John McCain said today that he will use his "It's Time For Action" tour this week to listen to the American people, even those who may not be inclined to vote for him.
McCain: "I am going to listen to and learn from them about what government is doing to help their efforts and what it does to hinder them" (Jackson, USAToday.com, 4/21). More: "There must be no forgotten places in America, whether they have been ignored for long years by the sins of indifference and injustice, or have been left behind as the world grew smaller and more economically interdependent."
Speaking near the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL, McCain "recalled the bloody beatings of civil rights marchers" on the bridge in '65. He "described in vivid detail the clubbing that fractured the skull" of now-Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and "said he never saw greater courage than Lewis and the marchers showed that day." McCain: "In America, we have always believed that if the day was a disappointment, we would win tomorrow. That's what John Lewis believed when he marched across this bridge."
The crowd of about 100 people this a.m. "was mostly white, although, as the campaign noted, Selma's population is 70 percent black." McCain, asked about the make-up of the crowd: "I am aware the African American vote has been very small in favor of the Republican Party. I am aware of the challenges, and I am aware of the fact that there will be many people who will not vote for me, but I'm going to be the president of all the people" (Quaid, AP, 4/21).
Meanwhile, McCain kicked off his "It's Time For Action" tour last night in Selma, "at a southern-style dinner amongst the exclusive Tuesday Group." According to McCain staff, the Tuesday Group is a "strictly social, racially mixed" group of 34 men that gather once a month for dinner with "the idea that people who are friends are less likely to elevate any political or racial tensions that may arise" (Aigner-Treworgy, NBC/National Journal, 4/20).
Also on this week's "It's Time For Action" tour:
• Today, McCain is scheduled to visit Gee's Bend, AL, where he will "visit a community center where meals are provided for senior residents of Gee's Bend and the Gee's Bend Quilters gather to work." Later, he will be in Thomasville, AL, where he will "drive by the Thomasville Elementary School, drop-by the Thomasville High School and Middle School Assembly, and give remarks at Alabama Southern Community College" (release, 4/21).
• On 4/22, McCain will be in Youngstown, OH, where he will have a town hall meeting at Youngstown State Univ. (release, 4/20). OH Dems plan to "greet" McCain with a broadcast ad before he campaigns in the state on 4/22. OH Dem chair Chris Redfern and Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) will unveil the ad today Hershey, Dayton Daily News blog, 4/18).
• And on 4/23, McCain will hold a town hall meeting at the Old Martin Co. Courthouse in Inez, KY (release, 4/20).
Roll Of Thunder, Hear My Cry
Over the weekend, Washington Post's Leahy wrote a 3,821-word front-page article about McCain's "temperament." Some highlights:
• Since the beginning of McCain's public life, "the many witnesses to his temper have had strikingly different reactions to it." Some depict McCain "as an erratic hothead incapable of staying cool in the face of what he views as either disloyalty to him or irrational opposition to his ideas. Others praise a firebrand who is resolute against the forces of greed and gutlessness." Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT): "Does he get angry? Yes. ... But it's never been enough to blur his judgment. ... If anything, his passion and occasional bursts of anger have made him more effective."
• Ex-Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH): "His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, it should disqualify him."
• Mark Salter, who has co-written five books with McCain that, "among other things, explore the origins of his feistiness, said he thinks McCain's temper first became an issue after an incident" in '89, during McCain's first term in the Senate. The nomination of a beleaguered John Tower to become defense sec. was already in trouble when Sen. Richard Shelby (then-D-AL) "helped doom it by voting against Tower. A furious McCain, believing that Shelby had reneged on a commitment of support, accosted him, got within an inch of his nose and screamed at him. News of the incident swiftly spread around the Capitol."
• "Part of the paradox of McCain is that many of the old targets of his volcanic temper are now his campaign contributors."
• "While in the course of a policy disagreement at a luncheon meeting of Republican senators, McCain reportedly insulted" Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM) "with an earthy expletive. Domenici demanded an apology. 'Okay, I'll apologize,' McCain said, before referring to an infuriated Domenici with the same expletive."
• Salter "insists that many of McCain's run-ins with colleagues and activists have resulted from McCain's conviction that his honor in some way has been questioned." Salter: "If he feels a challenge to his integrity, then he'll say something. If he thinks you betrayed him ... he'll tell you, he'll be angry. ... But he's also exceedingly forgiving."
• In '86, the AZ GOP "held its Election Night celebration for all its candidates at a Phoenix hotel, where the triumphant basked in the cheers of their supporters and delivered victory statements on television. After McCain finished his speech, he returned to a suite in the hotel, sat down in front of a TV and viewed a replay of his remarks, angry to discover that the speaking platform had not been erected high enough for television cameras to capture all of his face -- he seemed to have been cut off somewhere between his nose and mouth." McCain "left the suite and went looking for a man in his early 20s named Robert Wexler, the head of Arizona's Young Republicans, which had helped make arrangements for the evening's celebration. Confronting Wexler in a hotel ballroom, McCain exploded, according to witnesses who included" AZ GOP exec. dir. Jon Hinz. McCain "jabbed an index finger in Wexler's chest. 'I told you we needed a stage,' he screamed, according to Hinz. 'You incompetent little [expletive]. When I tell you to do something, you do it.'"
• However, "historians are generally ambivalent over whether hot-tempered leaders have fared any worse than the placid. Harry S. Truman once threatened bodily harm in a letter to a reviewer who wrote disparagingly about the musical talents of his daughter. Richard M. Nixon ranted, and so did Bill Clinton. George Stephanopoulos once described Clinton's 'purple rages,' which left Stephanopoulos, often the subject of Clinton's private lashings, so shaken that he broke out in hives, sunk into depression and began taking an antidepressant" (4/20).
• Meanwhile, Salter wrote in to NationalReview.com's "The Corner," and said of the Washington Post article: "If one half of it were true, it would give me pause. As it happens, the piece is 99% fiction. Leahy is a nice guy, but the story was one of the more dishonest I've read in a while" (4/20).
McCain, on ex-Sen. Smith saying his temper would place the U.S. at risk in int'l affairs: "Yes, I served with him, and had significant differences on several issues. ... The point is that I feel passionately about issues. I work across the aisle. I've been successful in getting legislation done. ... Do I get angry from time to time, when I'm investigating Mr. Abramoff and find out they ripped off Indian tribes? When I see bridges to nowhere? And you know what, the American people are angry, too. They want change. They want action. And they're fed up and they're angry with the way things have been going here in Washington."
Asked if he can assure voters his temper is under control: "Look at my record. Look at my conduct on the campaign. ... I am very happy to be a passionate man. ... One thing I've learned over time is that stories get better and better over time."
Cokie Roberts: "The temperament thing will keep coming up because there are lots of people with stories. But, as he says, they're old stories. ... But age is an issue, and voters are saying it" ("This Week," ABC, 4/20).
You Don't Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Wind Blows
In his appearance on "This Week" on 4/20, McCain "highlighted" Barack Obama's affiliation with Weather Undergrounder Bill Ayers -- "the latest indication that the general election campaign is likely to see a heavy dose of cultural politics."
In the interview, McCain questioned why Obama had compared Ayers to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), a McCain backer "who has said he supports the death penalty for abortion providers" (Eilperin, Washington Post, 4/21).
McCain, asked if he has any doubt that Obama shares his sense of patriotism: "I'm sure he's very patriotic. But his relationship with Mr. Ayers is open to question. ... Because if you're going to associate and have as a friend and serve on a board and have a guy kick off your campaign that says he's unrepentant, that he wished bombed more -- and then, the worst thing of all, that, I think, really indicates Senator Obama's attitude, is he had the incredible statement that he compared Mr. Ayers, an unrepentant terrorist, with Senator Tom Coburn ... a physician who goes to Oklahoma on the weekends and brings babies into life. ... It's very insulting to a great man, a great doctor, a great humanitarian, to compare to him with a guy who says, after 2001, I wish we had bombed more."
ABC's Stephanopoulos: "You say he should condemn these comments. ... A lot of Senator Obama's allies and others say that you should condemn the comments of Reverend John Hagee."
McCain: "Oh, I do. And I did. I said, any comments that he made about the Catholic church I strongly condemn, of course."
Asked if he no longer wants Hagee's endorsement: "I'm glad to have his endorsement. I condemn remarks that are, in any way, viewed as anti-anything. But thanks for asking" ("This Week," ABC, 4/20).
Obama spokesperson Bill Burton responded to McCain's interview, saying: "Unable to sell his out-of-touch ideas on the economy and Iraq, John McCain has stooped to the same smear politics and low road that he denounced in 2000. The American people can't afford a third term of President Bush's failed policies and divisive tactics" (release, 4/20).
Raise The Roof
McCain also said 4/20 that cutting taxes and stimulating the economy are more important than balancing the budget, and accused Hillary Clinton and Obama of supporting tax increases that would worsen the impact of a recession (Yen, AP, 4/21).
On the economy: "The worst thing you can do is raise taxes. Both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama want to raise taxes. That's out of touch. ... [Obama] obviously doesn't understand the economy, because history shows every time you have cut capital gains taxes, revenues have increased, going back to Jack Kennedy. So out of touch? Yes, they are out of touch when they want to raise taxes at the worst possible time, when we're in a recession."
On whether he'll be able to balance the budget in his first term: "Well, that still should be a goal, but the goal right now is to get the economy going again" ("This Week," ABC, 4/20).
Hit Me With Your Best Cheap Shot
Also during the "somewhat testy interview," McCain said that Elizabeth Edwards took a "cheap shot" at him by claiming that he had gov't healthcare his whole life (Cusack/Marre, TheHill.com, 4/20).
McCain, on E. Edwards saying he has had gov't health care his entire life: "It's a cheap shot, but I did have a period of time where I didn't have very good government health care. I had it from another government. ... The difference, again, between myself and the Democrats, and with all due respect, Mrs. Edwards, I want the families to make the choices. They want the government to make the choices. That's a fundamental difference, and we will continue to debate that issue."
McCain, asked what is wrong with gov't-run health care: "What's wrong with it? Go to Canada. Go to England and you can find out what's wrong with it. Governments don't make the right decisions. Families make the right decisions" ("This Week," ABC, 4/20).
Isn't That Cute?
The pickup in McCain's fundraising was made official 4/20 when his camp reported that it had $11.6M CoH at the end of Mar. after raising $15M that month.
In FEC filings, the camp reported that it had begun the month with $8M CoH, raised a total of $15.4M, spent $11.8M, and ended the month with $3.6M more CoH than it started with. And "even though" McCain "remains far behind" Obama and Clinton in overall fundraising, "his financial picture is changing from that of a scrappy and poorly financed underdog to a standard bearer who political success is translating into financial success" (Wayne, "The Caucus," NYTimes.com, 4/20).
The Sixth Sense
An examination of a list, released 4/18, of 106 elite McCain fundraisers who have brought in more than $100K each "found that about a sixth of them were lobbyists."
The "sizable number of lobbyists, who are outnumbered on the list only by those working in the financial services industry, offers another example of the balancing act" that McCain "is having to strike as he campaigns for the presidency and seeks to maintain his reputation as a reformer" (Luo/Wheaton, New York Times, 4/21).
Meanwhile, among the names on the list of bundlers that "stood out":
• Ex-Fred Thompson backer/ex-Sen. Alfonse D'Amato (R-NY), who has "clearly taken to raising money for McCain with gusto."
• Lew Eisenberg, who "has long been one of the top money men in the party and his backing of McCain is sure to continue to pay dividends -- literally."
• Bobbie Kilberg, who "has strong ties to the Bush family, having served in several positions during the entirety" of George H.W. Bush's term (Cillizza, "The Fix," WashingtonPost.com, 4/18).
I Can't Believe It's Not Better
The "cash-strapped" DNC "is taking to the airwaves to go after" McCain (Blake, TheHill.com, 4/20). The TV ad, "Better Off?", will begin airing on nat'l cable nets beginning on 4/22.
The ad features McCain explaining "that despite the stark reality to the contrary, he thinks we 'overall are better off' than we were eight years ago." The ad closes with the question: "Do you feel better off?" And in addition to airing on nat'l cable, the ad will be used at organizing events across the country as the DNC "launches its field effort and rolls out its new Neighborhood Volunteer organizing tool" (release, 4/20).
Meanwhile, in the Dems' weekly radio address on 4/19, DNC Chair Howard Dean said McCain doesn't have an effective plan to turn around the faltering U.S. economy. Dean "As I listened to Senator John McCain's remarks about the economy this week, I heard more of the same Republican policies that George Bush has brought us for the last eight years ... privatizing Social Security, denying our children health care, adding $8 trillion in new deficits, no plan to turn our economy around or help people keep their homes" (AP, 4/19).
Money, It's A Gas
McCain economic adviser Carly Fiorina was on "Late Edition" on 4/20.
Fiorina, on Obama's criticism of McCain's assertion that the U.S. has made economic progress in the past seven years: "Senator Obama has told us, for months, that words matter, and I agree with him. And his words in this regard are reckless, just as they were reckless when he was misquoting Senator McCain on Iraq. So I think it would be best if we would actually argue about the facts of John McCain's plan. John McCain has been very clear that American taxpayers and homeowners are hurting. And he has laid out a very specific set of plans to help hard-working Americans in the here and now."
More: "By the way, Senator Obama has referenced these same facts in other remarks that he's made -- the facts are that, over the past seven years, over 7 million jobs were created. We have lost jobs in the last several months, although not all 7 million. But what he was trying to convey was, yes, there have been jobs created, but now the economy is clearly losing steam; we may well be in a recession. John McCain has said, over and over again, that the technical definition of a recession doesn't really matter very much if you're a hard-working taxpayer whose gas prices are going up and whose home mortgage is now unaffordable" (CNN, 4/20).
Meanwhile, the discussion of McCain's economic proposals continued over the weekend:
• Chicago Sun-Times' Huntley writes, McCain "offers a pro-growth agenda in contrast to the simple-minded roll-back-the-Bush-tax-cuts and anti-free-trade mantra" of the Dems (4/18).
• Washington Post editorializes, "with one significant exception, the essence" of McCain's speech on economic policy "could be summed up as, 'Let's just get me elected, and then we can talk seriously.'" McCain "deserves credit for an element that is minor, as far as dollar amounts go, but still politically risky: his proposal to require wealthier seniors to pay higher premiums for prescription drug coverage." But "at the other end of the spectrum of responsibility" was McCain's proposal for a summer gas tax holiday -- "the kind of pandering to voters" that McCain "prides himself on avoiding" (4/21).
• Detroit News' Harrop writes, McCain's economic policy address "needed a captain. It pitches toward McCainian conservatism, then rolls on deficits, then yaws with a flaky proposal to suspend the federal gasoline tax for the summer. Cheaper gas is bad for the environment and national security. Besides, the tax goes for roads. Are we going to stop paying for that, too?" (4/20).
• New York Times editorializes, McCain "has admitted that he does not know a lot about economics. But he should have no trouble recognizing political pandering, which is the only explanation for many of his proposals. To be taken seriously, he needs to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan that shows how he would govern without adding to the fiscal damage of the past eight years" (4/20).
• Arizona Star editorializes, McCain "has famously remarked that economics is not his strong suit, and certainly he proved it last week with his proposal to suspend the 18.4 cent-per-gallon federal gas tax and 24.4 cent-per-gallon federal tax on diesel fuel from Memorial Day to Labor Day" (4/21).
Everybody Get Together, Try To Love One Another Right Now
Politico's Kuhn notes, although McCain's candidacy "is still viewed with suspicion by many conservative leaders, polling suggests he has overcome the concerns of rank-and-file conservatives." McCain "isn't viewed more unfavorably by conservative voters today" than Bush was at this point in the '00 election cycle.
In the latest CBS News/New York Times poll, 18% of conservatives said they have an unfavorable view of McCain. The same percentage expressed an unfavorable view of Bush in CBS News polls conducted in Mar. and Apr. of '00; higher percentages of conservatives held unfavorable views of ex-Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) and Bush 41 at similar points in '96 and '88, respectively (4/21).
Friend? Isn't That Stretching It A Bit?
Ex-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "I've disagreed with" McCain "on immigration, global warming and federal protection of marriage. I've taken strong exception to his view that the federal government should fund embryonic stem-cell research.
But disagreement on such issues is one of the reasons we have presidential primaries -- so each party's voters can sort out the issues and personalities and choose the candidate who best reflects their collective view." GOPers "have done that. Now the question for conservatives is whether McCain fits the Reagan Axiom that someone you agree with on 80 percent of the issues is your friend, not your enemy." Given his opponent, McCain "is close enough to 80 percent for government work. That is why I am going to vote for my friend -- John McCain" (4/21).
And, Of Course, Chuck Hagel
"Friends" of Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) "say there is no chance he will endorse" a Dem for POTUS this year. "That doesn't mean, however, that Hagel necessarily will back" McCain. "That could depend on whether McCain devises an Iraq exit strategy." Meanwhile, Hagel and McCain "have been spotted conferring on two recent occasions" (Novak, New York Post, 4/19).
Yet Another Silver Medal
Mitt Romney, who "overwhelmingly won" the NV GOP caucuses, will appear on behalf of McCain at the 4/26 NV GOP convo, sources confirmed 4/18 (Ball, Las Vegas Review-Journal, 4/19).
So, You Hate The Pope Then?
Dean challenged McCain 4/18 to denounce Tom Tancredo's criticism of Pope Benedict XVI.
Speaking at the Nat'l Prayer Breakfast in DC, Dean "lambasted Tancredo and pushed the divisive immigration issue back into presidential politics." Dean: "After years of failing to address immigration reform, the Republican Party has instead used the issue to scapegoat people to win elections. ... If McCain believes, as he has said, that 'these are God's children,' he should not stand by silently as Tancredo or anyone else in the Republican Party continues using immigrants as scapegoats or playing politics with immigration legislation" (Mulkern, Denver Post, 4/19).
That's Me In The Spotlight, Losing My Religion
A coalition of U.S. Muslim groups is demanding that McCain stop using the adjective "Islamic" to describe terrorists and extremist enemies of the United States.
Islamic Society of North America pres. Muneer Fareed: "We've tried to contact his office, contact his spokesperson to have them rethink word usage that is more acceptable to the Muslim community." McCain adviser Steve Schmidt, however, said the use of the word is appropriate. Schmidt: "Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda represent a perverted strain of Islam at odds with the great many peaceful Muslims who practice their great faith peacefully. But the reality is, the hateful ideology which underpins bin Ladenism is properly described as radical Islamic extremism" (Scarborough, Washington Times, 4/21).
Meanwhile, as he campaigns "with the weight of a deeply unpopular war on his shoulders," McCain "frequently uses the shorthand 'Al Qaeda' to describe the enemy in Iraq." However, "critics say that in framing the war that way at rallies or in sound bites," McCain "is oversimplifying the hydra-headed nature of the insurgency in Iraq in a way that exploits the emotions that have been aroused by the name 'Al Qaeda' since" the 9/11 attacks (Cooper/Rohter, New York Times, 4/19).
The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
"Only weeks after laying out his full foreign policy agenda," McCain "has begun scaling back" his proposal for a "league of democracies," which had been "greeted with alarm by some" GOP supporters and "wariness by important U.S. allies."
McCain "first proposed a league of democracies last year, describing a formal organization that could use military force as well as economic and diplomatic pressure." Now, however, McCain "says the group would not use military force, and would be an informal organization in which democratic nations come together in different groupings, depending on their concerns." Schmidt, however, "said in an interview last week that the candidate's concept had not changed" (Richter, Los Angeles Times, 4/21).
Today, He Becomes A Man
"For the first time" as a WH candidate this cycle, McCain "is traveling with Secret Service." He is not covered by "a full detail on his 'Time for Action' tour," but there are a few members of his eventual detail who will be traveling with him for an indefinite amount of time before the full detail begins (Aigner-Treworgy, NBC/National Journal, 4/21).
A Room With "The View"
Cindy McCain was a guest host on "The View" this a.m.
C. McCain, on her nickname for J. McCain: "Johnny Boy."
Joy Behar: "I wish I knew that when he was here."
C. McCain, on the battle for the Dem nod: "From the McCain standpoint, we hope it goes all the way to the Democratic convention."
On the recipe controversy: "They had been posted by an intern from our campaign. ... I really don't how that happened, how they got up there. Nevertheless, they were up there. The intern is now, I'm happy to say, at the Betty Crocker bootcamp."
C. McCain also announced that she has started writing a memoir (ABC, 4/21).
In other C. McCain news:
• Newsweek's Zakaria, on the McCain camp not releasing C. McCain's tax returns: "It's potentially a big deal. I don't know that we've ever had a president before who had a prenuptial agreement in his current marriage. I think people will find that interesting. ... I think there will be some pressure in the general election for him to release more. But there's nothing we know or even suspect that I think causes the kind of conflict of interest that people are worried about, say, with President Clinton and his dealings" ("Late Edition," CNN, 4/20).
• In the latest profile of Cindy McCain, Arizona Republic's Gonzalez writes, her "extensive charity work has been largely overlooked." "Friends and others who have traveled with" C. McCain "on mission trips say her commitment to humanitarian work is one of her most defining characteristics. They also expect that to become a major part of her work as first lady." Operation Smile development dir. Vonnie Wray: "The thing that differentiates Cindy and why I think she will make an excellent first lady is that she has this true connection with the underserved" (4/20).
This article appears in the April 21, 2008 edition of Latest Edition.