December 1st, 2009
10:02 PM ET
6 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. Florence

    McCain wants to be co-president like his running mate they can't get over the fact that they lost the election. An exit strategy was best thing i've heard in the speech – fighting a war for 10-15 years is not something we should be bogged down in at this time. Karzai need to do more to take over the fight and not expect US to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely like McCain would like. Remember doing the campaign he said we could stay maybe 50 years. That is wrong headed.

    December 1, 2009 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  2. rich in az

    Who listens to this old geezer?

    December 1, 2009 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  3. ACE7

    Well, this just shows that Obama is more dedicated to the agenda of the CFR and all the rest of those corrupt politicians then he is the American people. This is a war for profit folks and we are the ones getting the shaft. Chinese and American corporations are totally in on it.

    We let Bush sucker us into thinking that Osama bin Laden is the enemy...but no...the real enemy is anyone who's going to get in the way of corporate profit and that includes the Americans who are out there dying for our freedo...wait...our vanity.

    Way to be a stand up man Obama. You're just another puppet. You have failed America today.

    December 1, 2009 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  4. scott winter haven

    Didn't all of you Democraps say we needed to be in Afghanistan instead of Iraq. It just goes to show how weak Democrats are! Let's see if you guys continue to SUPPORT THE TROOPS!.

    December 1, 2009 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  5. Alan in Marietta, GA

    go away John McCain... you really have nothing to add to the intelligent conversation.

    December 1, 2009 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  6. Hawktyme

    And still the Republicans criticize and the Democrats run for cover.

    Where are all the AmeriCANs.
    All I keep hearing from are the AmeriCAN'Ts!!

    It's amazing how we've had both parties in charge of both houses in the last eight years, and neither have any leaders or answers. Just loud mouth critics who play to the crowds. It makes you wonder why we only let the richest in the country run for public office, and then let them tell us how we're supposed to be living our lives.
    How do we let them call the shots

    December 1, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  7. StevieB

    Let's face it – if Obama said drinking a glass of water was a good way to quench thirst Republicans would climb all over themselves to be the first to publicly announce how drinking a glass of water weakens the US and is a socialist plot anyway.

    December 1, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  8. Joe

    I guess Senator McCain forgot a very important lesson. Elections have consequences. He decided that it was more important to pander to the conservative base of the GOP (i.e. choose to have Sarah "I have no credible foreign policy experience" Palin as his running mate) than run as the same candidate that was able to appeal to moderates in 2000, and subsequently lost the election. As the "also ran candidate" you don't get to make foreign policy. That is the job of the President. This just goes to prove that John McCain is no longer the centrist that he was in 2000. He is 100% a part of the bitter GOP that wants to continue the failed policies of the Bush Administration - both foreign and domestic. Sad when our leaders don't have any new ideas.

    December 1, 2009 10:52 pm at 10:52 pm |
  9. S M R

    John "flip flop" McCain to this day STILL DOESN'T have one clear answer to ANYTHING.

    December 1, 2009 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  10. Bill from CA

    It's too bad McCain didn't ask the same questions of President Bush when he, with McCain's votes, sent our troops in harm's way in both Afghanistan and Iraq.

    December 1, 2009 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  11. Beverly in NC

    Senator McCain is just a bitter old man who knows nothing about war, the economy, the true state the Ameircan people have to live every day, and takes every chance to criticize President Obama.

    McCain is a loser and his thoughts are irrelevant and full of stuck-in-the-past failed policies.

    McCain needs to support our nation since he was so involved in destroying it through Bush's fraudulent Iraq War and the running up of our astronomical deficit. Republicans destroyed this country and McCain was a huge part of that destruction.

    McCain ran a dishonorable campaign full of racism, total lies, and condescending arrogance. He showed his total lack of good judgment in the choosing of the stupidiest lying extremist woman in America. His opinions are worthless. He should be ashamed of his behavior and poor judgment and hide from embarrassing himself more.

    He should retire with his plastic drugged-out wife and stay out of the way of America's restoration and progress that does not involve old fools like McCain. He and his Party are totally out of sync with America.

    I fear the domestic terrorism of the Republican Party and their crazies than any foreign threat. They should be on the FBI watch list for their hate speech, violent speech, and gun-carrying rallies that are racist and anti-government and anti-American. They have no ethics, no morals, and there is no line they won't cross. They are a real and present danger to our country.

    December 1, 2009 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  12. New Yorker

    I voted for McCain and still think he would've been a better president, but Obama has Afghanistan right. We want to get out of there as soon as possible, but most importantly we want to get the job done. A surge is exactly what we need to take out the terrorists, and hopefully we will have done that by 2011. I don't understand why people oppose Obama's call for more troops. Have we forgotten September 11th? All the bombing in Europe? And perhaps most importantly, how people in the Middle East are constantly suppressed by these terrorist groups?

    December 1, 2009 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  13. American

    Why did he win the Nobel Peace Prize?

    December 1, 2009 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  14. Bubba likes it right

    Wartime liberals? Should be interesting.

    December 1, 2009 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  15. Squigman

    Here's a challenge for McCain. You did not get elected. Sit down and shut up, unless you've got reassuring positive comments to make to the rightfully elected President. When the idiot from Texas was elected, you and your party wanted nothing but positive comments directed toward your parties President. So do the right thing, and realize you're not the Commander and Chief. Thank God..

    December 1, 2009 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  16. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Do you know the exact nature of how McCain challlenged Obama? Without that point (or points), we won't know what is going on and what problem McCain has with Obama's plan which is clearly more thought out than Bush. That last point isn't hard though.

    December 1, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  17. A. Smith, Oregon

    The hypocrite that got elected to political office by portraying himself as the tortured war hero, only to go before the American people 40 years later to tell them admissions under torture in Gitmo is permissible and viable information IS critical towards President Obama?

    Senator McCain's influence and creditability is shrinking like the shadows under a noon-day sun.

    After overseas defense contractors poured millions into Senator McCains re-election, McCain being the duty bound puppet yanked defense contracts away from Boeing located in Washington State in favor of those same European contractors overseas.

    Who cares what McCain thinks, spews, blows or yells about?

    December 1, 2009 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
  18. Janis Oswalt

    I found it very offensive to see that Dick Cheney was given talking right about the situation before Obama's speech. His party was voted out of office due to his and Bush's politicies. We had eight years of that , we do not have to listen to more. We the public know that the main media and TV stations are owned by Republican so they have a preference for Republicans. Let me tell you the American people are tired of it. We are not stupid. Please no more Cheney. Could care less to what he has to say.
    Another thing our country does not have a balanced budget. How do the Republicans and people think we are going to get out of debit. No taxes. This is insanity and crazy thinking .Bush borrowing money from China. what was he thinking. As a US citzen I do not want to be paying money to China. Our nations needs all the prayers it can get it is going down hill. God bless America. It needs it.

    December 1, 2009 11:15 pm at 11:15 pm |
  19. Preston kathy

    Pwm i do not obamas war plan but i support him if macaine were president he would stay in af for ever

    December 1, 2009 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  20. Janet

    As a deeply concerned American, I am ready for our troops to return home and focus on protecting our country, while serving here. The enemy there, isn't recognizable and I fear that our troops are simply targets. We should develop secret agents on the ground, that look and speak like the enemy, and then use our power from the air, to destroy those places used as training camps. Please consider the harmful emotional toll, that the nature of this unconventional method of fighting, is having on our nations finest young warriors. They deserve our protection and concern Mr. President, this war should never have happened, not on the ground, it simply isn't fair and I pray each day that somehow, you will see the true path and follow it. Respectfully yours, Janet

    December 1, 2009 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  21. CNN afraid of a liberal post

    Why didn't he challenge bush then we might not have had an unending war, a trillion upon trillion expenditures and the ruination of the America we know....Oh since the MSM post every little dingle dingle they can about the democrats they try to ramp it up and make republicans look good. They should be ashamed of themselves. It is their fault bush could the crap he did. They helped him.

    December 1, 2009 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  22. T'SAH from Virginia

    Go in there – KICK ASH – and then get the hell out!! We MUST have an EXIT strategy or else we will be there FOREVER!!!

    President Obama always said that he will not promise anything if he cannot fulfill it in his term. NOW, everybody is stating he's doing that in order to get reelected in 2012. In my opinion – I do believe that President Obama WILL NOT run in 2012....

    The FIERCE URGENCY OF NOW!!! Remember?

    December 1, 2009 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  23. Hope.

    Let's hope Obama knows what he is doing.

    December 1, 2009 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  24. skyeyesds

    I believe that President Obama has thought this through as carefully as he could to come to the decision to send 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. This is something he would not rush into,as many Repub's wanted him to.
    I respect McCain, but this is not on his plate. Let the President do what is necessary to secure USA .
    I have finally come to understand that no matter what our President does their is always going to be those that will condem him for what ever he says or does.
    He has done in 1 yr. then Bush/Cheney did in 8.
    Need I say anymore.

    December 1, 2009 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  25. True USA

    I think we are making more progress now than ever before, Obama has a strategy, we have heard and the world have also heard. Now lets get back to work. On Maccain, he always feel bad all the time, besides, he told us during the campaign that he knows where OSAMA BIN LADIN is hiding, that he must get him, Please ur highness Maccain, get OSAMA Now..............................................and end this war

    December 1, 2009 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
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