Barack Obama’s address to the nation regarding the threat of ISIS was met with both cautious optimism and unbridled mockery from pundits on both sides of the aisle.

No one was more optimistic than CNN’s latest hire, former Obama Administration press secretary Jay Carney. Unfortunately for Carney, however, CNN had also invited Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who was more than a little irritated at the media’s willingness to overlook the fact that Obama chose to ignore the possibility of the current crisis when he decided to pull the occupying force out of Iraq.

Facts are stubborn things, Mr. Carney. His entire national security team, including his Secretary of State, said we want to arm and train and equip these people and he made the unilateral decision to turn them down. And the fact he didn’t leave a residual force in Iraq, overruling all of his military advisers, is the reason we’re facing ISIS today. So the facts are stubborn things in history, and people ought to know them. And now the president is saying basically that we are going to take certain actions, which I would favor. But to say that America is safer, and that the situation is very much like Yemen and Somalia shows me that the President really doesn’t have a grasp for how serious the threat of ISIS is.

Carney eventually managed to respond, in true Carney fashion:

It is a mis – basically a whitewash of history to suggest that there weren’t periods of enormous chaos and fighting and bloodshed in Iraq when there were tens of thousands of Americans troops on the ground. That is a fact. And that was true in 2004, it was true in 2007. And it was true even when we had the highest number of U.S. troops on the ground. We cannot – the United States of America – ask our military to be a permanent occupying force in a country like Iraq.



The most important takeaway from this exchange is that Senator McCain—though he may have thrown up in his mouth as he did it—was honest about the fact that he supports the current strategy as laid out by the President. What he doesn’t support is the assertion that this current crisis is somehow one more in a series of unfortunate diplomatic events in the Middle East.

McCain has seen the writing on the wall—the “no strategy” strategy, the mixed messages—and he understands as well as anyone can at this point how crucial it is for the Administration to step up and get it right this time.

Senator McCain’s assertion that a residual force in Iraq could have tempered the threat of ISIS comes from a place of experience, not of brash partisanship.