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Kerry vs. McCain: Sharp Words Fly at Senate Hearing

Sen. John McCain clashed with Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday after McCain characterized the Obama administration as “failing very badly” in its handling of Russia and other world problems.

At a Senate hearing, McCain lashed out at Kerry for only imposing limited sanctions against Russia and for suspending Russia, not removing it, from the group of international powers known as the G-8.

“My hero Teddy Roosevelt used to say talk softly and carry a big stick,” McCain said. “What you’re doing is talking strongly and carrying a very small sick. In fact, a twig.”

McCain, R-Ariz., also laid into the administration for not giving Ukraine weapons to defend itself against Russia. He called it “the logic of appeasement.”

Kerry then began to answer what he called McCain’s “premature judgment of the failure of everything.” He said that economic sanctions would be the best deterrent for Russian aggression and that military help would not make a difference fast enough.

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On the Middle East, Kerry took issue with McCain’s characterization of talks between Israelis and Palestinians. Kerry said that both sides wanted to keep negotiating.

“We’ll see, won’t we, Mr. Secretary,” McCain said.

Kerry shot back: “Yeah, we will see.”

McCain: “It’s stopped. It is stopped. Recognize reality.”

Answering a criticism from McCain on the U.S. handling of Iran’s nuclear program, Kerry said: “We’re talking! The option is, you go to war. A lot of people are ready to drop bombs all the time. We can do that. We have the ability.”

But he said the United States must first try “every diplomatic possibility” and try to prove that Iran’s program is peaceful.

Kerry later said: “Your friend Teddy Roosevelt also said the credit belongs to the people who are in the arena trying to get things done. And we're trying to get something done. That’s a Teddy Roosevelt maxim, and I abide by it.”

— Erin McClam