Following is a transcript of the second presidential debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama in Nashville, as recorded by CQ Transcriptions:
Next question for Senator Obama, it comes from the F section and is from Katie Hamm (ph). Katie?
QUESTION: Should the United States respect Pakistani sovereignty and not pursue al Qaeda terrorists who maintain bases there, or should we ignore their borders and pursue our enemies like we did in Cambodia during the Vietnam War?
OBAMA: Katie, it’s a terrific question and we have a difficult situation in Pakistan. I believe that part of the reason we have a difficult situation is because we made a bad judgment going into Iraq in the first place when we hadn’t finished the job of hunting down bin Laden and crushing al Qaeda.
So what happened was we got distracted, we diverted resources, and ultimately bin Laden escaped, set up base camps in the mountains of Pakistan in the northwest provinces there.
They are now raiding our troops in Afghanistan, destabilizing the situation. They’re stronger now than at any time since 2001. And that’s why I think it’s so important for us to reverse course, because that’s the central front on terrorism.
They are plotting to kill Americans right now. As Secretary Gates, the defense secretary, said, the war against terrorism began in that region and that’s where it will end. So part of the reason I think it’s so important for us to end the war in Iraq is to be able to get more troops into Afghanistan, put more pressure on the Afghan government to do what it needs to do, eliminate some of the drug trafficking that’s funding terrorism.
But I do believe that we have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can’t coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars and then he’s making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants.
OBAMA: What I’ve said is we’re going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants.
And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaida. That has to be our biggest national security priority.
BROKAW: Senator McCain?
MCCAIN: Well, Katie (ph), thank you.
You know, my hero is a guy named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt used to say walk softly — talk softly, but carry a big stick. Senator Obama likes to talk loudly.
In fact, he said he wants to announce that he’s going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable.
You know, if you are a country and you’re trying to gain the support of another country, then you want to do everything you can that they would act in a cooperative fashion.
When you announce that you’re going to launch an attack into another country, it’s pretty obvious that you have the effect that it had in Pakistan: It turns public opinion against us.
Now, let me just go back with you very briefly. We drove the Russians out with — the Afghan freedom fighters drove the Russians out of Afghanistan, and then we made a most serious mistake. We washed our hands of Afghanistan. The Taliban came back in, Al Qaida, we then had the situation that required us to conduct the Afghan war.
Now, our relations with Pakistan are critical, because the border areas are being used as safe havens by the Taliban and Al Qaida and other extremist organizations, and we have to get their support.
Now, General Petraeus had a strategy, the same strategy — very, very different, because of the conditions and the situation — but the same fundamental strategy that succeeded in Iraq. And that is to get the support of the people.
We need to help the Pakistani government go into Waziristan, where I visited, a very rough country, and — and get the support of the people, and get them to work with us and turn against the cruel Taliban and others.
And by working and coordinating our efforts together, not threatening to attack them, but working with them, and where necessary use force, but talk softly, but carry a big stick.
OBAMA: Tom, just a…
BROKAW: Senator McCain…
OBAMA: … just a quick follow-up on this. I think…
MCCAIN: If we’re going to have follow-ups, then I will want follow-ups, as well.
BROKAW: No, I know. So but I think we get at it…
MCCAIN: It’d be fine with me. It’d be fine with me.
BROKAW: … if I can, with this question.
OBAMA: Then let’s have one.
BROKAW: All right, let’s have a follow-up.
MCCAIN: It’d be fine with me.
OBAMA: Just — just — just a quick follow-up, because I think — I think this is important.
BROKAW: I’m just the hired help here, so, I mean…
OBAMA: You’re doing a great job, Tom.
Look, I — I want to be very clear about what I said. Nobody called for the invasion of Pakistan. Senator McCain continues to repeat this.
What I said was the same thing that the audience here today heard me say, which is, if Pakistan is unable or unwilling to hunt down bin Laden and take him out, then we should.
Now, that I think has to be our policy, because they are threatening to kill more Americans.
Now, Senator McCain suggests that somehow, you know, I’m green behind the ears and, you know, I’m just spouting off, and he’s somber and responsible.