Under the Dome

Sen. John McCain joins Thom Tillis in Eastern NC

Former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain joined Senate hopeful Thom Tillis on the campaign trail Thursday, offering tough talk on ISIS and joining Tillis’ criticism of Sen. Kay Hagan.

The pair of Republicans met with a veterans’ group in Goldsboro Thursday morning. McCain called Tillis an “experienced, talented, proven leader,” and said the N.C. House speaker would work well with Sen. Richard Burr.

Both Tillis and McCain voiced criticism of President Barack Obama’s actions against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. “Bombing ISIS targets in Iraq is not a strategy, it’s a tactic,” Tillis said.

McCain called for stronger action to deal with the threat, adding that he’s “never seen the world in more turmoil than it is today.”

“We need to direct arms to the Peshmerga (Kurdish fighters) – they have the will to fight but not the weapons,” he said.

McCain’s remarks were more detailed than the comments from Tillis, who’s been criticized for offering few specifics on fighting the Islamic State.

The 2008 presidential candidate also blasted Congress, where he blames Democrats for gridlock that makes him “really embarrassed.”

“Every time they shut us out of an amendment, Kay Hagan was right there with” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, McCain said. “If we get the majority ... we will take up bill after bill, take up a budget, and we may have to take some tough votes.”

Tillis and McCain both spoke out against sequestration, which has impacted military personnel at Goldsboro’s Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. “Sequestration is a major threat to us,” Tillis said. “We’ve got to get that off the books.”

Last year though, Tillis called for Republicans to use the budget fight to demand that Obama defund the Affordable Care Act – something McCain called “not rational.”

McCain joined the Tillis campaign in attacking Hagan for skipping a security briefing to attend a fundraiser. “When she doesn’t show up, that indicates she’s not well informed,” he said.

Hagan spokesman Chris Hayden countered that “Kay has a 98 percent voting attendance record on the armed services committee, and she has chaired more than 20 hearings of the emerging threats subcommittee.”

After the 30-minute discussion in Goldsboro, McCain and Tillis were off to lunch at the Neuse Sports Shop in Kinston and a late afternoon stop at the Onslow County GOP headquarters in Jacksonville. McCain also appeared with Burr in Cary Wednesday evening.