McCain Talks to Bloggers, Focus is on Obama and National Security

BlogHer Original Post

John McCain held another in his series of question and answer calls with bloggers today and BlogHer was invited to join in (though I was unable to make it into the Q&A queue before time ran out).  The call came on the heels of his speech last night in Louisiana (video available at this link to Catherine Morgan at The Political Voices of Women and his media call this morning where, along with Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Representative Eric Cantor (R-VA) and his foreign policy and national security director Randy Scheunemann, McCain responded to Senator Barack Obama's earlier speech to  the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Today's blogger call confirmed that McCain is now campaigning against Obama and that national security and foreign policy will be key issues.

McCain began the call with a few remarks prior to the questions. First he congratulated Senator Hillary Clinton on her hard fought campaign which he said inspired women around the world. Then he said that it is obvious that Obama is the nominee of the "Democrat" party. And, just an aside here... I found it somewhat hypocritical that while claiming that he will run a respectful campaign, McCain chose to repeatedly and exclusively refer the the Democratic party using a rhetorical device developed by the petty, childish wing of the Republican party which is designed to belittle, diminish and slight Democrats.

Next McCain noted that he has sent Obama an invitation to engage in weekly town-hall debates for a total of ten.

"What a welcome change it would be were presidential candidates in our time to treat each other and the people they seek to lead with respect and courtesy as they discussed the great issues of the day, without the empty sound bites and media-filtered exchanges that dominate our elections," McCain said in a letter to Obama released by McCain's campaign.

Additionally, McCain has suggested that he and Obama fly together to the first debate:

McCain also suggested the two candidates fly together to the meetings, joking that that would save energy and money.

"I even suggested we travel to them together on the same plane, probably help out on energy savings," he said to applause from an audience in Baton Rouge.

Given his expenses and his fundraising that trails Obama's by a wide margin, he said: "I know my campaign would agree to it.

Both McCain and Obama have made fighting global warming and cutting down on foreign oil dependence key themes of their respective White House bids.

McCain concluded his opening remarks by stating that Obama continues to deny that the surge in Iraq has succeeded, that it is the 788th day since Obama has been to Iraq and that Obama has not made an inquiry to General Petraeus demonstrates Obama's lack of foreign policy judgment.

The first question asked came from Griff Jenkins of Fox News who asked if McCain would be willing to adapt his preferred town hall format to a longer speech format if Obama was unwilling to agree to McCain's invitation:

I think Americans probably, if you asked the majority of them, in long speeches (laughs) are not their favorite topic. so I think they want to participate. They want a great debate. I don't think they want to hear long speeches to tell you the truth - that's why I keep mine short.

Next, Dan Noike from the Arizona Republic asked what McCain would do to attempt to prevent outside groups from running race-based attack ads against Obama. McCain said he can't control 527's but that is "setting the agenda for the Democrat (sic) party" and then called on Obama to condem the MoveOn "General Betray Us" ad as he did not vote on the Congressional resolution which denounced the ad.

McCain was then asked about (unfortunately I don't have the blogger's name) about the tone of statements some conservatives have found offensive. The blogger claimed one statement compared immigration foes to supporters of Jim Crow laws and McCain denied that he had ever used such language, specifically a reference to Jim Crow. McCain wanted to engage further with the blogger but there seemingly were technical difficulties and they were unable to finish the discussion of this issue.

James Kirchick of the New Republic asked if McCain has a position on the just qualified November ballot initiative in California to amend the state constitution in order to overturn the recent legalization of gay marriage. McCain did not state a position on the specific initiative as he has not read it but noted that he supported a similar amendment in Arizona (though that amendment went further and also banned civil unions and domestic partnerships), that he supported the general goal of the California initiative, that he supported the "Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)" and that he believes states do not have to recognize the position of other states on this issue.

The final question came from Jennifer Rubin of Commentary Magazine who asked about Obama's AIPAC speech. McCain expressed the belief that Obama is changing his positions on Middle East policy and feels that the American people won't buy that. McCain also said that Obama's statements and changing positions show that he doesn't have the knowledge and judgment necessary to make foreign policy decisions. Also he claimed that Obama's position on the surge in Iraq further demonstrates his lack of readiness because no objective (emphasis McCain's) observer does not agree that the surge is working.

Additional Reading:

Lauren Williams at Stereohyped says Obama 1, McCain 0

That adviser on John McCain’s campaign staff who suggested that the Arizona senator might want to give a sleepy, uninspiring, ill-rehearsed, ungracious speech in front of an unenthusiastic crowd, all of whom needed a couple of shots of Lil Jon’s Crunk Juice, in a sparsely-populated Louisiana auditorium, on the very same night that Barack Obama, current gold medal champ of American political speech-making, was scheduled to give an acceptance speech before tens of thousands of people in a packed stadium in St. Paul, MN, the site of this year’s Republican National Convention? Yeah, that guy’s head is probably rolling right about now.

Of McCain's speech, Republican strategist Amy Holmes writes at the National Review

McCain's speech was creaky, ungracious, and unnecessary....

It would have been more statesmanlike — precisely the profile McCain is attempting to craft — to acknowledge this historic moment in American politics. A major party is on the cusp of selecting an African American to be their nominee for President of the United States. It's a tribute to America that we've come this far. It would have been magnanimous to leave it at that, and wait until tomorrow to declare with enthusiasm and relish, "It's on!"

Nancy Youssef, McClatchy news service Pentagon correspondent, writing at the group blog "Nukes & Spooks" says "Now that it appears the presidential race will be between Democratic Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, it seemed only fitting to begin comparing their stands on key military issues."

Iraq is constantly changing, and it seems to me that those running for president should keep up with those changes as they enter the general election. The Iraq they talk about in the months ahead will likely be very different from the one the next president will ultimately inherit. Iraq gets more complicated with each passing day. Now is as good a time as any for Obama and McCain to adjust accordingly.

Corinne Ramey asks "Where's McCain on Climate Change?"

Veronica Villafañe of Media Moves notes that McCain is courting Latino voters by making his first general election radio ads in Spanish.

Jeanne Sahadi of CNN Money says "Game on: McCain v. Obama on economy" (Hat Tip: Economist Mom)

Note: I will update with a link to the audio of today's call when it is available.

BlogHer CE Maria Niles blogs her personal politics at PopConsumer


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