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Tuesday, June 20, 2006

John McCain Interview

There is a transcript of an interview with with John McCain in the Financial Times. The interview is fairly long and most of it is focused on security issues involving the war in Iraq, Iran, North Korea, China, India, North Korea, Russia, and other countries, but many other topics are covered and there are parts about the economy as well. Here are a few sections from the transcript including those involving economic issues:

John McCain interview transcript, Financial Times (free): The following is a transcript of an interview with John McCain.

...FT: There is pressure on the White House to pull troops out of Iraq in this election year. What is the danger of that?

JMC: The danger is one that we have faced all along. That is that we haven’t been able to control the country. The latest, of course, is that we have to send troops into Ramadi. ... And guess where the troops came from. They came from Kuwait, but they also had to divert some of the marines from Falluja. We are like the little Dutch boy with his thumb in the dike.

FT: Is there any sense that your colleagues in the room this afternoon are prepared to think about more troops, or are they looking in the other direction?

JMC: I think most of them are looking in the other direction. ... there is not going to be any increase, and that is why it is going to make the outcome more dicey. I believe we must win, I believe we can win, and I believe we will win, but I think it is still going to be very long and very difficult. ...

FT: You are saying there should be more troops, not a discussion about drawing down troops because the US is stretched too thin?

JMC: But that is like saying I would also like to see a mission to Mars. I just don’t think it is going to happen. In a way, we are getting close to the point where the Iraqis really have to be capable..., to assume more and more of these responsibilities. We can succeed..., but we have made the path incredibly more difficult and frustrating because of our failures.

FT: How confident are you about the numbers Donald Rumsfeld is giving you about the number of trained Iraqi army and police, and their capabilities?

JMC: When I hear of a major operation ... and it is successful. Then I will believe that we have made progress. When I can land at the airport at Baghdad and get into a vehicle, drive to the Green Zone, I will believe that we have made progress.

FT: That is not to happen soon, is it?

JMC: Nope. That is why I keep repeating. Long, hard, difficult...

FT: Are you any happier with Secretary Rumsfeld’s leadership at the Pentagon?

JMC: No.

FT: Do you think it is time for him to step down?

JMC: I cannot say that. He serves at the pleasure of the president and it is up to the president. As long as he enjoys the confidence of the president, I will try and work with him...

FT: Congressman John Murtha has made some strong statements about the possibility of a cover-up by the military into the alleged massacre of 24 Iraqi civilians by US marines at Haditha. How concerned are you about that? Does Haditha have the potential to be as damaging as Abu Ghraib?

JMC: I don’t know because I don’t know the details and the investigation is not complete. All I know is what I read in the media. I guess we can assume that there has been a serious breach of conduct on the part of some of our marines. How significant, what the circumstances were surrounding it, I don’t know, so therefore we have to wait until I get that information before I could make a judgement ...

I admire and like Jack Murtha a lot. We are very old friends. But to make these comments before we have a full body of evidence at hand, I just don’t see how that is helpful. ...

FT: The Senate lately has been a little flaky, on gay marriage, and flag burning appears to be next. ... When you travel in the US, there is one view that these issues helps energize Republicans voters. Do you see that, or does it do the reverse?

JMC: I don’t know. But I do know that our approval ratings are very low, including from our own base. I think there is a variety of reasons for that. I think a major reason why a lot of our Republican base is upset with us is because we’re spending. They are very angry. They are not going to vote Democrat but I think there is every possibility that they might stay home.

So spending, the fact that we don’t seem to be addressing their concerns, the fact that I think if you could make progress in Iraq, address the spending issue, come up with an immigration bill that is acceptable, I think we could regain some ground that we’ve lost. ... I think that the next time he gets one of these appropriations bills across his desk that is loaded with porkbarrell project that if he vetoes it will be very reassuring to a lot of our base that is disaffected.

FT: Do you think he might do that to send a message?

JMC: I hope so, I hope so.

FT: Are you surprised at how protectionist the mood seems to be in the country at the moment given how low employment is, and how high growth is?

JMC: I am a little surprised because when you look at the economic figures, they are quite good as you know. But when you look at the underlying unease in America then it is more understandable. Somewhere between 65 per cent and 70 per cent of the American people think we are on ‘the wrong track’. That is because there is a great deal of unease about healthcare, future employment, social security, very little if any real wage increase as we experience this period of economic prosperity.

All those together have made Americans very uneasy about their futures even though their present situation may be pretty good. ... Their fathers and mothers worked for IBM for 35 years and retired with a pension and healthcare. Nobody is going to do that anymore. So you get this unease which then lends itself to a belief that all the jobs are fleeing overseas, that we need to protect American jobs, we need to protect the textile mills, the steel mills, the traditional manufacturing sector. So we see a real rise in protectionism/isolationism among some elements of my party.

FT: What do you need to prevent getting worse as economy slows?

JMC: We have to provide for workers in a more effective way that have lost their jobs because of jobs fleeing oversees. We have to fix social security and Medicare so they know they will be there when they retire. We have to hope that, not hope, but try to implement policies that get more of this prosperity more evenly distributed.

By the way, I am not saying redistribution of the wealth. I am saying that more benefits of free trade and globalisation and lower prices could flow to more middle and lower income Americans. And I want to emphasise again. I am not interested in class warfare, saying you have to got to give up more or raise taxes on the rich. But I do believe there are some economics that come into play here where people could get more prosperity out of these good economic times. But there certainly is great uncertainty out there.

I talked to a senator from Minnesota today who said there is 3.7 per cent unemployment in his state. That is virtual zero unemployment. I said ‘what is the mood’? He said they are very uneasy. It is a real paradox. ...

FT: What do you think you talk about that is most attractive to Democrats?

JMC: I think it is my reputation for independence, of straight talk, it sounds very self-serving but a little star power, they’ve seen me on Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, David Letterman, hosting Saturday Night Live..…  “There is a little buzz there that people kind of like. And, again very self-serving statement, I know how to campaign. I can feel a crowd, I can get them enthusiastic...

Occasionally, I fall flat [laughs]. At the New School University, it was ... a very tough appearance. It saddened me that people who call themselves liberals would not listen to the views of those who disagree with them. ...

FT: Did your Liberty University appearance undermine your reputation for straight talk?

JMC: Reverend Falwell came and sat in that chair and said I want to put our differences behind us. I am more than eager to put something that happened 6 years ago behind us. He asked me to speak at his school. ... Bob Kerrey asked me to go to the New School which is a very liberal institution. ...

That was viewed somehow as pandering to the right. The torture amendment wasn’t pandering to the right. My vote against the gay marriage amendment wasn’t, my advocacy for us to do something about climate change. My positions really haven’t changed on the issues. ...

FT: If you were to run, who would be the most interesting Democrat to run against?

JMC: Senator [Hillary] Clinton. ...

FT: Is she the most likely opponent?

JMC: Oh yeah. ...

Are you sold on McCain as a straight-talking independent political moderate? I'll end with a statement from the other side of the political aisle from the column "The Right's Man":

So here's what you need to know about John McCain. He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush.

He isn't a moderate. Mr. McCain's policy positions and Senate votes ... place him ... in the right wing of the Republican Party. And he isn't a maverick, at least not when it counts. When the cameras are rolling, Mr. McCain can sometimes be seen striking a brave pose of opposition ... But when it matters, ... Mr. McCain always toes the party line.

It's worth recalling that during the 2000 election campaign George W. Bush was widely portrayed by the news media both as a moderate and as a straight-shooter. As Mr. Bush has said, "Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again."

    Posted by on Tuesday, June 20, 2006 at 01:51 AM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (7)

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