More headlines: John McCain on Principles & Values

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2008: Passed up Pawlenty as VP for not enough sizzle

Pawlenty maintains a broad appeal with Democrats and Independents. He is at home among political opponents. He can talk politics with working class Democrats without a hint of hostility or discomfort. Of course, he isn't the most rousing public speaker. In 2008 the McCain team could pass on Pawlenty as a vice presidential candidate because he was too ordinary: "this is not a fellow who is going to come across as strikingly charismatic. People see that he's smart and competent, but there's not much sizzle." If Pawlenty's lack of charisma counted against him in 2008, it might not be such a liability in 2012. The aftermath of the '08 election left many Americans wondering if both tickets were too much "sizzle" and not enough smart or competent. By 2012, a regular guy like Tim Pawlenty might be precisely what the electorate wants.
Source: Sam's Club Republican, by J.A. McClure, p. 53 May 10, 2010

Stole McCain's label as "Reformer with Results"

What had people found attractive about Bush? A lot of it was his record as a governor. He had done things in a big state. We returned to that theme and strengthened it with a new slogan, devised by Karen Hughes: "A Reformer with results." In doing so we shamelessly laid claim to a word McCain wanted for himself--reformer--and gave it a twist that helped us and hurt him--"with results." Bush had reformed education, juvenile justice, especially of campaign finance, but had few legislative achievements to back up his words.

By grabbing "his" label, we hoped to get a rise out of McCain. We did. He took the bait almost immediately, complaining that we were trying to steal his message. This in turn helped focus the argument in which candidate actually had gotten things done, which only helped us.

Source: Courage and Consequence, by Karl Rove, p.144 Mar 9, 2010

OpEd: Independent & passionate, but also willing to have fun

Regarding Senator McCain, I had always admired the Republican senator for his independent spirit and his passion for keeping our homeland safe. I sincerely respected him. Both Todd and I found him a kind, respectful man, not at all worn down either by decades in Washington or, miraculously, by his five and a half years as a POW in Vietnam. Instead, he seemed full of an inspiring inner joy. Later in the campaign, I would see this joy again and again. I'll never forget it: we'd be at these huge, potentially history-making events, and John would clap me on the shoulder, rub his hands together with a grin, and say, "Let's just go have fun!" It seemed to me a perspective forged in the kind of fires that make even the pressure cooker of a presidential campaign seem quaint by comparison.
Source: Going Rogue, by Sarah Palin, p.210-211 Nov 17, 2009

Obama has eloquent but empty call for change

[One magazine] in June 2008 considered what McCain could do to overcome the "rhetoric gap." Earlier in the campaign, Hillary Clinton had tried and failed to surmount that same gap. Despite Obama's repeated declarations that the road to change "is never easy," she joked that his listeners came to hear assurances that "the world will be perfect." McCain, for his part, warned that Obama's message was "an eloquent but empty call for change" that was not only unbelievable but deliberately deceitful as well.
Source: What Obama Means, by Jabari Asim, p.122-123 Jan 20, 2009

OpEd: Ads decrying Obama as "celebrity" misread "popularity"

Frustrated by their opponent's magnetism, McCain handlers issued a series of negative ads poking fun at the large crowds that flocked to attend Obama's speeches. According to the inscrutable logic of McCain's advisers, it was quite all right for singers to perform before packed stadiums and concert halls; that political figures would dare to do so signaled the end of civilization as we know it. Obama was neither a leader nor a statesman, the ads contended. He was something much worse: a celebrity. The ads accomplished little other than indicating the degree of desperation and confusion coming from the Republican camp. Like the shoulder brushing and fist bumps that so befuddled them earlier, the idea of a genuinely popular politician left them bewitched, bothered, and bewildered.
Source: What Obama Means, by Jabari Asim, p. 44 Jan 20, 2009

People should know about Obama connection to ACORN & Ayers

McCAIN: Sen. Obama chooses to associate with a guy who in 2001 said that he wished he had have bombed more, and he had a long association with him. It’s the fact that all the details need to be known about Sen. Obama’s relationship with them and with ACORN.

OBAMA: Let me tell you who I associate with. On economic policy, I associate with Warren Buffett and former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker. If I’m interested in figuring out my foreign policy, I associate myself with my running mate, Joe Biden or wit Dick Lugar, the Republican ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, or General Jim Jones, the former supreme allied commander of NATO. Those are the people, Democrats and Republicans, who have shaped my ideas and who will be surrounding me in the White House. And the fact that this has become such an important part of your campaign, Sen. McCain, says more about your campaign than it says about me.

Source: 2008 third presidential debate against Barack Obama Oct 15, 2008

Governors Clinton & Reagan were underestimated too

Q: People have questioned Sarah Palin’s readiness.

A: This is not the first time that I’ve seen a governor being questioned by some “expert.” I remember that Ronald Reagan was a cowboy. I remember that Bill Clinton was a governor of a very small state and had no experience either. But the point is, I’ve seen underestimation before. And that’s fine. We understand what this is all about. So, I’m very proud of the excitement that Gov. Palin has ignited with our party and around this country.

Source: 2008 CBS News presidential interview with Katie Couric Sep 30, 2008

Palin has governed our largest state & 20% of US’s energy

Q: Your vice presidential pick, Sarah Palin--What does she need to do to make her case?

A: She’s been governor of our largest state, in charge of 20% of America’s energy supply. She’s been a mayor. I’m very excited. I mean, this person is going to come to Washington and the “old boy” network, they better look out, because change is coming.

A: Every single presidential nominee has said that the first quality they look for in a vice presidential pick is the capability and the readiness to take over as president. Can you look the country straight in the eye and say Sarah Palin has the qualities and has enough experience to be commander in chief?

A: Oh, absolutely. Having been the governor of our largest state, the commander of their National Guard, she was once in charge of their natural resources assets, actually, until she found out there was corruption and she quit and said it had to be fixed.

Source: ABC News: 2008 election interview with Charlie Gibson Sep 3, 2008

Obama lacks judgment, not experience; Palin has judgment

Q: You criticized, for a long time, Sen. Obama based on his lack of experience. In your words, Jan. 6, I’m quoting you, “Sen. Obama does not have the national security experience and background to be president.” Sarah Palin does?

A: I said that he didn’t have the judgment. He didn’t have the judgment on Iraq. He still refuses to acknowledge that the surge has succeeded. Gov. Palin knows the surge has succeeded. She’s the commander of the Alaskan National Guard. He said that Iran was a tiny problem He’s never visited south of our border. He has no experience on these issues. She has been in charge and she has had national security as one of her primary responsibilities. Sen. Obama has never had a position of responsibility to do with many of those responsibilities. I’m proud of her vision. I’m proud of her strength. And everybody knows energy is a key element in American strength and future. She knows how to address that issue.

Source: ABC News: 2008 election interview with Charlie Gibson Sep 3, 2008

McCain has actively & successfully courted the press

Nowhere is McCain more popular than with the Washington journalistic establishment. How did he do it? It is, in fact, something McCain DID, not something that happened by accident. While every politician seeks the best news coverage he or she can get, McCain employed a strategy that has been uniquely effective. And it is a strategy.

The press's affection for McCain is built on 3 foundations: his Vietnam experience, his advocacy for campaign finance reforms, and his style in dealing with reporters.

  1. They view politicians as craven; McCain's undeniable courage in Vietnam casts him as the bravest of politicians.
  2. They view politicians as shameless supplicants to their contributors; McCain's advocacy of campaign finance reform makes him in their eyes America's premier "reformer".
  3. They view politicians as cynically manipulative when it come to dealing with journalists; McCain's attentive courting makes him "genuine" and "authentic" in a way no other politician can seem to achieve.
Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 3-5 Mar 25, 2008

OpEd: McCain's racial slurs are called "candor" by press

John McCain's public career is dotted with incidents when the politician lets loose and delivers an impolitic line or crude jab that could get him in hot water, but doesn't because the press chooses not to cover it. His sailor's tongue has long been part of his appeal. Reporters know that when they're covering the senator, anything can happen.

"I get in trouble all the time and I will continue to get in trouble," McCain told an AP reporter. McCain realizes that while he may say something rude and offensive, the payoff--in the form of fawning coverage from a press corps that loves to reward "candor"--far outstrips the risks.

During his many famous bull session on the Straight Talk Express, McCain would blithely refer to his Vietnamese captors as "gooks." Imagine another politician in the same context--say, John Kerry letting slip the word "gook" and justifying it with his Vietnam duty. The press, not to mention the right-wing media machine, would have a field day.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p. 99-100&104 Mar 25, 2008

OpEd: McCain hustles donations like others; no more; no less

Efforts to become the "establishment" candidate--historically a sure path to the Republican presidential combination--would turn out to be a major misstep for McCain, undermining his maverick image even as it failed in its immediate goal of winning over that establishment. But for a champion of political reform, McCain has a lot of friends and associates who are lobbyists or corporate bigwigs.

One could look at the list of McCain's lobbyists connections, or his corporate fund-raising, or his campaign filled with many of the people who put and kept George W. Bush I office, and say it's just how the system works. The same might be said of anyone immersed in the Washington establishment for a quarter of a century. But McCain's message has always been that he may be in the system, but he is not of it. Speaking in 2000, a veteran Washington lobbyist was blunt about McCain: "He's hustling the same guys the rest of 'em are. No more, no less."

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p.115-116 Mar 25, 2008

Holds record for press mentions & appearances

McCain's ubiquity can also be qualified by the number of times he has been mentioned in the press compared with other high-profile politicians. McCain led all political figures in Nexis news mentions, with 33,683. Hillary Clinton, the most mentioned Democrat, appeared in stories 24,288 times.

The same holds true for he dispensers of conventional wisdom that are the Sunday morning talk shows. Between 1997 and 2006, John McCain was by far the most frequent guest on Meet the Press, Face the Nation, and This Week. Over that period, McCain appeared as a guest 35 times.

Moreover, McCain has had the benefit of usually appearing solo on those shows, instead of sharing the time with someone from across the partisan or ideological aisle. When a guest is interviewed alone by the host of a Sunday show, the networks send a message that what the person says is so important that it needs to be presented with no contradiction or interruption from a fellow guest.

Source: Free Ride, by David Brock and Paul Waldman, p.183-187 Mar 25, 2008

Romney is a fine man who managed companies

Q: Is Romney ready to be a military commander?

I’m sure he’s a fine man. He managed companies, and he bought & sold, and sometimes people lost their jobs. That’s the nature of that business. We’re at a time in our history where you can’t afford any on-the-job training. My experience and background qualifies me to lead. That’s why I’ve gotten the support of over 100 retired Army generals and admirals. Every national security expert from the Reagan & other administrations are supporting my candidacy.

Source: 2008 Republican debate at Reagan Library in Simi Valley Jan 30, 2008

Romney is conning people about conservatism of his record

Q: [to Romney]: Sen. McCain suggests that you’re conning people--he has used that phrase--with your conversions on a number of issues.

ROMNEY: When I ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994, that was a big uphill climb. But let me tell you, I was fighting for issues like making sure that we would have the death penalty in our state, fighting to keep our taxes down. I was fighting against the Liberal Lion in perhaps the toughest state in America. And I’m pretty proud of what I was able to accomplish in that race, but nothing compares to the pride I have with the work that I was able to do as a governor.

McCAIN: Gov. Romney, you’ve been spending the last year trying to fool people about your record. I don’t want you to start fooling them about mine. I stand on my record as a conservative, and I don’t think you can fool the American people. They may not agree with me on a couple of issues, but they’ll know I’m telling the truth, and my steadfast positions on these issues for more than 20 years.

Source: 2007 GOP primary debate in Orlando, Florida Oct 21, 2007

Needs independents to win ‘08 primary; but GOP dislikes them

Who can resist McCain? GOP primary voters can. McCain can count on the united opposition of his party’s entire establishment. In his failed primary campaign in 2000, McCain demonstrated his inability to win votes in GOP primaries. Where independents were allowed to participate--in states like New Hampshire and Michigan--McCain ran well. But where they were excluded, his candidacy ran into a wall of rejection. His contrariness and independence, the traits that make him an attractive senator, undermine his appeal among the party faithful.

McCain will have to compete for the Independent vote not only with his fellow GOP candidates, but with those running in the Democratic primaries as well. Most states that permit Independents to vote in any primary let them participate in whichever they choose. So, the candidates whose positions are moderate and independent enough to win the general election--Giuliani and McCain--probably cannot get nominated by the stalwarts of the GOP.

Source: Condi vs. Hillary, by Dick Morris, p.237-239 Oct 11, 2005

McCain embraced core Reagan values

I embraced all of the core Reagan convictions: faith in the individual; skepticism of government; free trade and vigorous capitalism; anticommunism; a strong defense; robust internationalism that championed our values abroad; and most important, his eloquently stated belief in America’s national greatness, his trust in our historical exceptionalism, the shining city on the hill he invoked so often.
Source: Worth the Fighting For, by John McCain, p. 85 Sep 24, 2002

Identifies with Teddy Roosevelt, but only some reforms apply

The imagery of Theodore Roosevelt presents political imagery for John McCain. It is, however, perhaps imagery that is most compelling in the broad brushstrokes rather than the detail.

Roosevelt represented the forward-thinking, activist wing of his party against a stand-pat, pro-business wing. Roosevelt was, by virtue of his war experience and his early years into the Dakota Badlands, inoculated against being an effete reformer, a "good-government" know-it-all. How could McCain NOT want to compare himself with this canonized political figure?

Roosevelt was able to advocate reformist change by playing off two extremes of wild-eyed radicals and the worst do-nothing conservatives. In the current language of political campaigns, Roosevelt was able to "triangulate." That was a middle ground that, for all his efforts, McCain could not find, if only because the conditions were different. In short, the reality of present conditions did not match McCain's larger rhetoric.

Source: John McCain: An Essay, by John Karaagac, p.236-237 Sep 20, 2000

Poll: Hillary vs. McCain in 2008 would be “nailbiter”

If the 2008 presidential race were between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain, the country could be in for another nail-biter. The next presidential election may be more than two years away, but the politicking has already started and many consider Clinton and McCain the front-runners for their respective political parties.

In the latest national voter poll, McCain bests Clinton by a slim 4-percentage point margin - 46 percent to 42 percent - in a hypothetical matchup. Given the poll’s 3-point margin of error, that means this race could go either way.

Women are slightly more likely to favor Clinton over McCain (by 4 percentage points). Self-identified independents are somewhat more likely to say they would vote for McCain (by 8 points) than for Clinton. “The nation has witnessed two very close elections in a row, and right now it looks like a third may be shaping up,” the pollster said.

Source: 2008 speculation: FOX News Poll May 22, 2006

At Naval Academy, misbehaved but followed tradition

[Although I] ignored the less important conventions of the Naval Academy, I was careful not to defame its more compelling traditions: the veneration of courage and resilience; the honor code that simply assumed your fidelity to its principles; the homage paid to men who had sacrificed greatly for their country; the expectation that you, too, would prove worthy of your country’s trust.
Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, p. 151 Nov 9, 1999

President’s first duty is keeping our country safe

The first responsibility of the next president will be keep our country safe so that we might secure for ourselves and humanity a future worthy of our highest aspirations. Although the next century will hold many dangers for America and our cause, it will, more than ever, be an age of untold possibilities for good. It is our destiny to seize this opportunity to build a safer, freer and more prosperous nation and a world free of the tyranny that has made the passing century such a violent age.
Source: Candidacy Declaration Speech, Nashua NH Sep 27, 1999

Give kids an example to emulate against cynicism

McCain says that to fight cynicism among young people “we must first challenge ourselves to give them an example worth emulating.”
Source: New York Times, p. A16 Sep 20, 1999

5 principles for a great nation’s diplomacy

First, seek no substitute for American leadership in the defense of American interests and values. Second, we must protect our interests to promote our values and vice versa. Third, force has a role in but is not a substitute for diplomacy. Fourth, build coalitions to protect our interests and values, don’t neglect our interests and values to build coalitions. Fifth and last, credibility is a strategic asset.
Source: Landon Lecture at Kansas State University Mar 15, 1999

Cozying up to big donors makes big problems

McCAIN [to Bush]: If you’re going to allow [donors who] give a million dollars to stay in the governor’s mansion, we’ve got a continuing big problem.

BUSH: The people staying with me, these are my friends, John. These are my relatives, [yet you] somehow question my integrity. You talk a lot about the “iron triangle” and you’re ringing it like a dinner bell with all those fund-raisers.

McCAIN: George, if I’m ringing it like the dinner bell, you’ve got both feet in the trough because you’ve raised five times the amount of money in Washington [that I have].

KEYES: This whole campaign finance reform thing is just another example of the hypocrisy of these politicians. They’ve shoveled the money in their mouth, then profess to be shocked at the discovery that it’s there. Then they say we should give up our right to give money to support the causes we believe in because they don’t have the integrity to do their job. We shouldn’t give up our rights. They should give up their offices.

Source: GOP debate in Los Angeles Mar 2, 2000

Calls himself a “Reagan Republican”

McCain quickly sought to expand his base and reintroduce himself as a conservative, telling voters in Seattle, “I’m a proud conservative Republican. I’m a Reagan Republican. I have no doubt about that. I have to convince and tell our Republican establishment: It’s great over here, come on in, join us.”
Source: Richard Berke, New York Times Feb 24, 2000

Fight clean, fight fair, but keep on fighting

I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land, McCain said. “I want the presidency in the best way, not the worst way.” The Arizona senator had pledged to run a positive campaign, and pulled a negative ad after apparent voter backlash. “I’m going fight with every ounce of strength I have, but I’m going to keep fighting clean,” he said. “I’m going to keep fighting fair, and I’m going keep fighting the battle of ideas.”
Saying that he was “a uniter not a divider,“ McCain emphasized that he was interested in building an inclusive party, marking his record as a reformer, and vowing to keep aggressively fighting for the GOP nomination. ”The American people deserve to be treated with respect by those who seek to lead the nation and I promise you, you will have my respect until my last day on earth. I will never dishonor the nation I love or myself by letting ambition overcome principle,“ a choked up McCain said. ”Never, never, never.“
Source: Feb 20, 2000

A mandate from voters is key, not Congressional friends

Q: How will you be an effective president if you have trouble getting along with your fellow Senators? A: I’ve had 234 major pieces of legislation passed in Congress. [More to the point], the GOP has lost its way. Unless we open up this party, unless we do what I did in New Hampshire, and that’s get thousands and thousands of young people out to register to vote Republican, unless we get independents, reconstitute the old Reagan Democrats -- I want to reconstitute that governing coalition.
Source: GOP Debate on the Larry King Show Feb 15, 2000

Priorities:Simplify taxes;restore schools;reform campaigns

Asked his main legislative priorities if elected, McCain responded: “We must continue cutting the federal government down to size and seek a fair, flatter simpler tax code. We must provide the resources necessary to restore public education to the standards that once were the envy of the world, but leave the decisions about how best to use those resources to the parents. And we must reform the corrupt system of campaign financing to restore the public’s interest and role in the political process.”
Source: 1998 National Political Awareness Test Jul 2, 1998

Religion & politics are both OK in a President

Q: What is your approach to religion in the White House? A: I’m the only candidate for president who’s actually conducted church services. In prison I was named the room chaplain. One of the sermons that I gave is the parable according to when Jesus held up the coin when asked if they should pay taxes. And I said, quote, render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, render unto God that which is God. When I’m in the Oval Office, I obviously have a relation with God but I’m rendering unto Caesar as well.
Source: Republican Debate in Durham, NH Jan 6, 2000

Vietnam was formative experience, but not his leitmotif

I did not want my experiences in Vietnam to be the leitmotif of the rest of my life. I am a public figure now, and my public profile is inextricably linked to my POW experiences. Obviously, such recognition has benefited my political career, and I am grateful for that. Many men who came home from Vietnam, physically and spiritually damaged, to what appeared to be a country that did not understand or appreciate their sacrifice carried the war as a great weight upon their subsequent search for happiness. But I have tried to make what use I can of Vietnam and not let the memories of war encumber the rest of my life’s progress.

Neither have I been content to accept that my time in Vietnam would stand as the ultimate experience of my life. Surely it was a formative experience, but I knew that life promised other adventures, and I hurried toward them.

Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, p. 346-347 Nov 9, 1999

Vietnam transformed him to self-confident and serious

Vietnam changed me, in significant ways, for the better. It is a surpassing irony that war, for all its horror, provides the combatant with every conceivable human experience. Experiences that usually take a lifetime to know are all felt, and felt intensely, in one brief passage of life. The veteran knows what great loss and great joy feel like when they occur in the same moment, the same experience.

Such an experience is transforming. And we can be much the better for it. Surviving my imprisonment strengthened my self-confidence, and my refusal of early release taught me to trust my own judgment. I gained a seriousness of purpose that observers of my early life had found difficult to detect. I would no longer err out of self-doubt or to alter a fate I felt had been imposed upon me.

Source: “Faith of My Fathers”, p. 347 Nov 9, 1999

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