Monday, November 5, 2007

McCain Articles 11/05/07

Watch Sen. John McCain On CNN’s “Late Edition” with Wolf Blitzer
Part 1
Part 2


On Halperin’s The Page: Wash Post-ABC Poll Shows Jump For McCain

Ariz. Sen. moves up one year before election.

GOP: Giuliani 33, McCain 19, Thompson 16, Romney 11, Huckabee 9
Dems: Clinton 49, Obama 26, Edwards 12

Read full results on Bush, Iraq, Congress, national mood here.


Time’s Real Clear Politics Blog: McCain Plays Foreign Policy Experience Card

By Reid Wilson

Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are eager to point out that they have the experience necessary to run for president. Both point out that leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama have not run a city, a state, or anything bigger than their Senate offices. And while both will not say so, they are indicting rivals John McCain and Fred Thompson with the same charge.

The argument may work for Thompson; he spent just eight years in the Senate and three years as a federal prosecutor. But McCain has spent the better part of thirty years in the Senate and House, serves as the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and has merited pundits floating his name for Secretary of Defense. In short, by any measure, no Republican candidate running for president has the foreign policy experience and credentials McCain boasts.

Watch any GOP debate and that experience gap becomes obvious. McCain "does not suffer fools lightly," said Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker. "He's experiencing a lot of frustration with the other Republicans when it comes to talking about Iraq." McCain's frustration portrays him as the only candidate who has finished the book, and who knows the ending; Giuliani and Romney are halfway through and forecasting an ending.

Other candidates, said Baker, "would just as soon not mention [Iraq], while [McCain] is much more committed to a military solution." McCain is willing, if not eager, to make Iraq the central issue to his campaign. "It's the issue around which, if we fail in Iraq, we fail every place else in the Middle East," McCain told Real Clear Politics. It's all the more important to the former Navy airman "because young Americans are in harm's way," he said.

After a summer in which McCain's campaign was rocked by internal turmoil, the senator saw his poll position improve as focus shifted back to Iraq in September. Many believed his association with the war in Iraq was the cause of that uptick, as he is the Republican who most credibly talks about the issue.

That credibility is something McCain plays up, primarily because he has long been critical of the war's execution. "I'm the only candidate who has enough knowledge and depth to have fought against the Rumsfeld strategy," he says, "even when other Republicans were accusing me" of disloyalty.

"He lives and dies on the, 'I'm more truthful,' and 'I've been there and done that,'" said Wake Forest University political communications expert Allan Louden. "McCain's not supporting [President] Bush, even as he is." McCain's support for the surge in Iraq is "laced with heavy criticisms," he said. To Republican voters tired of the war's mismanagement, "there is an appeal to that."

Contrast McCain's image on the war in Iraq with that of Romney, Giuliani or Thompson and McCain comes out ahead. Thompson, said Louden, seems inexperienced on foreign policy. Romney appears too slick and falsly optimistic. And Giuliani's emphasis on terrorism through the prism of September 11th is "one-note."

McCain's depth of knowledge and experience, from his time as a military man and in Congress, fosters a much stronger image. He takes issue with other candidates' lack of experience, most notably Romney's. "I'm frankly very encouraged by the events of the last seven or eight months," McCain says, speaking of the troop surge. "Governor Romney said, 'Apparently it's working.' It is working!"

Despite the bounce McCain received in September, he remains far behind front-runners in state and national polls. But, thanks to his prime target, Romney, McCain may have an opportunity to climb back into the race. Romney's big spending in Iowa has scared Giuliani into barely competing in the Hawkeye State, preferring instead to make his stand in much friendlier New Hampshire. Thompson has yet to make his presence felt in Iowa either.

Those absences leave a big void that McCain hopes to fill. His camp recently sent two mailings to Iowa caucus-goers, followed by automated telephone calls with a recorded message from McCain himself. "We're trying to compete everywhere," McCain said. "We recognize how important particularly the three early states are." McCain's Iowa state director, Jon Seaton, said he expects a "fairly aggressive" mail program to continue through the caucuses.

McCain would have a difficult time outpacing Romney in Iowa, but he might not have to. By simply placing second in a state many assume is impossibly hostile to him, McCain could benefit from a big boost going into his real target, New Hampshire. And while Romney and Giuliani are contesting the first primary state, McCain still sees the enthusiasm for his candidacy that existed in 2000. "I knew, on a Friday night when there was a Red Sox game in the [American League Championship] Series, and we still had a big turnout, that we were doing pretty well."

It also helps, in some ways, that Romney and Giuliani are aiming more at each other in New Hampshire. "Conventional wisdom, [McCain] has no chance," said Louden. But if Romney and Giuliani begin attacking each other, "he'll be what's left over." After this summer, "you'd think this collapse [of the campaign] will keep collapsing, but that hasn't happened."

Thanks to the war in Iraq, McCain is sticking around, and has even made something of a comeback. The campaign recognizes the success, and judging from McCain's attitude, he will continue, and likely sharpen, the distinctions. "I think I'm the most experienced and qualified, but I certainly respect the others," McCain told Real Clear Politics. "They just don't have the experience."


Associated Press: McCain Takes Rivals To Task For Lack Of Military Experience

By Liz Sidoti

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) _ John McCain, a Vietnam war prisoner, argued Friday that his top rivals for the GOP nomination aren't qualified to deal with issues like torture _ or to be president in wartime _ because they never served in the military.

The Arizona senator's position on an interrogation technique that simulates drowning _ he says it constitutes torture and is illegal _ puts him at odds with Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and Fred Thompson, who haven't taken such a hard line.

''There's a clear division between those who have a military background and experience in these issues and people like Giuliani, Romney and Thompson who don't _ who chose to do other things when this nation was fighting its wars,'' McCain told reporters after touring a shipyard in this military bastion.

He stood in a warehouse and focused on comments Giuliani made Thursday on CNBC. The former New York mayor said ''waterboarding'' should not be used in every circumstance, but he also left the door open to it.

''I'm very reluctant to take away presidential prerogatives and decision making, maybe because I've faced crisis more than the other ones have,'' said Giuliani, who was praised by many for his performance in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

McCain, a former Naval aviator who was tortured in his 5½ years in a North Vietnamese prison, responded: ''Mayor Giuliani just contradicted himself because anybody who has experience in warfare knows that waterboarding is by any definition torture and cannot be condoned. I do not know which crisis the mayor may have been talking about. My experience goes back to the Cuban missile crisis and every conflict we've been in since.''

Then, McCain broadened his broadside to also castigate Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Thompson, the former Tennessee senator, as well as Giuliani on Iraq. He argued they were ''nowhere to be seen when we were fighting a war with the wrong strategy.''

''I never saw Romney, Giuliani or Thompson say a word about it, except supporting what I clearly pointed out was a failed strategy,'' McCain added. He said he has called for more troops in Iraq since 2003 and saw President Bush embrace that proposal earlier this year. ''I don't think there's any greater indication of experience and knowledge of how wars should be fought and how crisis should be handled.''

All three campaigns dismissed the criticism.

Giuliani's spokeswoman, Maria Comella, said her boss has clearly stated that ''if we're going to defeat the terrorists then we must use aggressive questioning. And in those extraordinary circumstances, the president needs all options available to ensure the safety and security of Americans.''

Romney's spokesman, Kevin Madden, said the ex-governor is focused on the future and has the vision and experience to be president. Madden added: ''We will leave it to other campaigns to make the mistake of merely assigning blame about the past.''

Said Thompson spokeswoman, Karen Hanretty: ''We all respect Senator McCain's military service, however, there are many great Americans who have served this country and not worn its uniform.''

None of the three enlisted. Draft deferments kept Giuliani out of Vietnam while he attended law school and worked for a federal judge; he had twice been eligible for the draft. Romney received a draft deferment while serving as a missionary in France during the war. He was eligible for the draft later, but was not selected. Thompson, with a wife and child, was deferred from service.

McCain assailed his rivals on torture even as he defended his decision to vote for Michael Mukasey's nomination to be attorney general despite being troubled by the nominee's initial answers about waterboarding. McCain said was confident that Mukasey would not allow the method because of answers to written questions in which Mukasey said he did not believe that the president had the authority to violate existing law and that he believed waterboarding was ''a repugnant practice.''

On a three-day tour of this early-voting state, McCain visited Detyen's Shipyard, located on Dry Dock Avenue, and held a question-and-answer session with shipyard employees wearing hard hats and blue jeans as they took a midmorning work break.

He was in the state just as a new Winthrop University/ETV poll showed McCain's support having slipped in South Carolina since August. He's now at 9 percent, trailing Thompson, Giuliani and Romney who are tightly bunched in a fight for the lead.


Red State Blog: I'm Off The Fence And For McCain

By Charles Bird

This will be my only front-page post in support of a Republican candidate for the nomination. John McCain has little to no chance of getting nominated, but I'm supporting him anyway. My reasons are backing him are a combination of things, having to do with my agreement with him on key issues and for what I see as shortcomings in the other candidates. The slate of candidates is imperfect, so my rationale was to go with the least imperfect one. My three main criteria for picking a president in this election cycle are national security, the economy, and integrity. As I see it, McCain is the most solid of the candidates in those categories, so let me go through them.

More below the fold...

National security. McCain has been stronger than the other candidates on this issue, in my opinion. I believe he is the most right on Iraq and national security. He rightfully criticized Bush and Rumsfeld for undermanning the war effort in Iraq and for our failing strategy, going against most of the other Republican Senators in particular and Republicans in general. Now that we are seeing clearer signs of success via more troops and a more workable strategy, we should give McCain credit for speaking out. We should also recognize that it was Bush who came around to McCain, not the other way around.

I think McCain is also right on the matter of coercive interrogations. Waterboarding, to name one technique, is illegal and it is torture. I'm confident that these methods work, but they're morally wrong and we shouldn't be using them unless there is a ticking time-bomb situation. Less importantly, I don't know how much intelligence we've garnered through such coercion, but I would have a hard time believing that the intelligence benefits received have exceeded the political costs paid, both domestically and internationally. It's a problem. My take is that we can win this War Against Militant Islamism without lowering our standards.

McCain was prisoner of war in Vietnam, and he was tortured, so his opinion about the practice carries a lot of weight with me. What's more, to this day he feels the effects that his captors levied on him. From Vanity Fair:

Like his friend Bob Dole, he tries to minimize his disabilities, but they are serious. He suffered severe injuries when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam 40 years ago; his right knee was broken when his seat was ejected from the cockpit, and both arms were broken in the crash. These injuries were compounded by the profound abuse he endured during five and a half years in captivity.

McCain seldom talks about the details of his torture by the North Vietnamese, but he has written about them in clinical depth. Despite the injuries he had already suffered, upon capture he was promptly bayoneted in the ankle and then beaten senseless. The North Vietnamese never set either of his broken arms. The only treatment of his broken knee involved cutting all the ligaments and cartilage, so that he never had more than 5 to 10 percent flexion during the entire time he was in prison. In 1968 he was offered early release, and when he refused, because others had been there longer, his captors went at him again; he suffered cracked ribs, teeth broken off at the gum line, and torture with ropes that lashed his arms behind his back and that were progressively tightened all through the night. Ultimately he taped a coerced confession.

McCain's right knee still has limited flexibility. Most of the time this is not too noticeable, but McCain mounts the steps onto planes with a herky-jerky gait. A climb up dozens of steps at the New Hampshire International Speedway, in Loudon, leaves him badly winded and sweating profusely. Because his broken arms were allowed to heal without ever being properly set, to this day McCain cannot raise his arms above his shoulders. He cannot attend to his own hair. An aide is often nearby with a comb and small can of hair spray.

McCain has difficulty putting on his suit jacket unassisted. Once, as we prepared to get out of a cramped airplane cabin in Burlington, Vermont, where McCain would be greeted by the governor, I turned my back for a moment, only to find him struggling. He could sense that his collar was all bunched up, and asked me matter-of-factly to help him straighten it out. I felt the pang that those around McCain feel whenever they realize the extent of his injuries. "You comb someone's hair once," his 2000 communications director, Dan Schnur, says, "and you never forget it."

Personally, I don't we should ever forget the sacrifices he made for his country and the injuries he sustained in defending it. When a man has been in such circumstances and vehemently rejects those methods used against him, I think we should listen.

The economy. McCain has a solid record on fiscal restraint and freer trade, both of which are conservative positions. Mike Huckabee's tepid support of free trade agreements is why I can't support him, for example.

Integrity. McCain speaks his mind, and oft times it gets him in trouble. I strongly disapprove of McCain-Feingold, especially the gag order in the 60-day period prior to election day, but I think his intentions were in the right place. I wouldn't judge too harshly against McCain about the bill. After all, George W. Bush signed the damned legislation into law. McCain is conservative on social issues, but not boisterously so.

Why not the other candidates? Giuliani has public integrity, but I'm troubled by his personal integrity. I'd rather not have a president on his third marriage and I'd rather not have a president who personally donated money to Planned Parenthood. He made soothing noises about appointing conservative judges, but Giuliani is too left-leaning for my taste.

For Romney, I think he's weaker than McCain on national security. As for Fred Thompson, he's probably my number two choice. But last July, Thompson was bombarded with negative news stories and he barely answered any of the charges. For a media-familiar character, Thompson has not handled media situations well. Thompson has similar positions as McCain on national security, but McCain gets the nod because he has more experience.

Immigration. McCain turned off a good number of conservatives by his support of the immigration bill last summer (I was mildly in favor of it). McCain has said that he has learned his lesson and that he would support "enforcement first" provisions. I take him at his word, just as I take Giuliani at his word that he would appoint judges in mold of Roberts and Alito.

Gang of 14. Many conservatives were irked about the Gang of 14 (and still are), but I'm telling you, liberals hate it even more. The dKos crowd was neutralized by this agreement, and we have two new conservative judges on the bench today. The results speak for themselves.

McCain's drawbacks. If elected, he would be 73 on inauguration day. But hey, 73 is the new 63.

McCain's temper and temperament have been issues. In 2000, I sided with Bush because I thought he had a better temperament for the job than McCain. In retrospect, I think I overemphasized that attribute. Back then, I voted for Bush over McCain because Bush came across as the more conservative candidate. Boy, was I wrong. In the last seven years, the person who has clearly made more conservative choices was McCain, not Bush.

Anyway, I've been angry and irritated with McCain's various antics over the years, but I gave him a second look and found his positions on the important stuff more than acceptable. I think all other conservatives should take that second look as well.

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