Defense & National Security

McCain: Obama ‘attacked Mitt much more than he did me’

McCain: Obama 'attacked Mitt much more than he did me'

During Tuesday’s night presidential debate, Barack Obama attacked Mitt Romney “much more than he attacked me” when they competed for the presidency in 2008, said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). But, the president’s performance in his third and final debate with Romney, McCain believes, “will work to his disadvantage. Because his strongest point has always been that he is viewed as likeable and tonight, (Obama) was not very likeable.”

In an exclusive interview with Human Events shortly after the debate’s conclusion, McCain revealed that he had urged Romney a week ago to “hit back harder” on “the Libyan debacle” — the tragedy Sept. 11 that resulted in the death of the four Americans — that led to a clash with Obama during the first debate, but the Republican nominee “didn’t.” The Arizona senator, who will become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee should Republicans win control of the Senate in two weeks, also discussed who he felt might make a good secretary of defense under a “President Romney” — more on this below.

“Barack Obama was unpresidential,” McCain told us from Boca Raton, Fla., where he had been in the audience at the debate. “He had kind of an air about him during what appeared to be a desperate denigration of his opponent.”

McCain added that “I’ve been in a lot of debates in my career, but I never attacked an opponent as fiercely as Obama attacked Mitt. He attacked Mitt much more than he attacked me (in our 2008 debates),” and pointed out that Obama “did nothing to me like he did to Mitt when he said ‘we have aircraft carriers.’”

Recalling how Romney said sequestration would lead to the smallest U.S. Navy since 1914, McCain pointed out that “this is precisely what Leon Panetta said when he testified before Congress. The president was ridiculing what his own secretary of defense said!”

Regarding Libya, McCain said he wanted Romney “to hit back harder on the Libyan debacle. I talked to him about this a week ago by phone.” But Romney, he felt, “didn’t” take his advice because his exchange on the controversy with Obama during their last debate “was not viewed favorably by the media.”

McCain, who would become chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee if Republicans won the Senate, said he would be eager to work with a ‘President Romney” on national security issues. As to who he felt would make a good defense secretary of defense, he replied, “I haven’t thought a lot about it, but there is (former Navy Secretary) John Lehman and (former State Department official and past McCain adviser) Bob Kagan. We have a pretty good bench.”

As for Romney’s overall performance Tuesday, the senator said, “I felt Mitt made a good point that we were weaker in terms of our defenses than four years ago and he had all the right instincts. In so many ways, he reminds me of Ronald Reagan.”

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