I know it’s the thing to do to disparage the McCain campaign—I’ve done plenty of it myself—but there are signs that it is beginning to get its act together. Consider this stump speech from McCain today (the text here is as prepared for delivery). He’s beginning to take the argument to Obama in sharp terms designed to appeal beyond the GOP base (the anti-Obama stuff is after the jump):
I want to speak briefly about the issues at stake in this election, and about the differences between me and my opponent. I will make it quick because the purpose of town halls isn’t for you to listen to a speech, but for me to listen to you, and respond to your questions, comments or insults. I love town halls because what I learn from listening to you and exchanging views with you makes me a better public servant. Serving our country has been the work of my life. I can’t do that job as well as I want to unless I hear directly from Americans your concerns and your ideas for making this country better and government more responsive to the problems facing you.
I have been called a maverick; someone who marches to the beat of his own drum. Sometimes it is meant as a compliment and sometimes it is meant as a criticism. But what it really means is I understand who I work for. I don’t work for a party. I don’t work for a president. I don’t work for a special interest. I don’t work for myself. I work for you; for the country that has been the love of my life.
I spoke up against the administration for their mistakes in Iraq, and for the new strategy that saved us from the catastrophe of an American defeat in the Middle East just a few short years after 9/11, brought us within reach of victory, and will allow us to bring our troops home with honor when we are confident the Iraqi government and army can protect the gains they sacrificed so much to achieve. I spoke up against my party for out of control spending that is burdening your children with the debts for their mistakes. I spoke up against the administration and Republicans and Democrats in Congress, who gave us another energy bill with more give-aways to big oil, but did almost nothing to free us from our dangerous dependence on foreign oil that threatens our economy, environment and security.
My independence hasn’t always made me friends in Washington. Time and again, I’ve heard politicians, pundits and pollsters warn me that my position on this or that issue would cost me the presidency. But I don’t answer to them. I answer to you. And you will always know exactly where I stand and that, no matter what, I will always do what I believe is right for our country.
We need to change the way government does almost everything: from the way we protect our security from the threats of our time to the way we compete in the world economy; from the way we respond to man made and natural disasters to the way we fuel our transportation network; from the way we educate our children and prepare them for new economic opportunities to the way we run our air traffic control system. All these functions of government were designed before the rise of the global economy, the information technology revolution and the end of the Cold War. We have to catch up to history, and to do so we are going to have to really change the way we do business in Washington.
My concern with Senator Obama is that on issues big and small, what he says and what he does are often two different things, and that he doesn’t seem to understand that the policies he offers would make our problems harder not easier to solve.
Senator Obama says he’s going to change Washington, but his solution is to simply make government bigger, and raise your taxes to pay for it. We’ve been doing that for years, and it hasn’t worked. In the few years he’s been in the Senate, he has requested nearly a billion dollars in pork barrel spending. That’s nearly a million dollars for every day he’s been in office.
I’ve never asked for a single pork barrel project for my state of Arizona, and as President, I will veto every bill that wastes your money, and make the authors famous. I will order a top to bottom review of every government program before I give them one additional dollar of funding. Those programs that are doing important work for the American people have nothing to fear from me. Those that can be modernized and made more effective will find me a willing partner. And those that have outlived their usefulness to you, and waste your money on things you neither want nor need, are going out of business whether they like it or not.
Senator Obama says he will only raise taxes on the rich. But in the Senate, he voted for tax hikes that would have impacted those making just $32,000 per year. He has proposed tax increases on income taxes, capital gains taxes, dividend taxes, Social Security taxes – pretty much anything that you can tax, he wants to tax more. Raising taxes in a bad economy is about the worst thing you could do because they would kill more jobs in an economy that‘s already losing too many. I‘m going to keep current tax rates low, and cut others, not because I want to make the rich richer, but because it keeps jobs in America and creates new ones, and gets our economy moving again by making sure you have more money to spend and save as you see fit.
Senator Obama says he wants energy independence, but he is opposed to new drilling at home; he is opposed to nuclear power; he is opposed to encouraging the invention of an affordable electric car that can run a hundred miles or more before it needs to be re-charged. He has even criticized wind and hydropower. He has said the high cost of gasoline doesn’t bother him, only that it rose too quickly. He believes every domestic energy source has a problem. I believe every energy source needs to be part of the solution. We need to develop new advanced alternative energies like wind, solar, tide and biofuels, but we also need to develop more existing energies like nuclear power and clean coal. And we need to stop sending $700 billion a year to countries that don‘t like us very much or care that Americans are suffering, start drilling and producing more oil at home, and bring down the cost of gasoline that is killing our economy.
On Iraq, Barack Obama says he wants peace, but even today he opposes the strategy of the surge that succeeded in Iraq and will succeed in Afghanistan. No rational person could see the progress we’ve made in the last year and a half, and not recognize that the surge, and the brave Americans who made it work, rescued us from a terribly dangerous defeat and put us on the road to victory. I don’t question his patriotism. This country has been as good to Senator Obama as it has been to me, and I’m sure he loves it. He just doesn’t understand how our defeat in Iraq would have left al Qaeda with a base to prepare attacks against us; increased Iranian power in the region; and threatened to draw other countries in the Middle East into a wider war that would have demanded even greater sacrifices from us. He didn’t see the danger in his policy, and so he thinks Iraq was just another issue to play politics with. Just like he doesn’t see that his policy of unconditional withdrawal before we are certain Iraqis can protect the gains we have achieved at the cost of American blood and treasure could result in in renewed violence and a third Iraq war. I hate war, and I know its costs better than many. When I bring our troops home, I intend to keep them home, leaving Iraq secured, and a democratic ally in the Arab heartland.
The bottom line is that Senator Obama’s words, for all their eloquence and passion, don’t mean all that much. And that’s the problem with Washington. It is not just the Bush Administration, and it’s not just the Democratic Congress. It’s that everyone in Washington says whatever it takes get elected or to score the political point of the day. If Senator Obama doesn’t have the strength to speak openly and directly about how he will address the serious challenges confronting America? How will he be strong enough to really change Washington? We don’t need another politician in Washington who puts self-interest and political expediency ahead of problem solving. We need to start putting the country’s interests first, and come together to keep American families safe and help them realize their dreams for a better life.
In war and peace, I have been an imperfect servant of my country. But I have been her servant first, last and always. Whenever I faced an important choice between my country’s interests or my own interests, party politics or any special interest, I chose my country. Nothing has ever mattered more to me than the honor of serving America, and nothing ever will. If you elect me President, I will always put our country first. I will put its greatness; its prosperity and peace; and the hopes and concerns of the people who make it great before any personal or partisan interest. We are going to start making this government work for you and not for the ambitions of the powerful. And I will keep that promise every hour of every day I am in office, so help me God.