Friday, October 17, 2008

McCain Appears on Letterman

Last night, Sen. McCain (finally) appeared on Dave Letterman's show and the two engaged in a friendly, funny, but spirited conversation (video can be found on CBS' website and a transcript is available from Time). I, being a customer of Brighthouse Cable, was not able to watch the show. Anyway, among the exchanges, I found a few particularly interesting (I'll include the transcripts below as it may be easier to read it than to wait through the whole video).

The first part of the discussion that really intrigued me was a discussion of the tone of the campaign:

LETTERMAN: He [the moderator] talked about campaigns – some questionable tactics on your part, some questionable tactics by Barack Obama. And for your part, when they go down the list, when they chronicle some of these things that are being hollered out from the crowd, regarding Barack Obama – “traitor, treason, terrorist” – and so on and so forth – and worse, as a matter of fact, that Barack Obama alluded to himself last night.

McCAIN: Do you know what's being shouted out at his rallies? There's always a few fringe people who will abuse their Constitutional rights. Who will show up at these kinds of things and you'll get that fringe element. But I'd love for you to come to one of my rallies. They'd love to see you. A lot of fans of yours come to our rallies. But look, I have groups – rally I was at the other day, Military Wives for McCain. Veterans, wearing their hats from all the wars we were in. There are a few fringe people. There are a few fringe people that attend Senator Obama's rallies. But these are people who are involved and engaged in the political process and I'm very glad that they are. I'm' very glad they are. And I confront them, Dave. You saw that. I confront them when they say anything that is out of bounds, ok? I do.

LETTERMAN: Does your running mate also do that? Does she sit on them pretty good when this stuff comes up?

McCAIN: She does. She doesn't countenance that kind of thing. I mean, nobody does. Senator Obama doesn't. Joe Biden doesn't.

LETTERMAN: But Senator, you yourself in previous campaigns have been the victim of some pretty nasty campaign abuse. So do you feel because of that or just because of your humanity you have a responsibility to lift your purpose here?

McCAIN: I feel I have a responsibility that if someone says anything improper and I am within earshot…Look, people who are quote, GOPers, whom I've never known or heard of, made remarks about Senator Obama questioning his patriotism, etc. I have always repudiated those remarks, Dave. Every time there has been one. And yet he won't repudiate the remarks made by a man I admire and I've written a chapter in my book about, John Lewis. He linked Sarah Palin and me to segregation, George Wallace, and even the bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four innocent young children. There's no room for that in American politics. And I was sorry that last night Senator Obama did not repudiate John Lewis who is a respected American hero, who…I can't tell you how saddened I was at those remarks.

LETTERMAN: But I thought it was addressed by Barack last night.

McCAIN: He didn't repudiate them. Those remarks should be repudiated, made by anybody. So, look, these are tough times in America. You know that. This is what most people view as the most important race. And of course there is a negativism that's associated with it. But I'd also like to say again. I asked Senator Obama to do town hall meetings. I would love to have Senator Obama come on this show. And I'll sit there and he'll sit here and we'll debate the issues. But he would not do that. That changes the tenor of the campaign when you're on Dave Letterman and trying to defend yourself. So let me just say this. 19 more days. We had a good debate. We had three good debates. Now it's going to be a tough slog. And let's all keep it in bounds and be respectful. But there are differences. That's why we're different party and different philosophy.
They also discussed the selection of Gov. Palin:

LETTERMAN: [I]f she had been a man, would you also have selected him as a man?

McCAIN: Yes, because I believe that Sarah Palin is a reformer. She's the most popular governor in the United States of America. She gave her taxpayers back money. She negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline deal and confronted the big oil companies when she did it. She's been a member of the PTA, the city council, the mayor and a governor. And I am very honored to know her and her family. She has – by the way, her husband, Todd, is a four-time champion of a race of 2000 miles across Alaska in the dead of winter. Amazing person. His grandmother is a native Alaskan. In one of his races, he broke his arm and continued the race for 250 more miles. It's just a wonderful family. And they have a very special child and I'm very proud of them. So I'm very proud to have Sarah with me and I think she has energized our ticket and energized a lot of Americans.

LETTERMAN: No question about that. But I'll tell you… I mean, was she your first choice?

McCAIN: Absolutely.

...

LETTERMAN: Had you spent time with her?

McCAIN: A couple of times, I'd met with her. I didn't know her real well but I knew her reputation and I didn't know her well at all. I didn't know her well at all. I knew her reputation as a reformer. Running against a governor of her own party, an incumbent governor. She took the guy on after she believed that bad things were going on in Alaska. And she was right.

LETTERMAN: Now here's my point of view on this. And again, I really don't know anything. And I'm an independent. I have no party affiliation. When this happened, I thought to myself, wow, you know in my daily life – and anybody who's got kids, yourself, anybody – you try to take the best care of your children that you can for their future. Present and future. And I kind of felt like that's the responsibility to a huge extent of our administration. So the person, man or woman, who is in charge of that, has got to do the same. And I was just wondering if the thoughtfulness of that process included your selection of Vice President.

McCAIN: Oh sure.

LETTERMAN: I mean, if you are unable to fulfill your office, we get a 9/11 attack, Sarah Palin is the president who leads us through that.

McCAIN: Sure. She's been the governor of a state with 24,000 employees. She's…I mean, maybe you don't like Alaska. But the point is, it's the biggest state we have. And I'm sure they'd welcome you there.

LETTERMAN: I'm a big fan of Alaska.

McCAIN: Look, in all due respect, one of the people I admire most was an obscure governor of a southern state called Arkansas. And he turned out to be a fairly successful president. I mean, Ronald Reagan was a cowboy – no experience in international affairs. Look, I think she has shown leadership. I think she's shown executive ability. And I think she has shown a degree of reform that we need – does anyone think we don't need to clean up the mess in Washington?

LETTERMAN: Let me just get back to my question. Well, I mean, either you're right or you're wrong. You know what you're talking about or you don't know what you're talking about. But I'm just telling you from my perspective that I thought, Oh, oh my God. I'm sure she's a lovely woman. I'm sure she's done a great job in Alaska. But in terms – this country. I'm 61. I've never seen it in this big a mess. I've seen economic problems. I've seen war. I've never seen a combination of things quite like this. I've never seen the free fall diminishment of the impression of the United States around the country. I've never seen anything like this. I have a four-year-old son. I wonder what the hell, is it going to be 160 twenty years from now on his birthday? So I'm thinking, alright, this is a pretty important job.

McCAIN: But with all due respect, she's had the leadership experience that's necessary to run bureaucracies, to reform…And because she was not known inside the Georgetown cocktail circuit, doesn't matter to me.

LETTERMAN: Let me ask you a question. In your guts, in your stomach – you're a smart, tough, savvy guy –

McCAIN: Thank you. That'll be a commercial, coming to you soon.

LETTERMAN: If I were to run upstairs, wake you up in the middle of the night, and say, “John, is Sarah Palin really the woman to lead us through the next four, eight years? Through the next 9/11 attack?”

McCAIN: Absolutely. She has inspired Americans. That's the thing we need. We need inspiration now. We need courage. We need to know that we're the greatest nation in the world. And we can come through this. I agree with your assessment of the way the world and this country is. And they need somebody they say – this, this is a person who is an inspiration to us. This is a person who has done so many things that are very unusual. So all I can tell you is that if you are looking for somebody, someone who is in the old boy network of Washington, many of whom have gotten us into this ditch to start with, then that's fine. But I think America is crying out for change. And she represents the kind of change that we need.
And finally, the conversation got around to Bill Ayers. As you'll see, Letterman becomes (so far as I'm aware) the first member of the "media" to ask Sen. McCain about McCain's "association" with G. Gordon Liddy. Unfortunately, Letterman let Sen. McCain off easy and didn't keep pushing.

LETTERMAN: Now she's [Gov. Palin] also, she's the one, I think who says that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists. Has she in fact said that at rallies?

McCAIN: I don't…yes. And he did. And refused to acknowledge the fact.

LETTERMAN: Who did he pal around with?

McCAIN: William Ayers who said on 9/11 that he wished that he'd bombed more. OK? His wife was on the Top 10 of FBI's Most Wanted.

LETTERMAN: But this all took place…when he was active, Barack Obama was eight years old.

McCAIN: Eight years old. And Mr. Ayers in 2001, September 11, 2001, said, “I wished I had bombed more.” It's an unrep—

LETTERMAN: But what is that relationship?

McCAIN: It's all we need to know. Senator Clinton said, “We need to know about the relationship.” First he said he was just a guy in the neighborhood. And so it's a matter of trusting the word of someone.

LETTERMAN: I know. I know.

McCAIN: That's all.

LETTERMAN: But you will also admit that we cannot really control who we interact with in our lives 100%.

McCAIN: How long we interact with them and how we interact with them…But the point in this campaign is the economy, the economy and the economy.

LETTERMAN: But did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?

McCAIN: I met him, you know, I mean…

LETTERMAN: Didn't you attend a fund raiser at his house?

McCAIN: Gordon Liddy's?

*** commercial break ***

LETTERMAN: How about that Tina Fey?

McCAIN: I know Gordon Liddy. He paid his debt. He went to prison, he paid his debt, as people do. I'm not in any way embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy. And his son, who is also a good friend and supporter of mine.

LETTERMAN: But you understand that the same case could be made of your relationship with him as being made with William Ayers.

McCAIN: Everything about any relationship that I've had I will make completely open and give a complete accounting of. Senator Obama said that he was a guy who lived in the neighborhood. OK, it was more than that.

LETTERMAN: They served on a committee at one point.

McCAIN: Yes, that gave $230,000 to ACORN which is now involved in what may be one of the great voter frauds in history. It could be. We need to know.

LETTERMAN: Are they double dating? Are they going to dinner? What are they doing? Are they driving cross country?

McCAIN: Maybe going to Denny's. Who knows? The Grand Slam…

LETTERMAN: Now she said “pals around with terrorists.” OK, so alright. Let's say we give her William Ayers. He was eight and William Ayers was 29. But they palled around.

McCAIN: There's millions of word said in the campaign. Come on!

LETTERMAN: But that's where we live. In politics, isn't it?

McCAIN: Millions of words. Yes indeed.

A few points that I take away from this entire interview (and wouldn't it be refreshing if more of the media would actually ask follow up questions the way Letterman did?):

First, even on Letterman's show, the Straight Talk Express still can't tell the truth. Example #1: McCain claims that Gov. Palin was his first choice, yet there were plenty of reports prior to his naming Gov. Palin that indicated that Sen. McCain wanted to name either Sen. Lieberman or Gov. Ridge, but that he was receiving opposition from some in his campaign who thought those selections would alienate the right wing of the party. Example #2: Speaking of phrases like "kill him" and "off with his head" and "terrorist" being shouted at McCain-Palin rallies, Sen. McCain claims that "I have always repudiated those remarks, Dave. Every time there has been one" and says that Gov. Palin "doesn't countenance that kind of thing". Yet there is not a single example to be found (other than Sen. McCain telling people not to fear Sen. Obama and reassuring a crowd that Sen. Obama is not an Arab) of either Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin telling their supporters to stop the violent rhetoric that has become commonplace at Republican rallies. Example #3: Sen. McCain continues to suggest that similar things are being yelled at Obama-Biden rallies. Yet once again, no evidence of any such violent rhetoric being shouted at an Obama-Biden rally has been found.

Second, Sen. McCain continues to focus on the Bill Ayers issue even though Sen. Obama gave a full explanation of the "association" during the debate. It almost appears as if Sen. McCain wants Sen. Obama to simply make something up, just to have more to talk about.

Third, Sen. McCain acknowledges that Liddy is "paid his debt" and that Sen. McCain is "not in any way embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy". Liddy paid his debt for the Watergate break in, but not for plotting to kill journalists or for telling listeners how to kill federal agents. Oh, and don't forget that Liddy has also spoken positively about Hitler, too. If Sen. McCain is "not in any way embarrassed to know" a man who uses the public airwaves to tell people how to kill federal agents and to brag about his own past plans to assassinate journalists, then Sen. McCain really needs to do some soul-searching.

Finally, despite Sen. Obama's clear repudiation during the debate of the worst reading of Rep. John Lewis' letter vilifying Sen. McCain and his campaign for the divisive rhetoric prevalent in the campaign, Sen. McCain still wants more. Again, though, it is interesting to hear Sen. McCain continue to push on this issue (and falsely, too, I believe, as I discussed yesterday) while completely ignoring and failing to repudiate such comments as those from the chair of the Virginia GOP telling supporters to compare Sen. Obama to Osama Bin Ladin. Sometimes, I wonder if Sen. McCain even recognizes or understands what he says anymore.

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