CHARLESTON - Republican U.S. Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham said Monday President Barack Obama should act quickly to send additional troops to Afghanistan for the war against the Taliban.
McCain, of Arizona, told reporters after a town hall meeting on health care at The Citadel that the president knows what's needed and that he should make the decision immediately.
"Then we'll work with him to sell it to the American people who are understandably weary of the conflict," McCain said.
Graham told the gathering of 600 people, made up of cadets and the public, that the U.S. would win the war.
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"It breaks my heart to say we need more troops, but we do," said Graham, of South Carolina. "We need to recapture lost ground."
Obama approved 21,000 additional U.S. forces for Afghanistan this year and the top commander there, Gen. Stanley McCrystal, is likely to soon request thousands more.
"What I worry about is the president being swayed by the liberal left of his base, which is very influential, and then water down this recommendation that is coming from Gen. McCrystal ... to the point it will be too late and ineffective," McCain said.
Graham said additional troops will provide security while the Afghan army and police are trained.
The senators fielded questions for about 75 minutes from a mostly friendly crowd.
Graham said any government option in health care is dead. And he warned if the Senate changes its rules to allow passage of health care reform with 51 votes, instead of a two-thirds majority, "it will be the beginning of the end of the Obama presidency."
"I'm just a knob and as a knob, I don't understand anything," said one freshman cadet wearing the short haircut given to all incoming students so their heads resemble door knobs. "Is Obama a liar, sir?"
"No. I don't believe it's appropriate to use that kind of language," McCain said to applause from the crowd. "I do not disparage the character and integrity of any of my opponents in this debate."
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., shouted "you lie" during Obama's speech last week. He has apologized to the president but faces a possible rebuke if he doesn't apologize on the House floor.
"He apologized immediately and I think that's sufficient," McCain said.
It was McCain's first visit to the military college since January 2008, when he won the state's first-in-the-South presidential primary. McCain knows the state well, but refused to weigh in on the controversy surrounding Gov. Mark Sanford.
There have been calls for Sanford to resign and lawmakers have been drawing up impeachment resolutions after Sanford's revelation of an affair with an Argentine woman.
"That's up to the Legislature and the people of South Carolina," McCain said.