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(Final Update) McCain Blogger Call

2:26 PM, Jul 13, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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McCain is doing a conference call with bloggers right now, here's a few quotes so far:

McCain says he just met Sarkozy--he says Sarkozy is "the first real pro-American I've met since Lafayette."

On progress in Iraq: "In Iraq, we are making progress militarily, we are not making progress politically"

On troubles with the campaign: "On the political side, it's well known to everyone now that we had serious problems in the campaign, I think financial problems, and I'm responsible for those problems and we, I think, are back on track to get our spending in line with our income, which we did not do to state the obvious. The responsibility is mine and mine alone. I'm very sorry that I had to part company with some people that I am very close and dear friends with and who I will remain dear friends with...when people start really focusing, I'll be doing the townhall meetings, kind of face-to-face campaigning that won for us before, and I'm confident that we can do very well. We've got some difficult challenges ahead, but I'm confident that we'll be just fine."

Questions
Senators Warner and Lugar have put forth a new proposal to reauthorize the war and put forward some new contingency plans...what are you telling them in terms of your advice in regard to the present plan we have in place?

McCain: "My conversations with them have been largely general...I've not had a chance to examine [this proposal]. When we've talked about the quote reauthorization or deauthorization...Once you authorize the countrie to go to war, it's my firm conviction that you either win the war or you lose the war. And I don't believe we've lost the war. I think we've got enormous challenges, and I think we've made some progress militarily that is important, particularly in Anbar province, but I don't think we are at a point where we have to reauthorize or deauthorize...that is something I would, frankly, have great difficulty joining in on."

Do you have any optimism at all that the current government is going to get Iraq together politically?

McCain: "...I can't help but agree with you that they have not shown the kind of progress that you would think would be in their self-interest. So, all I can say is, I hope maybe that they're staring at the abyss, they realize that this thing cannot succeed without a complete package of progress. So I continue to hold out some hope that they will realize how critical this is to their existence..."

The WWS: "How you doin' Senator?"

McCain: "You know Michael, in the words of Chairman Mao, it's always darkest before it's totally black...(laughing)...just had a very good reception up here in Concord...what I'm hoping is that to some degree, most place they don't care too much about some of the aspects of campaigning as perhaps us political junkies do, so I'm OK."

The WWS: Looking back at the last week in the Senate, do you think that this was a win, and what do you see happening in the Senate next week?

McCain: "I think that we were successful in beating back the amendments, their best shot was the Webb amendment, which sounds very attractive--'this is a relief for our overworked troops, etc., etc.'--but I guarantee you it was also, in my view, one of the most dangerous. Because are we going to have 535 members of Congress deciding how long someone is going to stay in combat? What would have been the vote in the Congress in 1939, or 1940? So I think whenever you succeed in that environment, in beating back the attempts by your adversaries than it's progress and it's heartening. But as you know the really two tough amendments that are coming up are Reid and Levin, which has to do with setting dates for withdrawal and Salazar Alexander which is kind of a motherhood kind of thing, but I'm afraid that if it passed it would be interpreted by the media as a setback for Bush, etc., etc...but I think using the sixty vote criteria we can beat them back. But a lot of things are happening."

How do we hold the Senate with 40 votes if we lose people like Pete Domenici?

McCain: "...I'm trying to say this in the right fashion, I have the greatest respect and admiration for Senator Domenici, but sometimes I wish that he and others were able to get over there a little more and have contact with leaders like Petraeus and Odierno--and this guy Crocker, I think, is a great ambassador--that they could get a better sense of it. I'm not one who believes in media conspiracies, I'm not saying that there's a liberal cabal out there or anything else, but I don't believe that Americans get the complete picture of the progress that's being made and I'm not sure that the consequences of failure are discussed enough. They always come to me and say 'What's your Plan B?' I keep saying, 'What's their Plan B if they withdraw and it just turns into chaos?...I think it's very difficult when you lose people of the status prestige of Senators Lugar and Domenici but I'm guardedly optimistic that we can maintain 41 votes.

Is September a reasonable time at which to determine whether the strategy is succeeding?

McCain: "...If I were the bad guys, right around labor day I'd be setting off bombs all over the place, and I'm not sure that we can prevent that, I'm not sure that we can't prevent that. It is disturbing to me also that September seems to be the determining time...if Petraeus comes back and stands up and says 'look, here's where we are showing success and I'll tell you what I think is going to happen if you tell me to get out in 90 days, or 120 days, here's what's going to happen.' I think that maybe we can have some kind of influence...maybe that'll be helpful, and maybe I'm just digging for the pony. "

Would you take time off from the campaign to focus on your work in the Senate supporting the war in Iraq?

McCain: "I will do whatever is necessary, including taking some time off in September...I would rather lose a campaign than lose a war...for people like me who have no sacrifice to make, to bail out on them [the troops]because I'm on a campaign--it would make it difficult to shave in the morning.

Can he put any distance between himself and the president on the right?

McCain: "Spending, spending, spending, and expansion of the government. I have a long record of fighting against that...that's the way I can help myself and convince Republicans that McCain is legit..."

"I stand up for what I believe in...it [standing up for the war] hasn't worked so far, but one can hope. There's still a part of the Republican base that agrees with me that withdrawal would be disastrous....[but] I have no illusions as to how much immigration and the war has hurt me...but people are enthusiastic, and I'm confident that we can do OK.

Others on the call: Powerline, RedState, Jim Geraghty, Jennifer Rubin, and Anna Marie Cox, who Geraghty lovingly describes as "Serious Journalist and Former Wonkette." I, too, failed to transcribe that question.