Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)
Republican Party of Iowa
Abraham Lincoln Unity Dinner
Des Moines, Iowa
April 14, 2007
[applause].  Well thank you, David.  Thank all of you hearty souls.  You know I feel a bit like Zsa Zsa Gabor's fifth husband [laughter] who on her wedding night said I know what I'm supposed to do, I just don't know how to make it interesting.  I find that joke goes over best at Republican women's club meetings.  [laughter].  One night I was at a dinner in Washington and the speaker who preceded -- there was about five speakers who preceded me and I said I feel like Zsa Zsa Gabor's fifth husband da-da-da-da da-da-da-da.  The speaker who followed me immediately was Sen. John Warner.  [laughter].  He was not amused.  [laughter].

I'd like to ask for your sympathy for the families of the state of Arizona because Barry Goldwater from Arizona ran for president of the United States, Morris Udall from Arizona ran for president of the United States, Bruce Babbitt from Arizona ran for president of the United States, I from Arizona ran for president of the United States.  Arizona may be the only state in America where mothers don't tell their children that some day they can grow up and be president of the United States.  [laughter].

You may remember in the 2004 election there was some conversation about me being vice president of the United States.  It's not clear which party.  And I was on one of the talk shows and he said, well Sen. McCain what's this about you being vice president of the United States.  I said, you know Jay, I spent all those years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, kept in the dark, fed scraps.  Why the heck would I want to do that all over again?  [laughter, applause].

I want to thank David Vaudt for the kind introduction, I want to thank Ray Hoffmann, our party chairman, and Leon Moseley, and I'd like to thank Emily Nicholas, Miss Iowa, who sang the national anthem at a town hall meeting in Marshalltown we had earlier today.

Thank you for your tenacity and thank you for your battling of fatigue.  I would like to express my appreciation to you and I will make relatively brief remarks.

First of all I would like to thank all of the Iowa Republican Party because of their steadfast and staunch support of the rights of the unborn.  I am pro-life because of my believe in the dignity of human life.  America stands for an ideal that all people are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  I know what it's like to live without those rights and I have an obligation to advocate them where ever they are denied.  [applause].  In Bosnia or in Burma in Cuba or in the Middle East and in our own country when we fail to respect the inherent dignity of all human life, born or unborn, and that's why for 24 years, without changing, without wavering, I have a steadfast and strong advocacy and voting record in support of the rights of the unborn.  And I thank you for your continued support.  [applause].

My friends, I want to talk to you obviously about the transcendent issue that's facing America today, and that is this twilight struggle that we are engaged in and the force of evil.  The people who have taken an honorable religion and made it and perverted it into the greatest force for evil that perhaps this nation has ever faced.  They are implacable, they are evil, they want to destroy everything that America stands for and we believe in, and we will be fighting them in many places in the world.  We will never surrender; they will.  We will never surrender to this force of evil.  [applause].

But right now, right now I'm sure you know that the battleground in this new and terrible conflict that we are in is in Iraq, and things are tough.  This war has been mismanaged very badly.  I would be glad to reference books for you to read that are about it, but the fact is we are where we are today, and we have a new strategy and we have a new general, and we can and will prevail and succeed in Iraq.  We can do it.  It is tough.  It's hard.  It's difficult.  But as we speak today there are young men and women who are in neighborhoods of Baghdad along with Iraqi soldiers fighting side by side and staying and holding and bringing peace to some of these neighborhoods.  They're not safe but they're safer.  In Anbar province, where Ramadi and Fallujah, the sheiks, 16 of the 24 sheiks have now come on our side and we are now recruiting, heavily, amongst the young men in those provinces who are fighting with us against Al-Quaeda.  There are some signs of success. Is it long and hard and tough?  Yes.

And let's remember what kind of an enemy that we have, and let's remember what their ultimate goal is.  Their ultimate goal is not Iraq.  Their ultimate goal is us.  If you read Zarqawi, you read bin Laden, you'll see that it's not Iraq they want, they want to destroy us and if we leave, they will follow us home.  After we lost the war in Vietnam, we came home; the war was over, all we had to do was heal the wounds of war.  These people want to follow us home.  And my friends, the nature of this enemy was displayed not long ago, you may have heard.  A suicide car with terrorists in it went through a checkpoint.  They were allowed through the checkpoint.  Why?  Because [they] had two children, two children in the back seat of the car.  The insurgents walk away from the car, detonate the car, killing the children.  Now if you think they're killing their children, what do you think they want to do to our children?

My friends, this is a great evil that we are facing.  The Democrats want to withdraw.  The Democrats want to set a date for withdrawal which should be named date certain for surrender.  There is no way that we could prevail if we announced a date for withdrawal and there's no doubt that the enemy would just sit back and wait for us to withdraw, in my view.

The Constitution of the United States gives the Congress two authorities, one to declare war and the other to fund wars.  It doesn't give the Congress of the United States the authority to set withdrawal dates or set troop levels or anything else.  There's only one commander in chief of the United States of America and that's George W. Bush.  I support him and I believe in him.  [applause].

If the Democrats really wanted, if the Democrats really wanted to stop, they have the right, the authority under the Constitution to cut off funding tomorrow but they won't do that because then they would have responsibility for the consequences.

My friends, I don't know if you saw or not, after the vote in the House of Representatives, when they voted for a date for withdrawal on the floor of the House of Representatives Democrats were cheering and smiling.  What were they cheering about?  Retreat?  Surrender?  My friends, the Democrats have forgotten one fundamental fact.  Presidents don't lose wars, political parties don't lose wars; nations lose wars.  And when nations lose wars, it's nations that suffer.

I want to also commend to you the service of the men and women of the Iowa National Guard.  They are performing magnificently.  And it's hard and it's tough on them.  [applause].  They are brave.  They are wonderful.

And I want to assure you, I want to assure you that these brave young people are suffering and yet they are proud of what they are doing and they believe in their mission and their cause.  And they're the very best America has ever had.  I revere the greatest generation.  I'm proud and love my generation of those who served.  This generation of Americans is the best trained, the most professional, the most dedicated, the bravest and the most wonderful America has ever had the privilege and honor to have serve us and the next time you see one of them [applause] and the next time you see one of them in uniform go over and say, thanks for serving.  That's all they care about.  Thank you for your love and support of these brave young people.

Now my friends, I'd like to tell you a very brief story that happened to me just two days ago.   I had the great honor, the great honor and privilege of going to Bethesda Naval Hospital at the time of the awarding of a Purple Heart to a brave young Navy first class petty officer SEAL by the name of Mark Robbins.  I was honored to be there.  His parents were there.  His two twin brothers, his sister, his wonderful fiance, other members of his SEAL team were there as he received America's oldest medal.  As you probably know it was George Washington who originated the Purple Heart.

That wasn't the first time I had had the honor of meeting Petty Officer Mark Robbins.  The first time I had a chance to meet him was some days earlier when I had returned from a visit to Iraq, where the only danger that I faced was that of a hostile press.  [laughter].  On the way back I stopped at Ramstein, Germany where you know Landstuhl, the hospital is there where our wounded are taken initially after they first experience their wounds and then they are cared for and then transfered over to Bethesda or Walter Reed Hospital.

I walked into a room in the hospital and there was a young man there, Mark Robbins, and with him was one of his mates who was a fellow SEAL team member.  Mark Robbins, less than 48 hours earlier, had been in a vicious firefight with Al Qaeda, and during that firefight one of the insurgents had stood up with an RPG and was about to fire it, which could have taken the lives of his comrades.  He exposed himself, killed the guy with the RPG, but at the time he suffered an AK-47 bullet that came into his right eye.  It followed the curvature of his skull and went out the back of his head.  Petty Officer First Class Mark Robbins walked to the helicopter.  [When] the helicopter landed, he walked to the field hospital.

When I walked into his room he was a bit dazed and I only stayed for a few moments and I left.  As I was down the hall visiting others, Petty Officer Swain [phon.] came to me and said, Mark Robbins wants to see you.  I came back to his hospital room.  He said he had to sit up.  He struggled to sit up.  And he stood straight.  And he grabbed my hand, and he said, Sen. McCain, I'm honored by your support.  I'm honored you're here.  Thank you for your support.  And he grabbed my hand, and he wouldn't let it go.  And he said, we can win this fight.  We can win this fight.

My friends, he's tough and brave and very young, but more than that he's an inspiration to those of us who are only called upon to subordinate a temporary political advantage to the security of our great and good nation.  Petty Officer Mark Robbins, an American hero, believes we can still win this fight.  I'll take his word for it.  And I'll accept my responsibility to help the cause he sacrificed so much to defend.  Thank you and God bless.  [applause].

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Time: 12:21