Virginia Independent

    Somebody please tell McCain that he is not a general and having serve in the military does not make him a war expert. The president have a lot of decorated generals around him that help formulate this strategy.

    December 1, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  23. g ontario

    macain wants to stay there 100years does he real,s he,ll be 172 years old when you get out

    December 1, 2009 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  24. venkat chamarti

    If Obama sticks to his timetable and achives whatever he wants to do , well and good. If it dosen't work as planned , not only he, the America and its allies are doing the costliest mistake of our time.
    God bless the world.

    December 1, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  25. Gentwelve

    One must question if McCain is fully recovered from his past time as a POW. He seems content on keeping our soldiers in a useless occupation mode rather than have a strategy that might result in our troops coming home.

    Go home (or should I say homes) Mr. McCain and bother us no more.

    December 1, 2009 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
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