Marine Commandant Nominee Draws McCain’s Anger

Lt. Gen. Robert Neller, the nominee to be Marine Corps Commandant, drew a blistering tirade from Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) at the end of Neller’s confirmation hearing Thursday. Neller’s hearing was going smoothly as he answered the usual questions about his priorities and Marines’ readiness, but then Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a Republican presidential candidate, asked a string of pointed questions? about the threat posed by Iran with its suspected quest for nuclear weapons and its meddling in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Neller appeared uneasy with the questions and lit McCain’s notoriously short fuse when he endorsed the current strategy to rely on Iraqi forces to defeat the ISIS extremists while US trainers remained in secure bases. McCain became particularly incensed when Neller conceded that joint terminal attack controllers working with the Iraqis could improve the effectiveness of US air strikes, although he was not sure that was needed. “I’m very disappointed in a number of your answers,” McCain said. “You know full well, as I do, that forward air controllers make the difference.” McCain said he would send Neller a list of written questions to clarify his position on those issues. (See also Making the Case for JTACs in Iraq, Syria.)