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Public Statements

Delivers Speech at Town Hall Meeting in Riverside

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Date:
Location: Riverside, CA

HEADLINE: U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ) DELIVERS SPEECH AT TOWN HALL MEETING; RIVERSIDE, CALIFORNIA
SPEAKER: U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE

*

MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for your warm welcome. Thank you very much. Thank you for your enthusiasm. Thank you for being here. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Please. Thank you very much and thank you for being here and thank you for that warm Arizona—I mean California welcome.

As you know, we in Arizona spend a lot of time here in California. In fact, I don't know if you're aware of it or not, but I have to come over and visit my constituents in San Diego during the months of July and August, and yet we've never received any gratitude for that economic input on the part of my constituents. So the next time you're down there and you see one of them— and they call them Zonies, you know, which is a terrible insult—say thanks, thanks for coming over, you good people from Arizona.

It's very—I'm very happy to be here with you all. I'd like to introduce to you, obviously, the person that many of you have had the opportunity to hear and know, the mother of our four children, Meghan, 15, Jack, 13, Jimmy, 11, and Bridget, 8, my wife Cindy McCain, (inaudible) to know her.

(APPLAUSE)

She is a graduate of the University of Southern California and so...

(APPLAUSE)

I know that gets mixed responses when I mention that.

Bill Jones, thank you for your support. Thank you for your outstanding work on behalf of the state of California.

Bruce Hershenson. Bruce Hershenson should be in the United States Senate today, my friends. As you know, a great man.

(APPLAUSE)

Marilyn, thank you.

And I'd like to introduce to you one more fellow Californian of mine, the first American POW held in North Vietnam, shot down in August of 1964 and released in January of 1973, a dear and wonderful friend and a hero and role model to me and many others, Everett Alvarez, so many of you may know—Everett.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you, Everett.

Thank all of you for being here today. And thank you—the town hall meeting has been the trademark of this campaign and so I don't intend to speak for a very long period of time, uncharacteristically for a United States senator. But I do want to say a few words and make some remarks, and then I'd like to respond to questions, comments or occasional insults that we get at town hall meetings, which is what makes them interesting on many occasions.

In the last few days, we have—we know we have broadened our political base at the town hall meetings. There was a guy in Sacramento wearing a very colorful shirt, and he had a sign that said, "Hippies for McCain." Now, you know that we're probably going to go over the top. And if that doesn't convince you, you know I have this line, and I'll use it again today where I said, look, I'm a proud Reagan conservative Republican, but the way that we reach out—and I'll talk about this a little more is by attracting other people to our banner. That's what coalition and governing politics is all about: attracting others to your conservative principles. And I say we want Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians and vegetarians. We have seen many, many signs now, "Vegetarians for McCain." So now that we have the hippy and the vegetarian vote, I think we're in pretty good shape.

I noticed that there's some really, truly great literary people that really appreciate good books and wonderful literature that are here carrying my book. Thank you very much. Thank you very much. And I hate it when you hold that book up because it appears that I'm somehow hyping the sales of that book. It's published by Random House, it's $24.95. You can get it at your local bookstore or Amazon.com, but don't think—it's number six on the best-seller list, it's going to be number three next week, but please don't think I'm trying to...

Had a wonderful experience a few days ago in Columbus, Ohio. We had a book-signing. A thousand people came. I signed a thousand books in one sitting. And it's a wonderful experience because so many great Americans, so many wonderful Americans, especially veterans, come to these book signings. An Iraqi—a veteran of Desert Storm came. He had a picture of himself and his friends on an Iraqi tank. A Vietnam War—several Vietnam War veterans came with cruise books on the ships that I had been on with them; Korean War and World War II veterans, pictures of my father and my grandfather, and it's very touching, and it's been very emotional for me because the book is really about three people, a grandfather, a father and a son, who were flawed individuals but found redemption serving their country's cause in the United States Navy. And that's one reason why I'm sure the book is as popular as it is. It stops the day that I leave prison so you don't have to wade through any political theory or ideas.

But, you know, what it reminds me of and makes me think about a lot—and I know it makes a lot of us think about—and that is our veterans, but especially our World War II veterans. Thanks to Tom's Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," which was number one on the best-seller list and sold five million copies, we are beginning to re- appreciate or, in many cases, for the first time appreciate the service and sacrifice of our greatest generation, our World War II generation. And thanks to the movie "Saving Private Ryan," we—I wish every young American would see that movie at the appropriate time because it's such a gripping and compelling story of heroism and sacrifice. And that's the good news.

The bad news is that there's a great—that they are leaving us. Our World War II veterans are leaving us at 30,000 a month. Every month, 30,000 World War II veterans leave us. And the national scandal and disgrace is that we're not giving them the health care and benefits that we promised them when they served and sacrificed. I promise you I will change that. I will change that as president of the United States.

(APPLAUSE)

I will not allow that disgrace to continue in our treatment of all of our veterans, much less our World War II veterans. I promise you we will change that.

(APPLAUSE)

Could we ask our veterans to stand? Please stand. Please stand, our veterans. Please. Thank you, guys. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

Thank you all, thank you, especially our—especially our greatest generation. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you very much.

I want to talk to you about another situation that as—as applies to our military. Not only is it our veterans that are being neglected today, also our active duty men and women in the military. My friends...

(APPLAUSE)

The military is in—is in disarray. The military is not in the kind of condition we want it to be, they are not prepared to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War era, and it is a shared responsibility. President Clinton has neglected the military. By the way, this is the first administration in history that has a president of the United States, a secretary of defense and a secretary of state none of whom have ever spent one minute wearing the uniform of the armed services of the United States. That's going to change, too, when I'm president of the United States. And...

(APPLAUSE)

We have a thing in—our system today is an all-volunteer force. The all-volunteer force has not failed us, we have failed the all- volunteer force because we have neglected the men and women in the military, we have a president who treats foreign policy as social work. He conducts effectless a photo-op foreign policy for which we have already paid a price but we may in the future pay a very, very heavy price in American blood and treasurer. This president sees a problem in Haiti, send 20,000 troops, spend $2 billion. Haiti is arguably worse off for the experience. Got a peacekeeping mission in Somalia? Send a bunch of troops, send them warlord hunting and then let things deteriorate to the point where we see on our television screens the bodies of American soldiers being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.

My friends, the worst part of this is that the neglect has not only been carried out by the president of the United States but the Congress of the United States. The Congress of the United States spends on every defense bill in the most outrageous and obscene fashion, and while they do this—I identified $6.4 billion worth of earmark and wasteful spending in the last defense bill, just the last one—equipment we don't need, C-130 aircraft that the Air Force has said they haven't need for 10 years, $235 million for a helicopter carrier that the Marine Corp and the Navy says they neither want nor need, and the list goes on and on. And that—and that's really disturbing. In fact, it's—it almost makes me lose my temper. And...

(APPLAUSE)

... But what really—but what really angers...

(APPLAUSE)

But—what really angers all of us is that we have 12,000, 12,000 proud, brave, young men and women, enlisted men and women in our military that are on food stamps, they're on food stamps. There will be no food stamp Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps while I'm president of the United States. We've got to stop this stop it now, and I promise you that.

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, all my life I have been involved in these issues in one way or another. I am fully prepared to be the commander in chief. I need no on-the-job training. I am fully prepared to be commander- in-chief and president of the United States to and handle these challenges that face our nation.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to talk to you for just a minute about taxes and the surplus. This is a very important issue and, I think, in many ways one of the more important issues in this campaign.

As you know. for the first time since President Eisenhower was president we now have surplus. Let's remember what a surplus is: It's you're money in Washington, D.C., OK? That's what a surplus is. We didn't—it's no machine, no Congressman or senator had any particular responsibility, it was just a credible booming economy that has—that has accounted for that. Then the question is, what do you do with the surplus. In my view, we have to have a responsible, mature approach, recognizing that not only do working families need tax cuts but we have obligations to meet. That is a dramatic difference between me and Governor Bush. Governor Bush wants to spend every penny on tax cuts. Thirty-eight percent of his tax cuts go to the wealthiest one percent of Americans. I don't think Donald Trump needs a tax cut right now, but I think working families do.

(APPLAUSE)

I see there's some Donald Trump fans here in the audience.

(LAUGHTER)

The fact is—the fact is what we need to do is take—is understand that working families still pay as much of 40 percent of their income in taxes when you count up state, local, federal, sales, all of the taxes that they have. They need to have their taxes cut. We need to take the 15-percent tax bracket and move it all the way up, flatten the tax bracket up to couples making as much as $70,000 a year. We need to eliminate the marriage penalty. There's no reason why people should pay more taxes because they get married. We should...

(APPLAUSE)

We should take—we should take these confiscatory death taxes that they call "estate taxes." Don't any—no one should pay a penny in taxes until about $5 million. You should not...

(APPLAUSE)

Family business and farms should not be confiscated because of that terrible death task. That should be—not kick in until about $5 million. We should do a number of other things, but the importance is to put the emphasis on working families in America, number one, and number two, one of the ways you should pay for part of this is by closing the obscene pork barrel— excuse me, special interest loopholes in corporate welfare that now has made the tax code 44,000 pages long. So we want to...

(APPLAUSE)

So I want to pay for a tax cut for working families, I want to pay for it by part of the surplus but also closing corporate loopholes.

And also, then, I want to take 62 percent of this surplus and put it into Social Security. Why do I want to do that? Why do I want to do that? We all know that by the year 2014 there's going to be more money going out of the Social Security trust fund than going in. There's young people in this room that are not going to receive the benefits that they worked for and the taxes that come out of their payroll unless we fix this system. There was a poll not too many years ago that showed that more young Americans believe Elvis is alive than believe they'll ever see a Social Security check. And you know—Elvis...

(LAUGHTER)

Elvis has been spotted in Riverside a number of times, and so...

(LAUGHTER)

But the point is they're right, the point is they're right. It doesn't match up, the money going out and the number of retirees per worker. So what do we need to do? Put a bunch of that money into it, 62 percent of the surplus, and then allow people to take part of their payroll taxes and invest it into taxes of their own choosing.

MCCAIN: Now, Governor Bush says you can't leave this money around Washington. I guarantee you if you've got money in an account and your name is on it, no congressman is going to take it away from you. It's—that's the safest place to put it, in your retirement account. Finally...

(APPLAUSE)

And by the way, for those who think that it's a speculative idea, it's being done in several other countries in the world today and very successfully. But the other thing we need to do is put some money into Medicare; we all know it's going to go broke.

And finally, the most interesting thing, perhaps, of my entire hundred and—many hundreds of town hall meetings, is the incredible, I think generosity of spirit that has been displayed by average American citizens at these meetings. I, time after time, I have had citizens, working-family citizens, working-class Americans, stand up and say to me, Senator McCain, you know, I really want a tax cut, and I'd like to have it, but I also think we have another obligation, and that's this $3.6 trillion debt that we're laying on future generations of Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

And you know what they're saying? They're saying, look, yes, I want a tax cut, but I want to take care of these young people and I want to pay down the debt, I want to pay down the debt. That's an enormous expression of understanding of our obligations on the part of most Americans. Governor Bush has not one penny for Social Security, not one penny for Medicare, not one penny for paying down the debt. All of it go—all of his idea of his proposal goes into tax cuts, as I mentioned. My friends, the way to address this issue is to recognize in bad times we have obligations, in good times then we take care of those obligations just like American families do.

Now, I want to talk to you for a minute about—about why I'm running for president of the United States. Cindy McCain alleges because it's because I received several sharp blows to the head while I was in prison.

(LAUGHTER)

And I don't—I don't agree with that theory. My kids do, I'm afraid.

(LAUGHTER)

By the way, we sold the movie rights to that book that I mentioned, and...

(LAUGHTER)

And Sam Donaldson not long ago said, Oh, Senator McCain, you sold the movie rights. I said yes. He said—he said, who's going to play you in the movie? I said, I want Tom Cruise, my kids want Danny DeVito. So we're going to find—find out who it is that will—that will play us.

(LAUGHTER)

So I—so I want to talk to you about why I'm running for president of the United States. I'm running for president of the United States because I want to reform, and the reason why so many people have flocked to our banner is because we really need to reform this government, we really need to bring it back into the hands of the people, we really need to reform the military so that once again men and women in it cannot only serve efficiently but also will have a president of the United States that they can look up to and respect and be proud to serve.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to reform the tax code that I told you about, which is 44,000 pages long. In the last four years, that tax code has gone from 40,000 pages to 44,000 pages. Why? Because the special interest, the big money guys that rule Washington. Every time we pass a bill, we put in another special deal for a special interest. What does that do to them? It makes it a cornucopia of good deals for them. You know what it does to you? It makes it a nightmare, a chamber of horrors. How can anyone in this room understand a 44,000- page tax code? Nobody in the world does. And we need to take that thing and rip it up, get rid of all those loopholes, give you a tax code that you can understand and that will—and not allow—cause you to carry the major tax burden while the big special interest folks get a free ride. You know, we put a...

(APPLAUSE)

Small example—I could tell you thousands of them: One of them we just put in in the last tax bill, a provision to give tens of millions of dollars of tax breaks for a company in Delaware that turns chicken litter into energy. Now, it just so happens the chairman of the committee happens to be from Delaware, but I know it's been an issue that's been a—on a lot of our minds is to what we're going to do with all of that chicken litter in Delaware.

(LAUGHTER)

And you know, and you think to yourself, isn't this bizarre and isn't it funny, but the fact is that the government has to have revenues, and if the—if the special interests and the tax breaks don't pay it, then guess who does, guess who does? The people without a voice in Washington these days. So, I want to reform these institution of government, but what I—the point I'm making here is that we can't reform these institutions unless we break the iron triangle in Washington of lobbying, big money and legislation that has taken the government away from you. I am committed to breaking that iron triangle.

And by the way, that Iron Triangle and establishment is intent on breaking me. Listen, we're Luke Skywalker going out of the Death Star, they're getting at us from all sides, and we're going to win, and we're going to prevail, and that is what this thing is all about. I'm telling you, this is what this campaign is all about.

(APPLAUSE)

So, what do we need? We obviously need campaign finance reform. And why do we need it so badly? Bill Jones will tell you that last March they had a luncheon with the secretaries of state in Washington, D.C.—I attended that lunch. And you know why they were at that luncheon? Because they did a study of the 18- to 26-year-old vote in the 1998 election. You know what the results of that election were, we had the lowest voter turnout in the history of this country of the 18- to 26-years-old. Bill Jones and all the secretaries of state said, we've got to look at this, we've got to figure out why this is happening. The consequences are obvious if our youngest generation of voters will not take part. Well, they did focus groups, I saw them. You know what these young people said? They said I would never run for public office. They said, why should I vote, none of you reflect my hopes and dreams and aspirations. Then they said, then they said in these focus groups, you guys, you guys, are corrupt.

My friends, that shames me because I believe that public office is the most honorable—public service is the most honorable of all professions. I believed it when I was 17 when I entered the Naval Academy, and I believe it today. And so we've got to, for the sake of this next generation, clean this up.

And why are these young people angry, why are we angry? Because in 1996 the president of the United States and the vice president of the United States debased every institution of government in their zeal and their greed to raise money from everywhere, including China and Indonesia, in order to reelect Clinton and Gore, the president of United States. And so these young people are not proud, they're not proud anymore. And I will ask you, are you proud when the president of the United States, when the president of the United States takes the Lincoln Bedroom, the Lincoln—the bedroom of Abraham Lincoln, rents it out, treats it like Motel 6 and he's the bellhop? Are you proud when they do that?

AUDIENCE: No.

MCCAIN: No. Are you proud when the vice president of the United States comes out here to California, he goes to a Buddhist monastery and he asks monks and nuns to renounce their vows of poverty, pay thousand of dollars in campaign contributions so that they can spiritually commune with him? Are you proud of that?

AUDIENCE: No.

MCCAIN: Of course not, of course not.

And I've got to tell you, Republicans are now doing the same thing. Republican Party is going to take $7 million from the tobacco companies, the people that lied to Congress and addicted our kids. My friends, we've got to clean this up. And the vice president of the United States, after all this, stood before the American people and looked them in the eye and said, there's no controlling legal authority, there's no controlling legal authority for this Chinese money that came in and breached American security; no controlling legal authority for selling seats on official trade missions, which they did to $100,000-donors; no controlling legal authority for the most scandalous behavior, including an attorney general of the United States who refused to have an independent counsel investigate even though this director of the FBI and the head of her own task force that she assigned, that she appointed, recommended strongly that she do so, a disgraceful performance on the part of the attorney general of the United States. But the vice president of the United States said, there's no controlling legal authority.

My dear friends, I'm going to give him a controlling legal authority, I'm going to give him an ethic—controlling ethical authority, and then I'm going to beat him like a drum and send him back to Tennessee where he belongs. And we've had enough of the Clinton-Gore campaign—administration.

(APPLAUSE)

I am the candidate for the Republican Party who is a true conservative, fiscally. I fought against every pork barrel spending bill there is. Last fall, we passed the biggest pork barrel spending bill in history. I voted against it, I would have vetoed it. The— Governor Bush said that he would support it and sign it. Governor Bush, under—as governor of the state of Texas, spending has gone up 35 percent. The federal spending under President Clinton has only gone up 20 percent. Governor Bush has failed to identify a single spending cut that he would make or a corporate loophole that he would close.

MCCAIN: I have been an advocate of campaign finance reform for years and fought for it, and we will get it. Governor Bush, in a state where there is literally no controls on campaign contributions, has no plan. The plan he came up with the other day was a joke because it has no restriction on individual contribution limits. I am the fiscal conservative, I am the reformer. I am proud when I am imitated, but don't be fooled by imitations, my friends. The real reformer is standing right in front of you.

(APPLAUSE)

So, a week from yesterday, the people of California are going to send a message not only throughout America but throughout the world. Really to a large degree the way that the people of California vote next Tuesday will have a tremendous impact on who the next president of the United States is, because for the first time, as Bill mentioned, in I don't know how long, this calender date makes the California vote of incredible importance.

And I know that California is a very diverse state, and I know that when you go to one part you see different people and different attitudes and different political make-up, that's one of the great beauties and strengths of California because it reflects the entire make-up of America and the incredible strength and vitality that rests in this entire state because we've had new blood and new people and new ideas and new servants and new people who have served the country in a broad variety of ways. So, California is a microcosm of America, and what you do, what you do next Tuesday will have an incredible impact. I obviously would solicit your—not only your vote, but your active involvement in this campaign. I am grateful for your support.

What we are trying to do is not just elect me. Obviously, that's why I'm here, but when we won in New Hampshire a few Tuesday nights ago, we went from a campaign to a great crusade. That crusade is to reform this country and to bring it to its fullest potential. The United States of America is the most powerful nation in the world, militarily and economically, therefore, we are the greatest force for good in the world, and, therefore, this young generation is capable of acts and deeds of nobility and sacrifice that will change and enhance and enrich this world we live in and make us, again, proud—to be Americans and proud to be the noblest experiment ever seen on this earth. That's what this campaign is all about.

(APPLAUSE)

So I've—we've changed America, we've changed the political arena, and now we've got to put the finishing touches on it and go all the way, starting next Tuesday night, to the White House and bring about a new day.

So, may I say to you, finally, in closing—and then we'll respond to questions—I thank you for being here, I thank you for your support.

I'd like to end with—tell you one brief episode that I think has a lot to do in describing this campaign we've been waging. On the 100th town hall meeting that I had in New Hampshire, it was at the Plymouth Armory in Plymouth, New Hampshire, a woman stood up and she didn't have a question. She had a statement that I think really goes to the heart of what this campaign's all about. She looked me straight in the eye and she said, Senator McCain, it is vitally important that the next president of the United States always tell me the truth no matter what.

My friends, there are times in this campaign when we agree; there are times when we will disagree. But based on my principles, my life experiences, the caution of some wonderful men that I had the privilege of knowing with long—knowing long ago and far away, I promise you that as president of the United States I will always tell you the truth, no matter what.

Thank you very much, and thank you for being here today. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

(AUDIO GAP)

MCCAIN: ... what are we going to do about China? We're going to make sure that China knows, first of all, that any aggression committed against Taiwan will have severe and serious consequences which would far exceed any benefit they would gain from that aggression.

(APPLAUSE)

One of the concrete actions I would take, which is now a subject of great debate within the Pentagon, I would put some emphasis on sea- borne missile defense systems so that I can move ships in international waters in that area in case China threatens militarily Taiwan.

But let me tell you one other side of the equation that I would do very quickly, because this is one of the great challenges that we face: the emergence of China on the world scene as a superpower. I spoke at a facility in New Hampshire not long ago. It was a place—outfit called Simplex. They make cable that carries the Internet. That's what their job is. Just about two months ago, they—that cable hit China, and now the Chinese people will have access, over time, to the Internet.

If you look at the history of every oppressive and repressive dictatorship and repressive government in the world, the one factor that's kept them in power is control of information, because information is knowledge. I am convinced, when the Internet proliferates throughout China, which they will have to do because of their economy, that you will see them unable to maintain control over those people because now information is knowledge and knowledge is freedom. But it's a very serious challenge, and we could talk for an hour about it. But I am optimistic, over time, because the Chinese cannot continue to repress with the kind of information and knowledge they'll need in order to stay up or catch up economically.

Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: Senator McCain, many of us support you because we want America to be more than a great place to buy a hamburger.

MCCAIN: Yes, ma'am.

QUESTION: But I have to express concern about your book because you have told us it's $24.95. I have a book from another senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, and it only cost $3. Do you have an explanation for me?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: My response is, when did you buy it, 1964?

QUESTION: Absolutely. Thank you.

MCCAIN: That's inflation. That's a problem with inflation.

Could I tell you one brief story about Barry that I think you'll appreciate, our beloved Barry Goldwater?

You know, I succeeded him in the Senate, and one of the controversies associated with the 1964 campaign, as you might remember, was what about Vietnam? you know, and there's that old line about, they told me if I voted for Barry Goldwater they would bomb Vietnam, and I did and they did, you know. And I have a story that I tell, the night of my election when Barry Goldwater was my campaign chairman in 1986 when I ran to succeed him, he got a little nostalgic and he said, John, if I'd been elected president in 1964 and defeated Lyndon Johnson, you'd have never spent all those years in a Vietnamese prison camp. And I said, you're right, Barry. It would have been a Chinese prison camp. He was not amused by that.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Senator McCain, I have a question, but first I want to say on behalf of my father and my children and my grandchildren, thank you for the sacrifice that you made for this country.

MCCAIN: Thank you. Thank you very much. Thank you, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

END

NOTES:
Unknown - Indicates speaker unknown.
Inaudible - Could not make out what was being said. off mike - Indicates could not make out what was being said.

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