U.S. Sen. John McCain, backdropped by a pre Gadhafi flag, gestures during a press conference in Benghazi, Libya Friday, April 22, 2011. (Nasser Nasser/AP)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): ‘Hope is not a strategy’

Senators Lieberman, McCain and Graham discussed the ongoing conflict in Libya on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.  All three senators said they see the conflict heading toward a stalemate and that the United States should reclaim its leadership role within NATO, marshalling coalition forces and bringing in airpower that would operate lower to the ground. But all three stopped short of saying U.S. ground troops should be deployed.

 “The military strategy of taking U.S. air assets out of NATO is a big mistake,” Graham said, expressing pessimism over rebel forces’ chances of unseating leader Moammar Gaddafi. “My recommendation to NATO and the administration is to cut the head of the snake off, go to Tripoli, start bombing Gaddafi's inner circle, their compounds, their military headquarters in Tripoli.

“I can tell you what, if he stays, it’s a nightmare for the world at large,” Graham said, tying Gaddafi’s continued presence to rising prices at the pump.

McCain, fresh off a trip to Libya, said he believed the rebels were a true representation of the anti-Gaddafi interests, but that an element of al-Qaeda may be present in the conflict. “If we have a stalemate, I think it’s very possible al-Qaeda may take advantage” of that situation. McCain expressed his hope that the rebels would be successful with the current strategy, “but hope is not a strategy,” he said, taking a slight dig at President Obama’s  2008 campaign slogan.

Lieberman said he had no reservations over the use of drones in Libya, “When the president turned over leadership to NATO, in one sense that was exactly the right thing to do,” Lieberman said, “but we’re the heart of NATO.” Lieberman said he believed the U.N. resolution could be interpreted to mean that the removal of Gaddafi was within the mission’s purview.  Asked about Syria, Lieberman said the call for democracy in that nation was not the same as in Libya, but said communications resources should be given to protesters and that the United States should take a harder line against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad by tying up the family’s wealth and imposing an arms embargo on Syria. “This is a moment of extraordinary opportunity for the cause of freedom in Syria, and it has tremendous strategic significance in the region,” Lieberman said, citing Syria’s status as the only ally of Iran.

 C-SPAN Newsmakers

U.S. drug czar on his future with the White House: ‘I don’t know what will happen’

Gil Kerlikowske, White House Drug Control Policy Director, known informally as the U.S. drug czar, discussed the White House drug policy, focusing on the increase in prescriptions for pain medications, addiction and overdose. Kerlikowske attributed the rapid rise to two factors: the realization that doctors were under-treating pain, and the lack of training for medical professionals on the nature of addiction.

“These are prescription drugs,” said Kerlikowske, “and people don’t recognize that level of dangerousness.” He said addiction cuts across all age, race and socio-economic lines. Asked about the president’s initial drug strategy, Kerlikowske said there would be increased emphasis in the areas of both college students and military veterans.

Kerlikowske would not go as far as to call for prescription drug quotas, citing those for whom the drugs were life-saving. Pharmaceutical companies “want to see these prescription drugs used appropriately, they don’t want to continue to see this level of abuse and frankly the deaths that are being caused as a result of this.”

Asked if the drug problem was unique to America, Kerlikowske said it was not, but that no country was experiencing prescription drug problems to the same extent as the United states.

Asked about his having applied to be the Chicago police superintendent, Kerlikowske said, “I don’t know what will happen,” and reiterated that he would not have applied for the job if he was not interested in filling the position.

Face the Nation (CBS)

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.): ‘At times, I’m so frustrated I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall.’

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) joined to discuss the ongoing conflict in Libya and the federal debt. “I agree that we need to support a multi-national coalition,” said Coons, “and we need to give it a little bit of time.”

“We need to be very cautious about who, exactly the rebels are,” said Blumenthal, praising Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for his visit to Libya and his assessment that the rebels were indeed legitimate.

Kirk said that the U.S. needed to “wrap this up” in order to further stabilize the Middle East and, as a result, the U.S. economy.

Confronted with a New York Times-CBS poll showing that 75 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing, Blumenthal said, “You really hear how people are still hurting, struggling to stay in their homes, find jobs,” and “they have a right to be angry.” On gas prices, Blumenthal praised the president for starting a panel to monitor the gas market for potential fraud, but said the “Justice Department should take the lead, seize this moment, and send a message” that the country would not tolerate illegal trading and speculation that, Blumenthal said, may be driving up gas prices.

Kirk, asked why the American people felt Congress was not listening to them – a point highlighted by Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) having led a delegation to Macau, said, “The Senate is largely moribund. ... They’re not voting very much.”

“I don’t think the Senate is making as much progress as it needs to,” said Coons, “At times, I’m so frustrated I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall.” Coons went on to defend the fact that the breaks taken by members of Congress – five since January – were spent in their districts working. Asked why Reid and others were in Macau, Coons said he could not explain or defend his colleagues’ decision.

Asked if the Senate would raise the debt ceiling, Kirk said he would vote “no” on raising the ceiling, saying “we should not send a blank check to the administration” and run the risk of following in the footsteps of Greece and Ireland – nations struggling under severe austerity measures in an effort to reduce, if not eliminate, record debt levels.

Rep. Rim Griffin (R-Ark.) joined to discuss the House-passed Ryan budget, defending the proposed changes to Medicare.

“Medicare, as we know it, is a path to bankruptcy in nine years,” Griffin said. “I would love to come on this show, look in the camera and say you can have anything anytime no matter what the cost, but that would be a lie.”

Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), asked what it would take for him to vote in favor of raising the debt ceiling, said, “It would have to be something that fundamentally changes the way we do business here in Washington when it comes to spending.

“The administration is playing politics with this issue, just like they’re playing politics with entitlement reform,” Walsh said. “We’ve got enough government revenues to. . .service all of our debt, and the administration knows that.”

Asked about rising gas prices, Griffin said, “I don’t need a grand jury to tell you why this country has a problem with energy.” He blamed high gas prices on continued talk about energy independence combined with a push to end domestic drilling.

Asked how he, as a tea party favorite, was being treated by Republicans, Walsh said, “They’re treating me. . .like they’re treating the American people, because we represent the American people.”

Fox News Sunday

Bloomberg: 'Republicans are making a terrible mistake'

Republicans will lose if they don't stop talking about President Obama's birth certificate, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned. "I think the Republicans are making a terrible mistake in making this a big issue. We have immigration. We have the deficit. We have the economy. Those are the things that the public cares about,"he said. "If the Republican Party doesn't start addressing that, they will lose and they deserve to." He also advocated for immigration reform, saying it's unrealistic to talk about deporting millions of immigrants. He said that while municipal workers' contracts need to be renegotiated, collective bargaining is "the essence of democracy."

Former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum said he made a mistake when he voted for the Medicare prescription drug benefit in 2003. "We should have paid for it," he said. Santorum said that the voucher system in Ryan's plan is "identical to what the president argues for in Obamacare." (Both the Affordable Care Act and Ryan'splan hold Medicare spending to a fixed rate. The health care law includes reforms to cut spending while Ryan's plan counts on freemarket competition to bring costs down.)

Santorum also suggested seniors have a chance to move to the voucher system now. And he argued that Republicans should refuse to raise the debt limit unless the president defunds the health-care law, even knowing that the country would likely go into default.

This Week (ABC)

Rev. Graham: Palin not running for president

Sarah Palin is not running for president, according to evangelical pastor Franklin Graham. "I don't think she likes politics," he said. "I think she likes speaking on the issues and I agree with many of the issues that she brings up, but I don't see her running for president."

Palin traveled with Graham to Haiti in December. Graham said Romney, who has struggled to win over evangelical voters, has "proven himself" and is "a very capable person." The pastor also addressed the ”birthers” issue, saying that President Obama "can solve this whole birth certificate issue pretty quickly" by releasing his records (a common refrain among some conservatives).

Graham went on to raise questions about Obama's faith, saying that going to church does not make you a Christian: "As it relates to Muslims, there are many people that do wonder where -- where he really stands on that. Now, he has told me that he is a Christian. But the debate comes, what is a Christian? … For me, the definition of a Christian is whether we have given our life to Christ and are following him in faith and we have trusted him as our lord and savior."

Meet the Press (NBC)

Kent Conrad: 'We intend to be relevant'

Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) and Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) talked about their attempts to forge a bipartisan compromise on deficit reduction as part of the "Gang of Six." While they wouldn't say when they would release a proposal, Conrad declared that "if we don't have an agreement soon, we won't be relevant to this discussion, and we intend to be relevant."

Coburn took on his own side, saying that Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform is unrealistic in its demands for no tax increases whatsoever. Conrad and Coburn are looking into ways to close tax loopholes and end some tax breaks to raise revenue, while also cutting spending. "Which pledge is most important," Coburn asked, "the pledge to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who claims to speak for all American conservatives when, in fact, they really don't? The fact is we have enormous, urgent problems in front of us that have to be addressed and have to be addressed in a way that will get 60 votes in the Senate" and the president's signature.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called for more air strikes in Libya to take out Moammar Gaddafi, as he did on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He argued that if the situation is left as is, we will end up with a stalemate that will draw in al-Qaeda. "The longer we delay, the more likely it is there's is a stalemate. And if you're worried about al-Qaeda entering into this fight, nothing would bring al-Qaeda in more rapidly and more dangerously than a stalemate," he said. "Now, we hope that Gaddafi will crumble from within, but hope is not a strategy."

He argued that NATO did not have the resources or the will to expand air strikes, so the U.S. must step in. However, he strongly opposed the use of ground troops, saying "it would be totally counterproductive." He said we "need to take Gaddafi out," and Bashar al-Assad in Syria too.