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McCain: Iraq votes 'meaningless'

For someone building his presidential campaign around national security credentials, John McCain (R-Ariz.) sure has missed a bunch of votes regarding the Iraq war.

During the past six weeks, the Senate has cast seven votes dealing with how President Bush should proceed in the now four-year-old war. And McCain has missed five of them, bypassing what he calls "meaningless" procedural votes in favor of campaign stops in his pursuit of the Republican presidential nomination.

McCain is the only declared presidential candidate to miss any of the Senate's Iraq votes, according to Capitol Briefing's analysis of Senate votes. The other five senators running for the White House - Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), Joe Biden (D-Del.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), and Barrack Obama (D-Ill.) -- have been on hand for all seven votes.

On Thursday, when the Senate cast three different votes - on a Democratic plan to reauthorize the war and set a timeline for withdrawal and two non-binding resolutions supporting the troops - McCain was in Ames, Iowa, cracking jokes about his newfound support for the Hawkeye State's home-grown ethanol.

As my Washington Post colleague Michael D. Shear reported from the town hall meeting, McCain dismissed the relevance of the votes. "In Congress as we speak, in the Senate, we will be debating another meaningless resolution, which will be, quote, sense of the Senate, or something that would be absolutely vetoed by the president of the United States. Setting dates for withdrawal -- you set a date for withdrawal,
you set a date for defeat because you tell the bad guys, hang on, we're
leaving on a certain date," McCain said.

[To read more of McCain's travails, check out Shear's prolific posts in On the Campaign Trail blog]

On Feb. 17, when McCain was also in Iowa stumping for votes in its caucus that was still 11 months away at the time, the Senate held a vote on whether to begin a debate on a non-binding resolution disapproving of Bush's surge plan in Iraq. McCain dismissed that vote, coming during a rare Saturday session, as a "purely political stunt."

Aides to McCain stress that his absence from the chamber during these votes has not affected their outcome. In addition, the votes he has missed have normally been so-called cloture votes to shut off debate and move on to the Democratic-written resolutions - and in those instances, his vote would have been "nay". (Parliamentary note to readers: At least 60 votes are needed for cloture.)

To be sure, other '08 candidates are missing votes, with Brownback topping the list at 27 missed votes so far this year, compared with McCain missing 22 and Biden and Dodd missing 19 and 15, respectively. But those votes have been mostly on issues not as central to the current political climate, such as judicial or executive nominations.

McCain's support of Bush's highly unpopular Iraq war policy is never in doubt. "Everyone recognizes McCain's commitment to defending the war on terror," said spokesman Matt David. "And he's been a leader when it comes to defending the troop surge."

Still, with a career steeped in foreign policy issues, it's surprising to some that McCain has been absent from the war debate. And liberals opposed to the war are pouncing on the issue of his missed votes, trying to inflict political damage on McCain.

"When his name was called [Thursday] to vote yes or no on whether or not the U.S. will have an open-ended war in Iraq or begin to bring our troops home, John McCain was absent without leave," said Jeremy Funk, spokesman for Americans United for Change.

By Paul Kane  |  March 16, 2007; 5:45 PM ET
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Yeah "meaningless" his record here in Arizona or his candidacy for President.

Posted by: HK | March 16, 2007 5:17 PM | Report abuse

I am afraid that Mr. McCain may well become meaningless himself. The votes reflect the will of the American people and as such can never be meaningless.

Posted by: Henry W. Cross | March 16, 2007 6:47 PM | Report abuse

*The Straight Talk Express* has turned into *The Oblivion Express*. McCain has proven himself to be that which he once derided - and an old one at that. He is a politician of the past with no future.

Posted by: smokinmike | March 17, 2007 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Missing votes, meaningless or not, is a poor way to show you take your posistion seriously.

Posted by: Lee | March 18, 2007 11:46 PM | Report abuse

I give him credit for not being a part of that circus. Only a DC insider or lib would think voting to support the troops is truly sincere. Politicians being politicians - a waste of money.

Now if he would vote for a tax cut once in a while he might get my vote.

Posted by: HILLARYisAshemale | March 19, 2007 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Whats hilarious is that Ted Kennedy and his kind (Mr. Funk) would have voted to leave McCain stranded in 'Nam and McCain knows it.

Posted by: HILLARYisAshemale | March 19, 2007 11:25 AM | Report abuse

The U.S.A. has lost it's credibility because of a war of aggression based upon lies. McCain has lost his credibility for continuing to support this war as have many others in congress. Unfortunately, he is correct in saying these votes are meaningless. Nothing is going to change until 08, and then only if the people of the U.S.A. remove the deadwood from congress. Vote!!

Posted by: Amasiam | March 19, 2007 2:29 PM | Report abuse

In response to HILLARYisAshemale:

McCain isn't refusing to be part of a "circus." He is trying to campaign for a new political office, while showing ignorance and contempt for the one he is in now.

Posted by: Lee | March 20, 2007 4:55 PM | Report abuse

I think that Mr. McCain talks to much regarding his stay in a POW camp during the Vietnam War. It shows that as a pilot he was a failure and got himself in a position to be shot down. He is a two-faced liar, one day he's against the Iraq war and then the next he's for it. He blows with the wind.

Posted by: marc | March 20, 2007 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm in total agreement with McCain ... why sit in on a circus act. The Senate is not doing their jobs. Maybe if they start working on some meaningful legislation instead of trying to pass non-binding resolutions, the real politicians would pay attention. The Congress is just trying to embarrass the Commander in Chief along with cutting support for our Troops. The World is laughing at our Congress, as they get closer to invade our Homeland. The Congress is inviting the terrorists to infiltrate our society. It's about time for this new Congress to start legislating ways to protect the American people and our friends Worldwide.

Posted by: RJ in Milw | March 21, 2007 1:38 PM | Report abuse

I am glad that McCain supports the troops and is involved in every aspect of their deployment. You go McCain, we need more concerned American leaders such as yourself and President Bush! The Republican base truly appreciates your oversight for the welfare and the well being of their sons and daughters who have volunteered to defend our Nation and spread democracy across the world. Next, over here we have the Brooklyn bridge, and for a mere $500.00 dollars you can be the proud owner of a piece of America. Step right up!

Posted by: Joseph | March 21, 2007 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Put down the Koolaid, RJ. That drivel you spouted is just a bunch of Republican lies and propoganda. Nobody outside the right wing buys into your tripe. Everything you said here was said time and time again by the GOP in 2006... and they lost very badly because of it. You must be a loser to for buying into such losing talking points. Only conservative crackpots buy the *Democrats are on the side of the terrorists* BS. The rest of us see such lies for what they are... political propoganda completely bereft of any basis in reality.

Posted by: ErrinF | March 21, 2007 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Is the citizens vote for any politician running for office MEANINGLESS? Mr. MCCain should be ashamed of himself for making such a ststement.As an American VOTING citizen I do hope that my vote is never considered MEANINGLESS.I vote for a representative to represent me all the time on every issue that concerns me and my country,that's why I put that person in office. To me any issue that the majority of the representatives consider MEANINGFUL must be attended by my representative and if they do not FIRE HIM!What would the designers of our government and the Constitution say about this statement,those who fought for freedom and Democracy. No wonder the Republicans got their ass kicked out of Congress in 2006. I guess the citizens did'nt get all of them,too bad.Next time they will,especially with the McCain type of "meaningless" mentality that represents right-wing philosphy and bravado toward the American public!!

Posted by: RayG | March 22, 2007 5:35 AM | Report abuse

McCain's already taken mental possession of George Bush's chair in the Oval Office. As far as he's concerned, his job as Senator is already over. His new job is lying to Americans about how the terrorists will *follow us home if we fail in Iraq*. I'd love to hear McCain back up his fearmongering with a single piece of factual evidence.

Posted by: Mark F. | March 22, 2007 7:01 PM | Report abuse

ErrinF. Although I appreciate your opinion, it's time to look at the reality of Worldwide Democracy being in jeopardy. Do you really want to live a life in absolute fear like our friends are doing around the world. We haven't had a military action on our soil. I don't think you'd get along with it. Your cushie job durning the day and clubing at night would all but be absent. Try to live under a curfew and constant fear for your childrens life. Wake up. This kind of life could be right around the corner if we don't do everything within our power to stop it where it breeds. Thankfully we have some brave Men and Women who are putting their lifes on the line for you and me. I think it's about time you support them.

Posted by: RJ Milw | March 22, 2007 9:58 PM | Report abuse

I am a Viet Nam vet, I support the troops because I know how I was treated when I left the Marines(1968), but we are in another war we can't win. Bush started this war to finish what his dad couldn't get finished. I think McCain needs shot for being a Traitor along with Kennedy and the rest of our hired help that are trying to sell America to mexico. Last time I checked America wasn't for sale. Close the borders, keep our companies out of mexico, and hire Americans. Get rid of the INVADERS. Majority Rules (Americans)not the president of mexico.

Posted by: Vic Bailey | March 23, 2007 8:35 AM | Report abuse

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