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McCain: 'Radical Islamic Extremism an Incredible Evil'

2:45 PM, Sep 4, 2007 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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Senator John McCain arrived in New Hampshire this morning ahead of tomorrow night's Republican presidential debate. The senator got himself a haircut early this morning across from the State House in Concord and then headed to Manchester, where he spoke to workers at Granite State Manufacturing (GSM), a defense technology firm that makes, among other things, a small robot used to clear IEDs from the roads in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 1,000 of these 'Talon' robots have performed some 40,000 missions to date.

McCain appeared to enjoy operating the robot's controls as seen in the picture at right, and was able to use the machine to hand a small box to his wife, who was using crutches to get around (McCain, jokingly: "I did not injure my wife"). McCain was being helped at the controls by a GSM employee who McCain immediately identified as Vietnamese. McCain asked where he was from, and I believe the response was Vung Tau. McCain joked that he'd been there before.

Later McCain toured the firm's facility introducing himself to employees along the way. Almost all of the male employees had served in the military--including one who had served in the Korean War. Another was wearing a Navy hat that read USS Groton. McCain asked the man when he had served--the former sailor explained that he had spent time aboard the Groton in the early stages of the first Gulf War. He also told McCain that he'd seen the footage of McCain during the fire on the USS Forrestal. On July 29, 1967, McCain was sitting in the cockpit of his plane on the flight deck of the Forrestal when a rocket was accidentally fired by another aircraft sitting on the deck. The rocket struck McCain's plane, and while McCain was able to climb out of the cockpit, 132 crewmen were killed fighting the blaze. (Click here to see video of the incident courtesy of the McCain campaign.)

The Granite State Manufacturing employee told McCain that the Navy was still teaching sailors the lessons of that day; McCain thanked the man for his service.

Shortly afterward the senator made his way to the factory's main floor to deliver a speech. He spoke mainly about the war in Iraq, and more broadly of the war we are fighting against the "incredible evil of radical Islamic extremism." McCain used this formulation several times during his speech.

McCain also spoke of the help Iran was giving to the insurgency in Iraq--that the Iranians were "now exporting into Iraq the most lethal kind of IEDs." He mentioned Syria as well, saying that "as we speak a suicide bomber is landing at the Damascus airport on his way to Iraq." His colleague, Senator Joe Lieberman, recently penned an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal calling for action to be taken to sanction the Syrian regime for its role in facilitating insurgents' travel to Iraq via its main airport in Damascus. It seems that McCain has joined Lieberman in pushing the issue.

And regarding progress in Iraq, McCain said that while U.S. forces have "a long way to go," he stressed that "parts of Anbar are now relatively quiet," and that the Kurdish north and some neighborhoods in Baghdad are as well. He said that for four years the Bush administration had pursued a "failed strategy" in Iraq, but that "now we are succeeding," and that as president he would see to it that American troops were given the chance to finish the job they'd started.

The only question McCain got from the crowd was about a triple homicide in the "north country." The ex-con responsible for the murders has been convicted and sentenced to three counts of life without parole. The GSM employee wanted to know whether McCain would push the death penalty in such egregious cases. McCain said that he had "alway been in favor" of capital punishment.