March 11th, 2008
05:15 PM ET
14 years ago

McCain says foreign travel is 'critical' for elected officials

(CNN) - A top campaign adviser to Senator John McCain recently told CNN they hope the presumptive GOP nominee's trip to the Mideast and Europe next week will illustrate his experience on the world stage, as Democrats continue to battle back home.

McCain will be joined by two of his most ardent supporters, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham and Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman.

But McCain's visit abroad will be an official congressional trip - which means it will be paid for by taxpayers, not his campaign.

On Tuesday, McCain defended the situation, saying it is critical for him to travel to fulfill duties as ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

"I’ll be taking other members of the Armed Services Committee, and this will be one of many regular trips that I have taken over the last 20 years as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee," said McCain.

"I think that it’s very important as the ranking member that I understand and keep up to date, particularly where young Americans may be in harm's way. And I’m proud to serve, and I regret that more of my colleagues don’t spend more time in foreign travel."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declined to criticize the presumptive GOP nominee for traveling abroad at taxpayers' expense, but instead said he personally does not think it’s a good idea for senators to go to Iraq, as McCain and his entourage are planning to do.

“People have asked me, Why haven't I been back to Iraq?’” said the Nevada Democrat. “This is my personal feeling - only speaking for Harry Reid - when I went there to Iraq, I just felt the people who were there protecting me should have been protecting other people.”

He added: “I have the greatest respect for Sen. McCain, Sen. Graham and Sen. Lieberman” – who will be accompanying McCain to Iraq – “but I just - myself - am more focused on the eight soldiers killed yesterday” in attacks in that country.

When told about Reid's remarks, McCain was quick to respond, telling CNN though a spokeswoman that he thinks lawmakers responsible for funding the war also have a responsibility to see the situation on the ground, from the ground.

"I believe such firsthand knowledge is critically important to assess military and political progress in Iraq, and to make informed rather than political judgments about whether to continue our involvement there," said McCain.

"I learned enough on my first trip to Iraq to know that we were making serious mistakes, a conclusion borne out by my observations on later trips there,” said the Arizona senator. “I have also seen the astonishing progress we have made in Iraq since we changed commanders and our strategy."

–CNN's Dana Bash and Ted Barrett

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Allan

    Is he taking any Democrats?

    March 11, 2008 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  2. jamal

    Is this a Strategy to beat the Dems? Mccain will claim that he has experience in iraq and he knows more about it! well it wont work old geezer

    March 11, 2008 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  3. bad idea

    It was a surprised that senators and congress who did not visit the iraq,its a shame.They can send the mens and womens to fight the war for them but they couldnt do even simple thing and visit them to see how things are.They can make judgement but they araid to be judge.My guess they afraid to die

    March 11, 2008 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  4. Will

    Obama made a few trips just before his official campaign, no big deal. When Pelosi did her little tour of the Middle East, she seemed to intentionally snub soldiers by avoiding Iraq and, if I recall, Afghanistan, which drew a bit of resentment from the armed forces.

    To Allan, I think Lieberman is still considered by many to be a Democrat simply to keep their Senate majority. He does often vote with the party still, after all, even if he can be termed a 'maverick'. As for why more Democrats, not to mention more Republicans, aren't coming, your guess is as good as mine. Hillary Clinton's on the committee, but she's still too busy campaigning I guess, while I'm rather surprised Liz Dole isn't going.

    March 11, 2008 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  5. Jose Card - Independent

    Senator McCain has gone to Iraq many times before he ran for presidency. He is not going just for this election and he does not even like to talk about his Marine son Jimmy being in Iraq before February.

    One possible reason for him to go now is that he has nobody to campaign against till Dems come up with one definite nominee. When he has got time, he wants to fulfill his senate duty. Courage and character is all I can say about Senator McCain. He wants to know how our troops are doing in Iraq even when his son is no longer in Iraq.

    March 11, 2008 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  6. Joe, Florida

    I like Senator Reid's answer.

    McCain only wants to be able to say he can walk worry-free in an Iraqui local market. come up, that's not right to be wasting the troops' time protecting a man who intends to keep them there longer, even for 100 years, sick I tell ya.

    The war needs to end; the troops need to come home.

    March 11, 2008 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |