On Thursday's New Day, CNN's Kate Bolduan hounded Senator John McCain to back President Obama's new strategy to combat the Islamist terrorist group ISIS and help him gain congressional support: "We talk about how you are a critic of the administration. But now that there is a strategy, Senator – now that there is going to be action...how are you going to help the administration succeed now in implementing this?"
Earlier, Bolduan pressed the Arizona Republican to push for a vote in Congress for authorization of force against ISIS in Syria: [MP3 audio available here; video below]
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R), ARIZONA: ...Bill Clinton – after Bosnia, after Srebrenica – came to the Congress and requested that they support what he wanted to do. George Herbert Walker Bush, after the invasion of Kuwait, came to Congress and requested their support. It's in the President's interest to have debate and discussion and votes here in the Congress of the United States, because you got to get the people behind them.
KATE BOLDUAN: But, Senator, on some level is that a little bit semantics? I mean, the President, as you heard Jim Acosta say, that – from an administration official – that they'd welcome a new authorization of force – then, just do it. If he says welcome it – and I know that you support a vote – then where are the leaders? Just do it.
MCCAIN: But there's a – there's a real difference there, because the President is saying, I'm going to go ahead and do what I'm going to do – with or without Congress. I believe that if he said, I want Congress's support and ratification of what I'm going to do, then that would put the burden on Congress to act. So, there's semantics – it sounds like a small difference, but it is a big difference.
Bolduan first asked her guest about his debate the previous evening with former Obama flack Jay Carney, who is now a CNN political commentator: "Do you feel any differently about that back-and-forth – that conversation that you had with Jay Carney last night?" McCain replied that "there were two...major key occurrences that led us to where we are today. The first was when the President decided that we would remove all troops and not leave a residual force behind....the fact is we could have. The second key decision was two years ago, when his entire national security team...recommended that we arm and train the Free Syrian Army, and he rejected that."
The CNN anchor followed up by noting that "one of your colleagues, Bob Corker...started to even wonder if there's enough of a moderate opposition left to really trust to be able to take on ISIS on the ground in Syria," and asked, "Do you trust the Free Syrian Army today?" The Republican senator asserted, "I do. It's much more difficult than it was two years ago, when the recommendation was rejected by the President. It's very difficult. There are no good options here."
McCain continued with his point about past presidents asking Congress for authorization of force. Bolduan retorted with her "just do it" imperative. The Arizona senator explained the difference, and underlined one of the other problems President Obama was going to encounter in implementing his strategy:
MCCAIN: And the other thing – problem that the President is going to have – and is having right now – is credibility with the Arab countries in the region. When he said he was going to strike Syria and then canceled – I can assure you, because I talk to these leaders all the time – there's a huge credibility gap. You'll notice that the announced – quote, 'coalition' so far does not include any Middle Eastern country.
The anchor asked her "how are you going to help the administration succeed now in implementing this" question towards the end of the interview. This led to an extended exchange between Bolduan and McCain, where the CNN journalist acted as an advocate for the administration:
BOLDUAN: Let me ask you this, then, because your criticisms, we often – we talk about how you are a critic of the administration. But now that there is a strategy, Senator – now that there is going to be action, I want to know from your standpoint, how are you – one of the big voices that we turn to a lot on these issues – how are you going to help the administration succeed now in implementing this?
MCCAIN: First of all, I would like to say I was a critic of the last administration when I saw it failing-
BOLDUAN: Very true – absolutely true-
MCCAIN: Then, I was the brave maverick. Now, I'm the grumpy old man-
BOLDUAN: You're still a maverick. Don't worry – I will always call you that-
MCCAIN: (laughs) Thank you, Kate. The – I will be glad to support the President, if I am convinced that this is robust enough and strong enough and serious enough to really bring about a favorable result. I'm not convinced of that yet, because when the President says that the situation with ISIS in Iraq is the same as Yemen-
BOLDUAN: And Somalia-
MCCAIN: And Somalia, that's just not true. It's vastly different. This is a huge caliphate with hundreds of millions of dollars, American equipment, and there's a vast difference there.
So, the President, if he can convince me – and I'm not yet convinced that it isn't going to be just half-measures, and he isn't just reacting to polling numbers – I'll support him, because many of the things he's saying he's doing now what we have been arguing for for the last three years.
BOLDUAN: Is there one thing you can say that would – that would convince you that– one thing he could say that would convince you?
MCCAIN: Airstrikes in Syria begin tomorrow. I can give him targets. If he's worried about targets, I can give him targets in Syria – excuse me, airstrikes in Syria would begin tomorrow. That would be, I think, a huge signal.
BOLDUAN: Do you, though, appreciate that he's not laying out a timetable. He's not giving those, if you will, military marching orders – he's not saying them publicly. He could be telling you that behind- the-scenes?
MCCAIN: Oh, I think it's important that he not to lay out a timetable. One of the biggest mistakes was made – was withdrawing from Iraq, just because he wanted us out. And, by the way, we are going to see the same situation evolve in Afghanistan if he withdraws on a date certain, rather than condition-based. And I would remind you, we have left residual forces in many countries after conflicts – including Bosnia, including Korea, and others. It's not a matter of keeping Americans fighting. It's a matter of keeping American presence in force for stability.
BOLDUAN: And also a matter of keeping Americans safe.
BOLDUAN: Something that means a whole lot more, especially when we're talking on the 13th anniversary of 9/11.
Senator McCain, thank you so much – great to see you.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Kate.
Bolduan has a record of hounding Republican/conservative guests. On the July 8, 2014 edition of New Day, she all but lobbied Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine to back the President's multi-billion dollar request to deal with illegal immigration: "There's an immediate crisis on the southwest border. The President is going to ask for $2 billion....He says it's emergency funds to help stem...the flow of immigrants coming in. Can you support giving the President these emergency funds?"
Two days later, Bolduan gave Texas Governor Rick Perry the same treatment on the controversial issue: "Can you work hand in hand though with the President that you criticize so harshly on an issue that is so important to you? Can you get past the politics?"