Senator John McCain just completed another conference call with bloggers.
McCain begins by going over the highlights of this week’s tour, “traveling to places that, to say the least, have not been part of American dream and have not been able to participate in that dream and home ownership, to get a good education, to partake of economic prosperity.”
McCain says the nation has learned a lot since the last time presidential candidates visited these places (LBJ in some cases), about the benefits of “local government, local decisions, and local control,” and how they are “more effective than large federal bureaucracies.”
He notes that yesterday that he walked a New Orleans ward with Bobby Jindal, visited went to Xavier College, which was back in operation just four and a half months.
Regarding the ongoing debate about the economy, my message to Americans is, ‘if they want their taxes raised, and if they think that’s best for the country, then I’m not their guy,’” McCain said. “We’ve strayed from those principles that Ronald Reagan had, and among those principles is controlling spending. Spending is the problem in Washington, not the lack of revenues… Earmarks have increased 940 percent in the past ten years… Last year there were 10,000 earmarks, totaling $42 billion. There are those who say you can’t do it, that the status quo has to be maintained, but I believe we can do it.”
“And we know that economic growth increases revenues. I can make an irrefutable case for situations like the capital gains tax — when you cut them, revenues increase… Senator Obama wants to increase capital gains tax, he wants to raise cap on Social Security taxes. We’ll have a very vigorous debate over this. I would say anybody who wants to raise taxes during hard times is lacking in understanding of economics and out of touch with the circumstances of the American people.”
“My suggestion for a little break in the gas tax has been greeted by special interests as the end of western civilization as we know it… I thought, ‘why don’t we give ‘em a break for the summer?’ And we can suspend the filling of the strategic petroleum reserves. I don’t pretend that solves the problem entirely, but it’s a start.”
Q: There’s new audio out of Ayers speaking recently. What obligation does Obama have to talk about former and current radicals?
McCain: I’m a bit surprised there hasn’t been more discussion of his comparison of an unrepentant terrorist – and that’s what Mr Ayers is — and a great American citizen who goes back to Oklahoma on weekends and delivers babies. He’s a man who brings life while Ayers was involved with an organization that was dedicated to taking innocent life… I’m offended by the comparison. A man like Tom Coburn he may be a lot of things to liberals, but he’s not comparable to a man who who brags about his association with an organization like that, who was underground for ten years, who is unrepentant. I mean, there were people killed by the Weathermen organization… Perhaps [Senator Obama] can make some argument that Ayers made some contribution to society since then, but this organization was a terrorist organization by any description [I think he meant ‘definition’] and Americans and the media are right to ask questions.
Michael Goldfarb asks about the North Carolina ad.
“It’s just not the tenor of the kind of campaign I want to run. I understand the discussion of Rev. Wright, and he has brought this up by doing media appearances, but there are differences that are made… There are many differences between our parties and differences between myself and Senator Obama, and I want this race to be about those differences.
McCain mentions Cunningham, and how that too wasn’t in keeping with the kind of campaign he wants to run.
Q: Competing hard in California? Strategy for that?
“I intend to compete in California. I’m a western senator. I understand the issues in a state like that– land, water, the environment. I’m going to travel the state extensively. It cannot be written off again. Gov. Schwarzenegger has proven that as a Republican, even if you have different views, you can win that state.”
Q: Your thoughts on Maliki’s operations in Basra.
McCain notes that Maliki went down there himself. “They had setbacks and had desertions, and we had to provide support. But in last several days, with limited American support, the Iraqi army has taken over whole city of Basra. [Maliki’s] actions seem to have united the government more… The entire Iraqi government said that any group that bears arms against government — and that’s basically Sadr and his army — will not be allowed to partake in next elections… I’m rather pleased. This incident exposed some weaknesses, but they sent a new general and established government control.”
I asked a follow-up on the North Carolina ad, asking the senator whether his position was that voters could take Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright into account in their voting decision, but that he didn’t feel it was an appropriate issue to run ads on.
McCain: Voters can take into account any issue they feel Is relevant to themselves; I certainly have no control over that. But I have my agenda, and I think this ad is offensive to some and I would like it taken down. I want the best kind of campaign and most positive kind of campaign.
McCain reiterated that he can’t control the N.C. GOP, but he can ask them to take it down.
Jen Rubin asks about Hamas’ recent comments about Obama.
McCain: I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare… I would never expect for the leader of Hamas in North America to say he wants me to be the leader of the United States. Obama has agreed to have face-to-face meetings with Ahmedineiad, and he’s threatened to wipe Israel off the map. Iran is increasing export of explosives to Iraq… If Senator Obama is favored by Hamas, people can make judgments accordingly.
Q: Obama refuses to do a debate before North Carolina votes. Could you do a joint appearance with Senator Clinton?
McCain: No, I just don’t think you can do it before the Democratic nominee is selected in their primary. It would appear I am favoring one over the other. The Democratic Party is going through that process. We’re still a long way to November the fourth.
Then McCain said he was off to Little Rock, where he’ll appear at Arkansas Baptist College with Mike Huckabee, describing the school as “the only historically black Baptist college west of the Mississippi River.”