Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) got into a heated debate Wednesday night following President Obama’s primetime speech addressing the Islamic militant group ISIS.
As soon as he appeared onscreen McCain slammed Carney, who was making his first appearance as a CNN political commentator, for defending Obama’s decision to begin arming moderate Syrian rebels.
“Facts are stubborn things, Mr. Carney, and that is [the President’s] entire national security team, including the secretary of state, said we want to arm and train and equip these people. And he made the unilateral decision to turn them down,” McCain said before pivoting to Iraq. “The fact he didn’t a residual force in Iraq, overruling all of his military advisers, is the reason why we’re facing ISIS today.”
The two went on to talk over each other and McCain accused Carney several times of putting forward “patently false” facts.
“You, in your role as the spokesperson, bragged about the fact that the last American combat troop had left Iraq,” McCain said at one point. “If we had left a residual force the situation would not be what it is today. And there would be a lot more –“
“Senator, I can posit with great respect for you that we disagree on that –” Carney began to say.
“No you can’t,” McCain cut him off. “You don’t have the facts, Mr. Carney. That is the problem.”
“Senator, I understand that you present the facts that you believe are true based on the argument that you have made for a long time, sir, that we should leave troops in Iraq in perpetuity,” Carney said. “And that’s not what this President believes. Obviously, he was elected President to fulfill what he believes is right for our country and right for our national security.”
“It is a bad decision,” McCain challenged.
Eventually CNN anchor Anderson Cooper stepped in to let Carney explain whether he thought leaving a residual force behind in Iraq would have made any difference in that country’s current situation.
“It’s 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,” he said. “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,” he added.
Watch below, courtesy of CNN: