Listen To The Full Interview Below:
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) joined Fox News Radio’s Guy Benson Show to discuss the chaotic withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan. The Biden administration’s execution of the withdrawal has come under intense scrutiny, with several republicans calling for administration officials and President Biden to resign. Leader McConnell released a new tv ad urging Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19. McConnell explains why he’s urging Americans get inoculated against covid-19.
Leader McConnell responded to calls from fellow republicans for Biden and members of his administration to resign following the withdrawal from Afghanistan saying,
“Well, the president wanted this to happen. You know, I don’t know why people would resign in the administration who simply were following the orders of the President of the United States. The only thing you left out (Biden) called this, an extraordinary success. It was an extraordinary success for the Taliban. That’s who had an extraordinary success. It was a, you know, disgraceful and disastrous departure. Look, in terms of consequences, we are where we are. First of all, we need to increase the defense budget. The administration defense request was clearly inadequate even before this withdrawal. We all know weakness invites challenge, so we need to go on the offense against terrorists before the Taliban victory emboldens jihadists worldwide. So we need to be very, very watchful here.”
Leader McConnell explained why he cut a new tv ad urging Americans to get vaccinated saying,
“Well, the experience I had earlier in my life is I was a polio victim, and so I’ve studied that disease and I know it took probably 50 years to find two vaccines that work. It has succeeded, we’ve largely eradicated polio in the whole world. I was thrilled at the success of developing three highly effective vaccines that less than a year, which we did as a result of Operation Warp Speed, which we funded last year, honestly Guy. It never occurred to me that people would be reluctant to take the vaccination. And so now we have here we have an epidemic going on. 90 percent of the people in the hospitals across America and in my state are unvaccinated. The answer to this. Dilemma that we face. The answer to this disease is to get vaccinated, and I hope people will begin to realize that that the only way this ever ends.”
FULL TRANSCIPT BELOW:
GUY BENSON, FOX RADIO HOST: We are joined now by the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky. And Senator, it’s good to have you back.
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Hey, glad to be with you, Guy.
BENSON: I’d like to start on Afghanistan. You have — because I get your speeches and your press releases — I’m on the email list — you have been talking about Afghanistan and warning about withdrawal and certain elements of the withdrawal, not for weeks, but for months, throughout the entire Biden presidency, and indeed back into the previous presidency as well. As you have watched everything unfold at the end of August, and now it is September, as the Biden administration has collectively pulled out of Afghanistan with the mess that we watched, I wonder what your thoughts are and your overall analysis of the results of the policy and the planning or the lack thereof.
MCCONNELL: Well, I think, I would start with saying the war hasn’t ended, it’s just become more difficult for us to prosecute. The terrorist threat in Afghanistan is already greater than it was before this rash decision to withdraw. It will continue to grow, and our capacity to counter it has been dramatically diminished. We failed to get all Americans and Afghan partners out, hundreds of Americans and thousands of our Afghan partners are now Taliban hostages. And if that were not enough, we have shredded our credibility as a reliable partner.
BENSON: Senator, I want to play for you a sound bite that I have played now for our previous two guests today, Jonah Goldberg and Bret Baier — it’s Jake Sullivan who is the National Security Advisor to President Biden. He appeared on Good Morning America, and among other things he had this to say, and there’s one part of it that truly was astounding to me. Listen to Cut 15.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Leadership means taking a look at the situation and asking the hard question, what is going to be in the best interest of the United States of America, those American citizens still in Afghanistan and those Afghan allies?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BENSON: Senator, he said that it’s in the best interest of the United States of America to have left Americans and allies behind, but he went further saying it’s also in the best interest of the stranded, to have been stranded. And truly I would like to know how they workshopped that talking point inside the White House.
MCCONNELL: Well, this is the weakest set of talking points I’ve ever heard, because this withdrawal made no sense. It’s important to remind everybody, we had 2,500 troops there, only 2,500. We hadn’t lost anybody in a year-and-a-half. We lost more lives Thursday, a week ago tomorrow, than in any one of the previous four years. The total loss of American lives in Afghanistan over 20 years was about 2000, which is very sad and regretful, but the Afghans lost 65,000. We accomplished the mission. The mission, remember, was to keep the barbarians from controlling the country, the Taliban; they didn’t. And to make it impossible for it to be a staging ground for another attack on the U.S. here at home.The policy was successful — and in terms of financial cost, about one percent of the Pentagon budget.
BENSON: Senator McConnell, as we see the promise that has been broken to American citizens, to permanent residents, to allies like interpreters, tens of thousands of them who are now stranded and at the mercy in many cases of the Taliban, the president has given speeches, his team backing him up saying this could not have been done any better. The execution was as good as could have been hoped or expected. The Americans who are left or stayed as Ned Price said, in some ways, it was sort of their fault, because they were warned for a period of months to get out, although the president was making other assurances publicly at the time. And I know that there’s a lot of people who are very, very angry about the way this happened, about, you know, the violation of this covenant that we made with so many people. The president said on TV nationally, we are not going to leave if there are American citizens still left there, and then we left with American citizens still left. Is there going to be any accountability for this? I saw that you were asked a question about impeachment. You said that’s not going to happen. Some of your colleagues in the Senate have called on the president to resign; I wonder what you make of that. Should anyone from this administration resign as a result of what’s happened?
MCCONNELL: Well, the president wanted this to happen. You know, I don’t know why people would resign in an administration who simply were following the orders of the president of the United States, The only thing he left out was (ph) calling this an extraordinary success; it was an extraordinary success for the Taliban.
MCCONNELL: That’s who had an extraordinary success. It was a disgraceful and disastrous departure. Look in terms of consequences, we are where we are. First of all, we need to increase the defense budget. The administration defense request was clearly inadequate, even before this withdrawal. We all know weakness invites challenge, so we need to go on the offense against terrorists before the Taliban victory emboldens Jihadists worldwide. So we need to be very, very watchful here. So this administration having made this disastrous mistake better be prepared for the rise in terrorist threats that are coming and need to confront them in a stronger way than we’ve seen so far. And also look it, this was a NATO mission; a lot of Americans don’t realize the Germans, the French, the English, they were all in there with us, they’ve criticized this decision as well. We need to start repairing our relationship with our allies as well.
BENSON: On the home-front Senator McConnell, I want to ask you about a few different things. You have cut a new TV public service announcement about getting vaccinated. I know vaccinations and vaccines are very personal to you, something that you have thought a lot and talked a lot about given your experience earlier in your life. What sort of triggered this decision at this point? Because I know you’ve been very good on vaccines and urging people to get vaccinated all along since the vaccines were available. Was there something in particular that drove you to cut this PSA now?
MCCONNELL: Well, the experience I had earlier in my life is I was a polio victim, and so I’ve studied that disease and I know it took probably 50 years to find two vaccines that worked. It has succeeded; we’ve largely eradicated polio in the whole world. I was thrilled at the success at developing three highly effective vaccines in less than a year, which we did as a result of Operation Warp Speed, which we funded last year. Honestly Guy, it never occurred to me people would be reluctant to take the vaccination and —
MCCONNELL: So now we have an epidemic going on; 90 percent of the people in the hospitals across America and in my state are unvaccinated. The answer to this dilemma that we face, the answer to this disease is to get vaccinated, and I hope people will begin to realize that that’s the only way this ever ends.
BENSON: Yeah there’s a young guy that I follow on Instagram, who’s young and very healthy, and he posted today that he’s on Day 11 of a COVID infection. He said he has not been hospitalized but the symptoms have been severe, it’s been extremely unpleasant for him and he listed probably a dozen symptoms that he’s been experiencing now for over a week-and-a-half, and he’s hoping that the worst of it is over but he’s not sure yet and I asked him, were you vaccinated, and his answer was no. And I hope that his example and many other examples, hospitalized individuals and of course, the deaths is overwhelmingly among the unvaccinated, and so I’m glad that you did the PSA, I’m glad that you are very consistent on that point. You really didn’t ever imagine that there would be vaccine hesitant people?
MCCONNELL: No I didn’t. I was perplexed by it and still am. I gather it’s picking up some as a result of not what politicians like myself may say, but because of the hospitalizations, you know make the point. I mean, there’s a lot of misinformation out floating around on the Internet and in the country, but you can’t argue with the fact that this resurgence is on unvaccinated Americans.
BENSON: In your neck of the woods on Capitol Hill there’s a big fight coming on spending. The Democrats want to force through on a party line vote to reconciliation $3.5 trillion in the spending at least; I know that there’s some scorekeepers who said it could be five to $5.5 trillion. There’s a handful of more moderate Democrats saying we’re not sure about those top line numbers, we’re not sure we want to spend that much money, but Nancy Pelosi down in the House here, she’s trying to figure out how to get her troops in line for this upcoming vote. Part of the discussion of course, is the bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed out of the Senate in a pretty large bipartisan vote; you were among those Republicans who voted yes. I have a two-part question; the first, there are some conservatives who say Republicans like you shouldn’t have voted for that bipartisan bill because you’re sort of rewarding the Democrats and you’re giving a patina of bipartisanship to this insane amount of spending that they are attempting to ram through and Republicans shouldn’t put their fingerprints anywhere near any of the spending. What is your response to those critiques from the right? And then secondly, once something happens down in the House, what are your expectations about how things are going to play out on a reconciliation in the Senate?
MCCONNELL: Well, my answer on the first is, they’re two entirely separate bills. They’re not connected. Eighty-five percent of the Americans favor infrastructure. The administrations of both parties have been trying to do this for the last decade. I felt it was time to do something for the country even though I object to everything else the Biden administration is doing. And so the second bill is a totally separate bill is a reckless tax and spending measure, massive tax increases, you’re absolutely right, $3.5 to five trillion dollars that will wreak havoc with the most productive parts of our society. Everybody’s — also I think everybody should remember that in February of 2020 we had the best economy we have had in half a century as a result of the 2017 tax bill. This absolutely undoes everything we did four years ago and that 30-year tax reform bill. It’s a devastating blow to the economy and it’s not just the taxes, it’s how they would spend it; free community college, free this, free that in perpetuity. Look, Bernie Sanders may have lost the nomination but he won the war on what today’s Democratic Party is like, and as you suggested, Guy, it seems like we’re down to a couple of moderate Democrats in the Senate and maybe eight or nine in the House; I pray for them every night because not a single Republican will vote for either one of – will vote for this package and that means that Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema could either kill the whole bill, write the whole bill or buckle under pressure, and I hope neither of them do.
BENSON: Yeah my guess if I had to wager is that they’ll pare some things down and get to a topline figure that’s a little bit less extraordinary in terms of the amount of spending we’re looking at, on top of all the other emergency spending that was COVID-related, or said to be COVID-related over the last year plus, you know $3.5 to five trillion more. I know Manchin and Sinema have said no go on that, we can’t do that, but maybe they’ll you know bring it a little bit down but not all that far down, and then vote along with the party; that’s kind of the way I’m expecting it, but it’s precarious. It’s a very tough balancing act with very few votes to spare; none in the Senate, as you know, and Pelosi and Schumer are going to have to figure that out. Speaking of the balance of power in the U.S. Senate, last question from me; I saw the poll, I’m sure you saw the poll up in New Hampshire this week with Chris Sununu in a hypothetical matchup with Senator Hassan leading by eight points head-to-head; he’s a very known commodity in the state, she is the incumbent. For the Republicans retaking the Senate next year, it’s going to be tough. It’s really tough now for both parties. Everyone has been talking who follows the Senate and Senate politics closely about New Hampshire as a real opportunity for the GOP. I know Governor Sununu is not sold, let’s put it that way, on running for Senate. Having seen that poll this week up there, have you placed any additional calls or text messages to the governor of New Hampshire this week, sir?
MCCONNELL: Well, I did see the poll, and obviously we would love for the governor to run. But I think maybe an even more significant poll is the dropping of Joe Biden’s approval rating. We all know that next year will be a referendum on how you feel about this administration. Presidential approval is the corner of the realm in these off-year elections two years into a new administration; we saw what happened to Bill Clinton two years in, what happened to Barak Obama two years in, Donald Trump lost the House two years in. Presidential approval will be the most important national poll next year, and I think all of that is a result of this calamity in Afghanistan and the president’s numbers were already falling — indicate that the atmosphere for a very, very good election for Republicans in both the House and the Senate next year is highly likely and consistent with American history.
BENSON: Yeah he was falling on the economy, falling on COVID, falling on immigration, of course, another crisis that isn’t over, and now Afghanistan, this is pouring fuel on the fire. We’re watching all of it. We’re covering all of it here. Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader in the U.S. Senate, Republican of Kentucky, always appreciate your time, sir, looking forward to next time.
MCCONNELL: Thanks, Guy.