A Write Up Of John McCain’s Blogger Teleconference

Last week, I wrote my contact with the McCain campaign and asked for an interview, something I have been doing on and off for months. I always give them the old “Sure I’m a harsh critic of the guy, but I’ll be fair, too” line, which incidentally, is true. I am not a big fan of Crossfire style interviews. I always want to pick people’s brains and see what they really think instead of causing them to clam up by going after them too hard.

This time around, after hyping up a few pro-McCain articles I have written, I still didn’t get an interview…but, for the first time ever, my contact invited me to a teleconference today.

At the teleconference, I put in for a question early (It’s an automated system) and I still was never allowed to ask it. I suspect they deliberately spiked it out of fear of what I might ask Johnny Mac (Yes, they are aware I am the guy who wrote The Conservative Case Against John McCain In 2008. For the record, here’s the question I was going to pitch him,

“Mr. McCain, you’re said many times on the campaign trail in recent months that you thought the voters sent a strong message to Washington last year that they wanted security first, before any sort of path to citizenship on illegal immigration, and that you had heard that message. So, can the voters count on you to oppose any bill, with any sort of path to legalization in it, before our Southern border is secure?”

Alas, as I said, I never got the opportunity to ask that question. Yet and still, here’s the write-up of the teleconference. Keep in mind that this is notes, not quotes.

Opening Statement

There was an attack on our embassy in Belgrade. Kosovo has been a problem for a long time. Despite this outbreak of violence by drunken hooligans, it’s clear that Kosovo will be independent and I hope tensions will relax as the Serbs realize it’s inevitable. Putin hasn’t been helpful at all.

Anyway, I was not surprised by the statement by Senator Obama that he would talk with Raul Castro. Raul Castro is a horrible guy. We should make it very clear that we will talk with anybody — after they have made changes to help the country be free. Meeting with him helps legitimize him.

The Q&A Session

Q: Rick Renzi was indicted. Thoughts? Evan Mecham also died today. Thoughts?

I don’t know the details with Renzi. I believe Renzi deserves to be considered innocent until proven guilty, but I have faith that our criminal justice system will make the right decision. I extend sympathy to the friends and families of Evan Mecham.

Are the Democrats so invested in their defeat in the war that they would deny their country a victory after the situation has changed?

I am disappointed, but not surprised that Clinton and Obama aren’t keeping up with reality in Iraq. Their statements are almost Orwellian. They don’t need to apologize for being wrong about Iraq, but they should admit they were wrong. We need to win and bring our troops home with honor.

Let’s turn to the electoral college map. Give us one state that you think we could be competitive in that we haven’t been able to compete in before and one we might have a really tough time competing in?

It’s a little early for that, but we have to compete in every state. I can be extremely competitive in California. I think I can appeal to Independents there. I think New Mexico is going to be difficult. I think we can win in New York State and New Jersey. I think we need to go to places we haven’t gone to previously.

The New York Times got a lot of conservatives rallying to your defense. Do you think you benefitted from it?

I don’t know. I have been on the road all day and I have to move on from this issue. We made our case yesterday, and we’re going to leave it at that and go on.

Now that John Shadegg has decided to stay in Congress, what are your thoughts on that?

I urged him to change his mind and run for Congress again and I am glad that he chose to do that. He’s a leader and we need him in Congress.

What do you think of the Hawaiian bill?

I believe that first of all, fundamentally, Hawaiian citizens should make decisions about what happens in their state because I am a Federalist. But, this issue was settled when Hawaii joined the union. Native Hawaiians are not extended the same privileges as Indians, and it should remain that way. I would be concerned if it gave Native Hawaiians a different status.

On Kosovo, should we be recognizing their secessionist claims? Shouldn’t we be a little worried about this?

I think it’s a situation unique to Kosovo. The Albanians were persecuted by Milosevic. I think the tensions are so high there that it would be very hard for them to reconcile with Serbia. I do see your point. We have to consider these sort of claims on a case by case basis.

Follow-up: On Cuba, but we have had conversations with Stalin, Mao, at what point do we just say OK, they’re in charge, we have to deal with them?

I understand the point. But, sitting down with Raul helps legitimize his regime. Maybe after Fidel is gone, we might be able to see them transition to a democratic country. We have a window of opportunity here and we don’t want to do anything to legitimize Raul.

The FEC has not granted your request to leave public financing. Can you comment on the story?

It’s people who abuse the system that we condemn in Washington. Retired people have lobbyists in DC — I think McCain is commenting on the wrong story…Ok, maybe not.

There was a situation in the Gephardt campaign that was exactly comparable to ours with the FEC and he withdrew from public financing. I think we are on solid ground.

Follow-up: At the time of the Gephardt decision, there were some grey areas that don’t seem to be there now.

I am not an expert on a lot of it (Hawkins’ Note: Really? The McCain in McCain-Feingold isn’t an expert on this stuff? If so, doesn’t that say something about what a mess our campaign finance laws are?). But, I have been advised by many experts on this and I am confident we are on solid ground.

Last night, both Clinton and Obama attacked you for being in Iraq for 100 years and your statement about not being an economic expert. What’s your response?

On Iraq, everybody knows what I was talking about. We’re talking about something similar to Germany and South Korea. I am strongest on national security issues, but, I am very strong on economic issues as well. I have many years of involvement on it. I am an economic conservative. Do you want higher taxes or lower taxes? More government or less government? A government takeover of health care or to keep it private?

The 6 Party talks with North Korea — do you feel the disarmament talks with North Korea should involve a human rights dimension?

I have been disappointed in the past with the policies of the South Korean government, which has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses in the North. A lot of people don’t know this, but the average North Korean is 3 inches shorter than the average South Korean because they don’t get enough nutrition. I am also very worried about what the North Koreans are doing. They’re not transparent, they’re not working to resolve this issue.

Summary: One thing that stuck out for me was McCain’s statement that he thought he could be competitive in California and New York (New Jersey, maybe, just maybe I could see although in the end, Jersey always seems to end up breaking Republican hearts). Maybe that’s just standard horse race ga-ga and he doesn’t really mean it, but it’s very worrisome if he does because I am wondering what the heck he is planning to say to swing states that liberal over to his side.

Also, hearing McCain say he wasn’t an expert on campaign finance laws was not surprising, but let’s just say it tells you exactly what a messy, grey zone disaster those laws actually are.

Additionally, as per usual, McCain really seemed to know his stuff on foreign policy issues and he did a reasonably good job of answering the questions that were posed to him on other issues, although it would have been nice if people had gotten into some of the more weighty issues between McCain and conservatives during the teleconference.

All in all though, it was nice to do a teleconference with McCain and hear what he has to say. It’s also great that he regularly makes time to talk to bloggers, something a lot of Republican “leaders” seldom do.

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