December 1st, 2009
10:02 PM ET
10 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. Mike in TX

    Some dummies would not be happy with the president if he laid golden eggs. I think he is doing a HELLUVA lot better than GWB. Fire Halliburton they have been screwing us for years.

    December 2, 2009 01:44 am at 1:44 am |
  2. Jonathan

    Hmmm, I cannot imagine why Congressman Clyburn was so supportive of the President's strategy unlike other congressional leaders. What do he and the President have in common? It is truly disgraceful that Black politicians cannot muster the courage to disagree with the President Obama, especially considering their open disagreement with President Bush on the wars. With President Bush, it was "bring the troops home now". With President Obama, they say "I am very supportive of it." Sickening!

    December 2, 2009 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
  3. marcus (seattle)

    oh my... john mccain challenged obama's exit strategy.. maybe mccain should have considered challenging bush's strategy for entering into a war in iraq.. or bush's strategy for getting bin laden.. no, he was a rubber stamp for the republican administration.. so, who cares about his position now ?? it's completely disingenuous.. criticizing a democrat president, while you rolled over for a republican.
    sorry mccain, you have NO credibility on this topic.. much like, well, EVERY other topic..

    December 2, 2009 02:00 am at 2:00 am |
  4. Brian in California

    Please tell me how the strategy of having no strategy or exit strategy will work now when it obviously has not worked throughout the entire time we've been in Afghanistan and Iraq?

    December 2, 2009 02:07 am at 2:07 am |
  5. The Card

    So from reading this...

    Obama is saying one thing in public...

    And another in private...

    Flippity Flop???

    Familiar isn't it...

    What is it?

    2011?

    Or Conditions on the Ground?

    You told America LIVE 2011...

    You told Senior Members of Congress "Conditions on the Ground"...

    This guy just loves to flip flop...

    December 2, 2009 02:09 am at 2:09 am |
  6. Motive

    So when is the draft starting.

    December 2, 2009 02:12 am at 2:12 am |
  7. Robert

    Obama spent ninety days trying to avoid stepping up to the plate and making the tough decision. He tried to save face by not giving McCrystal everything that was requested. That was an ill-advised political decision, most probably cooked up by Jarret, Axelrod, Gibbs, and other hanger-on's from his election campaign. The election is over. They should be sent back to Chicago, and replaced with seasoned professionals who can effectively govern.

    December 2, 2009 02:15 am at 2:15 am |
  8. Dave

    What ever happen to " WE THE PEOPLE ? " Arent the American citizens supposed to be the ones in charge of the government ? The last time i can recall " WE THE PEOPLE " where the ones who elected these guys to work for US ! Not vise versa !

    Havnt the American people lost enough lives yet ? I have to disagree with Obama and his choice to send more troops over there. Your talking about a nation who's history is nothing but fighting.

    Our biggest problem in this nation is that our Government tends to stick its noses in other nations affairs when it is not needed ! We have enough problems here at home to deal with!

    How about fighting the war here at home first by helping men and women get back to work? How about bringing production back to this country? How about asking AL Gore to find a better hobby to entertain himself with other than trying to con the american people into paying carbon taxes for a "GLOBAL WARMING HOAX" that doesnt and never did exist ?

    How about we "AUDIT THE FED " right now and find out where hard working americans money has been invested ? How about finding cures for the many man made biological deseases that are killing our citizens ?

    See, there are many thing the government that "WE THE PEOPLE" elected could be doing to better our own country than to be meddling in others business ! I think these questions are whats on many Americans minds these days.

    " Its just bad that we let a few bad apples spoil the whole bushel ! "

    God Bless whats left of this once great country !!!!!

    December 2, 2009 02:17 am at 2:17 am |
1 2 3 4 5