McCain: Straight Talk Down the Middle

Sen. John McCain spoke candidly yesterday offering remarks on recent controversial comments by Barack Obama and openly re-stating his opposition to torture, belief in global warming and intention to nominate strict Constitutionalist justices to the Supreme Court if he becomes president.

The Capitol Conference sponsored by the Newspaper Association of the America is a four-day event held at the Washington Convention Center this week, enabling all three presidential candidates the opportunity to speak to many of the nation’s top journalists. 

The press-friendly McCain, who holds weekly blogger conference calls and regularly invites reporters onto his campaign bus, said running a campaign under media “scrutiny” can be difficult but he feels obligated to assist in an “informed citizenry.”

He said he prefers lengthy interviews and forums where he can provide multiple details and correct any mistakes rather than giving reporters quick snippets of time to throw “gotcha” questions.

One of Sen. McCain’s less-known — and less clearly defined until now — is his position on the Shield Law, defined as establishing a limited legal privilege protecting journalists’ sources from discovery in the legal process. The law would have protected journalist Judith Miller from landing in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury regarding evidence she possessed in a leak about the identity of Valerie Plame as a covert CIA agent in 2003.

McCain said he had a “hard time” deciding what do on the issue due to possible issues of national security. He “narrowly supported” the law with a “solemn trust” in the press to appreciate the law for what it is.

“The workings of the American newsroom….are some of the least transparent places,” said McCain. “That’s an impression the press should work on correcting.”

The Shield Law connects directly with McCain’s number one concern for America — that of radical Islam. If a journalist reports information that jeopardizes America’s national security, the Shield Law could produce a negative affect. McCain referenced the New York Times, who last year published this kind of national security information on the front page, as an example of this problem.

McCain admitted the press has taken some of his comments out of context regularly but had little sympathy for opponent Barack Obama’s recent remarks about individuals in Middle America appearing “bitter” and turning to guns and religion.

McCain said the ancestors of Middle America have faith that gave generations of people “purpose and meaning” and there must be no “forgotten parts of America.” In coming months, McCain plans to visit cities and corners of the nation that have received little attention from Presidential candidates.

“The time for pandering and false promises is over…it’s time for action,” said McCain, adding the change in America should not empower government  but give people a chance to “make it for themselves” and encourage free markets.

With Democrats in control of Congress since 2006, Republicans have struggled to keep taxes low and secure the success of prime free markets. McCain admitted that America has hit a recession but said the “finger of blame can be pointed at everyone, including the President, Congress and greedy people on Wall Street…”

On the housing crisis, he clarified previous remarks that he “didn’t want to reward greedy lenders or spectators” and that there is a role for government — a very limited one. He maintained that any kind of “massive bailout” would lead to certain debt for generations to come.

Associated Press reporters Liz Sidoti and Ron Fournier sat down with McCain after his opening remarks for a conversation amid the audience. They asked if his age was a factor in choosing a vice-presidential running-mate. Though he was mum on any potential choices, he said that history shows people vote on the top of the ticket.

“The criteria should be someone clearly qualified that shares my principles, values and priorities,” McCain said, though he seemed to concur that a younger vice-president would be a good idea.

As for a presidential cabinet, he noted Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would not likely fit in well but said he would “find the best and brightest this nation has…Republican or Democrat.”

In the past, McCain has said he would rather “lose a campaign than lose a war.” Sidoti asked how he would do that if he is not in the White House. McCain said if he does not become President, he will continue serving on the Senate Armed Services Committee to influence and help achieve a secure nation.

McCain also opined on his opposition to any kind of torture tactics used in attempt to get information from enemies held in our possession.
“This goes to the heart of America,” he said. “We cannot do what our enemies do…and expect to have the respect and admiration of the rest of the world.”

He commented as well on an unpopular viewpoint within the Republican Party — that of man-made global warming. McCain supports the theory and said that with the innovation and entrepreneurship of the world today, America could “develop greener technologies that are less expensive.”

He emphasized the importance of free trade as a "key economic element" for America and noted that any form of “protectionism” is “very bad news for the economy, the United States and the world.”