McCain: ISIS' rise like 'watching a train wreck'

ISIS: McCain responds to Obama's comments
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ISIS: McCain responds to Obama's comments 08:30

Story highlights

  • McCain on ISIS' growth: "We predicted this and watched it"
  • McCain also slams Congress for "cowardice" after adjourning without a vote on military force
  • House speaker says he would "bring the Congress back" for a vote if Obama seeks resolution
  • McCain: U.S. should impose no-fly zone in Syria to stop Syrian regime's attacks against rebels
Sen. John McCain slammed President Barack Obama on Monday over his comments that U.S. intelligence underestimated ISIS.
McCain countered Obama's assertions made on CBS' "60 Minutes," saying that ISIS' expansion in Syria and Iraq was tied to the President's decision not to leave a residual U.S. military force in Iraq and his refusal to arm moderate Syrian rebels last year despite urgings from his national security advisers.
"We predicted this and watched it," McCain said on CNN's "New Day." "It was like watching a train wreck and warning every step of the way that this was happening."
In the "60 Minutes" interview that aired Sunday, Obama admitted that a chaotic Syria became "ground zero for jihadists around the world" and that the United States also overestimated the strength of Iraqi security forces.
The Republican senator from Arizona also reserved some criticism for his fellow legislators who went on recess to focus on the November midterm elections without voting on U.S. military action in Syria.
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"It's an act of cowardice on the part of Congress," McCain said. "They didn't want to vote before the election."
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After adjourning without a vote more than a week earlier, House Speaker John Boehner told ABC News on Sunday that he would be "happy" to call lawmakers back to the House floor for a vote if Obama submits a resolution to Congress.
"I'd bring the Congress back," Boehner said.
Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, criticized the President for his "political failure" rather than a failure of the intelligence community, saying Obama needs to lead.
"It is incumbent upon the commander in chief to lay out the strategy that he wants," Royce said. "We have given him those tools."
McCain also called on the Obama administration to take on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime, renewing calls for a no-fly zone over Syria and saying the United States should "take out his air force" if the Syrian ruler doesn't keep his planes out of the air.
McCain said Obama has the authority to attack al-Assad's regime without congressional authorization and said not doing so would be "immoral."
"They want to train 5,000 Free Syrian Army people in Saudi Arabia and send them back. But are we going to do anything about Bashar al-Assad's air attacks?" McCain said. "Are you going to ask these young people ... to fight against ISIS but not against Assad. It's not only unworkable, it's immoral."
McCain and fellow hawk Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, first advocated for a no-fly zone in Syria in the summer of 2013 when Obama was considering military action against the Syrian regime, which McCain said is responsible for the death of 192,000 Syrians.
McCain agreed with the Obama administration that the United States is at war with ISIS -- a statement that only 40% of Americans agree with, according to a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday.
"Of course, we are," McCain said.