Live-blogging McCain: The forum

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Gov. Pawlenty does the introductions.

(Latest notes on bottom)



7:04 – Sen. McCain says he’s toured flooded areas (Iowa asked him to stay away). Mentions Iowa, Illinois, “a few counties in Minnesota.” Nothing about Wisconsin.

7:06 – Criticizes Obama for opting out of the public financing of the general election after earlier saying he would abide by spending limits.

Here’s Obama’s 2007 response to Midwest Democracy Network:


“Yes. I have been a longtime advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-Wis.) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain, R-Ariz., has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.”

7:09 Nice work-in of Vietnam service. “I thought I was a great pilot until I intercepted a North Vietnamese missile with my airplane.”

7:10 Vows to veto every earmark bill that crosses his desk. “You will know their name, I will make them famous.” Factcheck.org questions McCain on earmarks here.

7:12 “We can become independent of our foreign oil and become a nation that doesn’t have our national security threatened, and eliminate greenhouse gas emissions that are harming our planet.”

7:14 Supports building of more nuclear power plants. “The Navy has been sailing ships around the world with nuclear power plants on them for 60 years and has never had an accident.” (True, says PolitiFact.com)

7:17 Insurgents in Iraq “aren’t done.” “If they were done, I’d say bring the troops home,” McCain said.

Questions and Answers

Q: (Questioner wants to see more honest talk)

A: “I have not been elected Miss Congeniality this year,” McCain notes (it’s a stump speech line), and runs down list of things that made Republicans angry. Says he’s reluctant to talk about his past (Vietnam)

Q: I have a son with a disease, even with a good insurance policy, we pay many thousands. We’re looking at entry-level jobs without insurance. I’m petrified he won’t be able to afford his medication.

A: I won’t go through all the details but we put the families in charge rather than the government. If you like government-run health care, I suggest you go to Canada. We understand there are uninsurables, we’re going to have to in that case, government-approved plans. We’ll have to sit down with Gov. Pawlenty and other states to establish risk pools with money from the feds and state (This will go over great with Gov. Pawlenty, who has railed in the past against the state subsidized health care program as “welfare health care.”)

McCain asks Pawlenty about that. “Minnesota is fortunate, because we have the lowest rate of uninsured. But we can do better. We have programs like Medical Assistance and Medicaid. But if you fall in that gap and are the working poor, that’s part of the gap that we have to address. ”

(Bob: Expect a news release from the MinnesotaCare supporters in the morning)

Q: You call for an expansion of nuclear power, we have a problem where your approach on oil drilling to allow the states to opt-in/opt-out, we have a problem with temporary nuke storage in Minnesota. Would you approach that issue concurrently. How can we solve the federal permanent storage and temporary state storage.

A: We have to store and reprocess. Says one of the worst decision was President Carter’s decision not to reprocess nuclear fuel. Supports Yucca Mountain.

Q: What directions will you set for alternative energy?

A: Wind, tide, solar, nuclear, a battery that will take a car 100-200 miles before it has to be plugged in. The auto manufacturers are starting to react.

(Ethanol? Gov. Pawlenty’s favorite? McCain has had a very spotty record on the issue.)

7:37 Q: Our state depends on immigrant labor. We’ve had tragic auto accidents created by some of these immigrants. Can you explain your immigration policy?

A: We need a temporary worker program that works. A tamper-proof electronic document, that if someone has a job opening, they can get a contract from the employer, come to the country for two years and work, and have that verifiable.

We must secure our borders (applause). The people who are here illegally are also God’s children and we must address this issue in a humane and compassionate fashion (no applause).

Q: Costs of education are soaring. No Child Left Behind is a bit of a failure. Discuss education policy.

A: We have failed to provide training for displaced workers. NCLB was “flawed, but it was a good beginning.” We should fix it where it needs fixing. To go back to where we were, when we had no comparison, we’ve got to reward good teachers more and find bad teachers another line of work.

Fundamental to this is choice and competition. In New Orleans, they started over. They have 30 charter schools and according to their governor, they’re seeing “a dramatic increase in the quality of education.” (Here’s a little more on that from the NY Times) If people want to home-school their children, they should be allowed to do that (appaluse). It isn’t necessarily money that does the job (more applause).

Q: What do you mean by “victory”?

A: As the Iraqi military takes over more responsibilities and government is more effective, Gen. Petraeus will evaluate. I am confident that we’ll be able to withdraw and come home. The casualties are at the lowest they’ve been in years. We want Americans to come home unharmed. Very important we be able to succeed and be able to withdraw.

(Fact Check: Casualties in May 2007: 131. May 2008: 21)

Says he would’ve provided more troops. Says Bush strategy was “terribly flawed.”

Q: What will you do to prove to the average conservative that we can trust you’re going to do the right thing, rather than pander to the “hate America” liberal crowd?

A: I would like a town-hall meeting with Obama so you can ask us that question side by side. I’m for lower taxes. Obama is for raising them. Different on national security policies. Polls show 81% of Americans think it’s on the right track. That’s not good. My record and my principles are closely aligned with Ronald Reagan. (Interesting read: McCain vs. Reagan; McCain’s no conservative, hardly a Reagan foot soldier)

Q: Questioner tells about her work with the One Campaign (I heard about it from Bono). :What is your plan to bring Africa into the world economy?”

A: Fund programs to combat HIV AIDS. Give the current president some credit for that. Refers to globe in Google headquarters, which has lights that show people who are on Google, “until you see the continent of Africa, and it’s black.” Says he’ll do what he can, but says it’s difficult because of corruption. “We will try and have governments that respond to the people and give them a chance to realize hopes and dreams.”

7:55 – Gives a shoutout to Divided We Fail.

Q: “On phone I identified myself as a ‘strong Democrat’ and they invited me anyway.” Gets applause when he mentions he’s a vet of the first Gulf war. “The trend over the past 8 years has been very disturbing with how the administration has handled veterans’ health care. They have earned the highest standard of care. How would you handle that.

A: We need to applaud the people who work in the Veterans Administration. They don’t have the … things that are necessary. Would like to see V.A. focus on treatment of PTSD and combat-related injuries. They’re the best at that. Then for the average veteran with routine health care need, would like to see them not have to go to the V.A. Would like to give them a plastic card and go to any doctor of their choice and get health care immediately. (Applause)

Q: In the 6th District, Rep. Bachmann has suggested it’s possible to get $2 gas. What do you think of that?

A: “I eagerly look forward to that plan.” (What? You don’t read News Cut, senator?). “I don’t believe… I’m glad Congresswoman Bachmann is concentrating on the issue… but I only see that we have to exploit existing reserves and going as fast as we can to alternative energy sources. I’d like to tell you we’d see prices going down, but I don’t see that happening, at least in the short term.”

(The sound you hear is the sound of the anti-Bachmann blogs typing their headline)

Q: I’ve lost faith in politicians because they spin the story so that it comes out sounding like we want to hear. I challenge you to tell us what we don’t want to hear.

A: I went to Iowa and said I didn’t support ethanol subsidies because I worried about the effects you see now. I went to South Carolina and said the old textile mills aren’t coming back, but new businesses will come. I went to Michigan and said the old auto jobs aren’t coming back, but Detroit was capable of technological advances to meet challenges of independence of foreign oil. I lost Iowa, Michigan and won South Carolina.

We have to do some tough things and we’ll be proud America led the innovation of technology.

Today, I’ll tell you we’re in a long struggle with radical Islam and there will have to be a lot of sacrifices.

Q: Asked about the Supreme Court decision giving Guantanamo detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment.

A: I hope we can act legislatively to change what appears to be extending the right of citizenship to people who want to harm this country.

Q: Would you use the bully pulpit to talk to us regularly? (What? You get one question to ask the guy who wants to be the leader of the free world and that’s the best you could come up with?)

A: Yes. (Rest of the answer ignored by your blogger. I will not give in to terrorists bad questions.

“I dislike the media intensely,” McCain notes.

Q: Gov. Tim Pawlenty would make an excellent vice president. What do you think?

(Big News Cut points for this guy!)

A: Gov. Pawlenty is the next new leadership in the Republican Party. He has proved that. I wouldn’t like to speculate on who the vice presidential candidates are but I know he has a place in the future of this country and the Republican Party.

He has two duties. In the case of a tie, he casts the tie breaking point. The other is to inquire daily on the health of the president.

“I won’t let you down and I’ll put my country first,” McCain says as he ends his meeting.