September 5th, 2013
06:02 PM ET
9 years ago

McCain gets an earful from voters on Syria

(CNN) – Sen. John McCain, whose endorsement of President Barack Obama's plan to launch military strikes against Syria provided the president a key Republican backer, faced vocal opponents of military action during a town hall in Arizona Thursday.

McCain has long advocated a more muscular American approach toward Syria, calling for a plan to oust President Bashar al-Assad from power. But on Thursday many people who showed up to a town hall in Phoenix said that getting more involved in the civil war would lead to unintended consequences.

"We didn't send you to make war for us. We sent you to stop the war," one man said to applause.

Another man, holding a bag of marshmallows, declared Congress was going soft on its duties to represent voters.

"This is what I think of Congress," he told McCain. "They are a bunch of marshmallows. That's what they are. That's what they've become. Why are you not listening to the people and staying out of Syria? It's not our fight."

Obama has been pressing lawmakers this week to support his plan of limited strikes in Syria that would punish Assad's regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack in August. But some members of Congress – both Democrats and Republicans - are wary of getting involved in another conflict overseas.

One woman at McCain's town hall Thursday, who said she had an eighteen-year-old cousin in Syria, said America hadn't yet exhausted its diplomatic routes for bringing a resolution to the war.

"For me, to listen to you say there is no good option in Syria – I refuse to believe that," she said. "The good option right now is to take Saudi Arabia and Iran and force them to stop supporting the two sides in Syria. And you could do it. You can do it by diplomacy, not bombs, Sen. McCain. We cannot afford to shed more Syrian blood."

Current tallies show passage of Obama's plan for Syria is far from certain, with senators and congressmen from both parties still deciding how to vote on the issue. While Republican and Democratic leaders in the House, and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have voiced support, many others say their constituents back home overwhelming oppose any American involvement in Syria.

Polls this week have shown more Americans oppose military strikes in Syria than support them.

McCain acknowledged the divide at his town hall Thursday.

"All of us, no matter how we stand on this issue – and I know there are very strong feelings, we've already had them expressed – all of us, our hearts go out to those people who have been massacred and killed in this terrible bloodletting that's been going on," he said.

Filed under: John McCain • Syria
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. G

    back to the poker game

    September 5, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  2. Mikey

    McCain is a war monger who almost always wants to escalate. However, just like a broken clock that is right twice a day, he is right this time. We should wait for the UN inspectors to complete their investigation, but we (the USA and/or the UN/World) cannot let the Assad regime gas its citizens with impunity.

    September 5, 2013 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  3. onlyfacts

    80,000 Americans per year, EVERY YEAR are killed from alcohol. Where's the outrage?

    September 5, 2013 07:03 pm at 7:03 pm |
  4. Nohl Rosen

    I was the man with the marshmallows and yes, I do think Congress has become soft by not standing up to Obama. BTW, McCain signed the bag of marshmallows.

    September 5, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  5. Rob

    McCain's last statement is classic politician. He is basically saying to the people that he works for "Screw you. I'll do what I want and to H... with what you want

    September 5, 2013 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  6. don in albuquerque

    And richly deserves an earful. Can you imagine what would have happened had he won the POTUS? We would have already bombed half the earth.

    September 5, 2013 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |
  7. brown

    Congressional Representatives ...

    Listen to the American people or we will replace you with people who will listen.

    September 5, 2013 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  8. yogi

    Why were these people at the town hall meeting so surprised? McCain loves wars, the more the better, he would love to get involved in another opportunity of a senseless war. The word peace does not exist in his vocabulary, this man is beyond pathetic.

    September 5, 2013 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
  9. beavus

    McCain should fork over his Congressional salary and all Federal benefits to help pay for this...idiot

    September 5, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  10. Manchu

    Moving forward, anyone who is likely to be 6 feet under in the next 10 years is not allowed to dictate US foreign policy. Sadly, our kids, kids will be still dealing with this mess.

    September 5, 2013 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  11. Winston Smith

    Notice the facial expression, when questions are asked that just don't set right with the senator from AZ. Or is it the king of Arizona. They all believe they are royalty.

    September 5, 2013 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  12. Raymond Dewan

    I really think supporting syrian rebellions is big mistake. They are no good themselves.They killed so many innocent people as well. I have seen same things in many other countries fighting for democracy,but it hasn't work.US should stay out of it unless they want the world to see its true color earlier than expected.

    September 5, 2013 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  13. Walt Oliver

    If we are bursting out with military muscle to punish Syria for killing Syrians, maybe we can do better looking elsewhere in the world to referee a fight. These people have been killing each other for centuries. Not one side or the other is worth the blood of one U.S. Marine. ... Someone else just posted, "I you want to stop people killing people, invade Chicago." Irony.

    September 5, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  14. Gary Reinhold

    Why is Congressional leaders so willing to side with Obama...with all the deciptive information coming from the Whitehouse and his can we make such an important call based upon testimony from them...Oboma can't be tructed anymore. He has lost the confidence of the American people and the many others around the world.

    September 5, 2013 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  15. David Michael

    John McCain, John Kerry, Nancy Boy Graham look like the reanimated dead! All they can talk about is their love of death!

    September 5, 2013 09:26 pm at 9:26 pm |
  16. stars

    Close your eyes and think about him and Sarah Pallin in the oval office. Freaking scary to the point it make you sick to your stomach dont it. Sorry I got to vomit I will get back to you soon.

    September 5, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  17. MsZ

    When will America realize there are only two types of people in that country: The people and the military. Sad that your country is becoming what it is. Not sure when you will stop thinking that your bragging and bravado are somehow impressive. Getting to be rather pathetic to see your Nation slipping in rank in so many other ways. But hey, you've got all those shiny ballistic toys that you need to play with so I guess that's enough to keep your short term attention. Never saw so many men acting like such spoiled babies. Go ahead play your cards and gamble your future. No wonder you've got so many of your citizens on anti depressants, anti anxiety and a myriad of other pharmaceuticals to help them cope with life in America.

    September 5, 2013 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  18. sno

    Do not take seriously a politician who plays iphone during very serious war/peace debates. He has an agenda and does not care about other people proposition.

    September 5, 2013 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  19. MKR

    President Obama, It is their problem not ours to solve, and we can contribute to the solution by bringing a voice of patience, empathy and understanding to each party's positions. We cannot help solve their problem by the use of violence against one side. We aren't the judge and jury in their dispute.

    Let's show some true humility and caring, and have you go see the Iranians and the Saudis. Recruit them into coming up with a peaceful resolution to Syria's problem. That is the way to true leadership – becoming a bully and exercising force against one side isn't.

    September 5, 2013 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  20. yuhmad

    Stay out of Syria...There are many Americans that needs feeding and affordable housing. There are veterans from previous Iraq and Afghan wars that need our help more than the Syrians. These vets have lost a limb or some part of their body does not function well and we cannot help them. How can we help the Syrians when we cannot even help our own Americans.

    September 5, 2013 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  21. Woman In California

    Anytime the word war is mentioned, McCain is happy–but for those of us who actually HATE war and would like to stop losing American lives, I say enough. We just can't continue carrying the world on our shoulders. The burden is too heavy and the benefits are not there. What exactly did we gain from the last 10 years other than a crashed economy and thousands of dead service men and women. Haven't we had enough yet?

    September 5, 2013 10:20 pm at 10:20 pm |
  22. dalene44

    Given an opportunity at diplomacy leaders of both parties choose to diss it. UN determined rebels used sarin gas in March. Kerry lied when he claimed rebels were becoming "moderate". Is it any wonder the world is against us starting a war?

    September 5, 2013 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  23. Trombonebiker

    It's about time someone told these yahoos that they need to represent us. Great job, townhallers!

    September 5, 2013 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  24. jo

    The People have spoken. NO War Machine in Syria.mccain and Obama and who ever wants to go it alone can head over anytime they want. How stupid can they be.

    September 5, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  25. Dixie

    I love that citizens are showing up to express their opinions; it seems the majority of Americans do not want us to get involved in this Syrian conflict. We all need to stand up and yell.
    There are too many conflicting reports/stories coming from Syria. This is a Syrian Civil War and needs to remain their conflict.
    Obama and Congress have a duty to listen to the citizens who have elected them. They are OUR spokespersons, they need to remember this.
    I understand Obama feeling he must back up his statement on the supposed “red-line” comment. He wants to show he is a strong leader. Take the lead on negotiating for peace. Look to JFK and the fine art of negotiating (the Cuban missile crisis).
    Keep in mind the negative impact of Iraq that shadowed George Bush and his presidency…

    September 5, 2013 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
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