Former GOP presidential nominee John McCain lashed out at the “unrelenting, merciless attacks” on his former running mate, Sarah Palin, in an exclusive interview evening with Newsmax.TV. He also fired opinions on President Barack Obama's Quran burning apology, lagging solidarity with Israel, aiding the Syrian rebels, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's immigration reform.
“The unrelenting merciless attacks by the liberal left on Sarah Palin since the day she was the nominee for vice president of the United States is something that continues to confound and frankly sadden me because it just doesn’t stop,” declared McCain in the wide-ranging interview.
The Arizona senator was reacting to the release of 34,820 pages of emails this week from Palin’s time as governor of Alaska — at times candid communications that reveal Palin’s growing frustration as she faced an onslaught of legal and ethics challenges by critics.
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Those challenges caused Palin both monetary and personal pain, according to the emails which mostly spanned the period between October 2008 and July 2009, when Palin stepped down as governor. They also revealed that Palin was considering a divorce from her husband, Todd.
“She is a fine and wonderful person. She was a good governor of the state of Alaska,” insisted McCain. “I will always treasure her friendship and the fact is she galvanized our party. She beat Joe Biden in a debate and yet the attacks on her continued from the liberal left, particularly the feminists. I’ll never understand it.”
Under Alaska law, Palin had to pay for her own legal defense and was facing bills of more than a half a million dollars, forcing her husband to return to work on the North Slope.
As the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, McCain — like Palin — also criticized President Barack Obama for issuing a formal apology to Afghan authorities over the burning of Qurans on a U.S. military base.
I wouldn’t have done it that way,” McCain told Newsmax.TV. “I would have expressed deep regrets to the Afghan people. Obviously the Quran is a sacred document to them, but I’m very disturbed at the reaction to the United States.
The fact is we’ve lost over 1,000 brave young Americans fighting for their freedom against the Taliban with an oppressive and outlaw organization that brought nothing but misery to the Afghan people.”
Hours after Obama's apology was announced on Thursday morning, news organizations reported that an Afghan soldier killed two U.S. troops and wounded others in retaliation for the Quran burning.
McCain called on Afghan President Hamid Karzi to issue an “expression of regret for the deaths of these brave young Americans who have gone to their country to try to preserve their freedom.”
The Obama administration defended its apology given the religious sensitivities involved.
McCain, who has just returned from the Middle East, described ongoing developments in the region as a “time fraught with danger” and a time “filled with opportunity.”
He said that the U.S. should demonstrate solidarity with Israel over the ongoing Iranian threat while insisting that he does not know if Israel is planning a preemptive attack on Iran to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
“I can’t speculate on that because I don’t know what the Israeli calculations are. I do know that a nuclear-armed Iran is an existential threat to the state of Israel,” he said, adding, “I think that the situation in Iran grows more serious by the day.”
McCain criticized the Obama administration for its handling of the crisis, in particular for leaks that the U.S. is trying to dissuade the Israelis from attacking Iran. McCain was also critical of statements attributed to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“They have vowed to take — wipe Israel off the map — which is why it is not only puzzling, but confounding that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff would say that the Iranians are rational,” according to McCain. “A country that says they are going to wipe their neighbor off the map is not a rational country.”
He said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu plans to visit the United States in March to meet with President Obama and that the last thing the United States should be doing is sending a “message of weakness to Iran.”
With respect to Syria, McCain said that the U.S. should “figure out ways” to assist Syrian rebels in overthrowing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. Iran and Russia are believed to be supplying weapons to bolster the Syrian dictator.
“It is an unfair fight and it’s one that we as Americans should want to see brought to a halt as quickly as possible,” McCain explained. “There’s many ways we can provide assistance to the Syrian resistance: technical help, medical help,” he added. “There could even be consideration of establishment of a sanctuary where the Syrian liberation army could train and equip their forces.”
He said that the fall of the Assad regime would likely deliver a “huge blow to Iran,” weaken Hezbollah and improve the situation in Lebanon.
“I’d like to say if Syria went from under Iranian influence and alliance you would see Hezbollah in more trouble,” according to McCain. “You would see the Iranian’s position weakened and you would see Lebanon with a chance to get out from under the thumb of Syria.”
While stopping short of saying he trusted the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, McCain said he is “very appreciative” of the organization’s support for U.S. citizens in nongovernmental organizations who have been forced to seek refuge in the U.S. embassy for fear of arrest.
Back home, McCain said that he is not sure fellow Arizonan Gov. Jan Brewer would get a fair hearing if she testifies before a Senate panel chaired by New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer on her state’s immigration reform law.
“I know how Sen. Schumer’s bias is on this issue. I’m not sure that I could say that Gov. Brewer would get a fair hearing,” said McCain. “I wouldn’t tell her what she would do or not do but I’ve seen Sen. Schumer bully witnesses in the past and I’m not sure it would be anything productive.”
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