Decrying Iraq, Kerry Cites McCain for Defense Chief
By Adam Entous
ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) - Democratic challenger John Kerry said on Wednesday his first choice as defense secretary would be Republican Sen. John McCain as he criticized the Bush administration for failed policies in Iraq.
Kerry slammed President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners, their failure to build an international coalition and other "miscalculations surrounding this war."
"This thing has been so extraordinarily mismanaged and ineptly prosecuted," the Massachusetts senator told the "Imus in the Morning" radio program one day after Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigated the mistreatment at the Abu Ghraib prison, told Congress the abuse reflected a failure of leadership in the U.S. armed forces.
Renewing his call for Bush to take full responsibility for the prison scandal and Rumsfeld to resign despite his apology, Kerry singled out McCain of Arizona, a fellow Vietnam War veteran and frequent Bush critic, when pressed on who he would want running the Pentagon.
"I have any number of people that I would make secretary of Defense, beginning with our good friend John McCain," Kerry said. McCain was not immediately available for comment.
Kerry listed several other possible candidates "who could manage it (the Pentagon) very effectively," including Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia, the top ranking senators on the Armed Services Committee.
McCain's name has surfaced on the long lists of potential running mates for Kerry but he has denied any interest. In addition, Kerry used McCain's image in one of his campaign ads.
McCain was defeated by Bush in the bitterly fought 2000 Republican Party primary. With a strong following among independent voters, McCain has always had a reputation for outspokenness, recently defending Kerry against Republicans questioning his commitment to national security.
I think it's a brilliant idea, personally. McCain would no doubt handle the situation in Iraq much more skillfully than the boneheads currently in office. His presence would also provide the Kerry campaign with credibility on national defense, dispelling assertions from the Right that a vote for Kerry is a vote for terrorism.