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First in the Nation: A New Hampshire Town Meeting

Location: Dartmouth College, NH

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very much, Cindy. Thank you for the question and first of all, obviously, I'd like to thank Tom and Judy for being here. I'd like to thank WMUR and CNN for sponsoring what the people of New Hampshire expect and demand, and that's to see us, to talk to us and hear what we have to say. And I'd also like to thank myself for making sure that Dartmouth won their first victory of the season on Saturday.

MCCAIN: Mr. President, I sent...

Since we take credit for everything, I might as well that.

Cindy, I thank you for the question because I worry—I worry a great deal about the unintended consequences of sending a message that we're not an inclusionary party. I am a proud pro-life person. I have a 17-year record on that issue. But I believe that we must begin a dialogue and a discussion on the issue of abortion. Both pro-life and pro-choice people believe very strongly that we need to eliminate abortion.

I and my wife, Cindy, are proud adoptive parents. We need to encourage adoption in America. We need to match up those children that have no families with those families that have no children. We need to improve foster care dramatically in America.

We can work together. And my party, which is proud of its pro- life position and I am proud of it, should send the word: We want you in our party. We can have respectful disagreements on specific issues and we can work together on this one. I thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you. That is an excellent question...

... that I would prefer to duck.


... when I was in Keene, at Keene College not long ago, at the Q&As which I have—speak very briefly, which is uncharacteristic of a senator, and answered questions, a young woman said to me: Senator McCain, what do you think about industrial hemp? And being an old Navy person, I thought it was a great thing for making ropes and lines as we do in the Navy.

I found out that the question was more along the lines of your question, and that industrial hemp is used for different purposes than making lines.

In fact, it is used to—for inhalation purposes.

Look, I can't support the legalization of marijuana. Clearly, scientific evidence indicates that the moment that it enters your body, one it does damage and second it can become addictive. And as you say, it is a gateway drug.

There is a problem in America with alcohol abuse and there's no doubt about that. We have to do whatever we can; prevention, education. And that applies to drugs, too.

My friends, we're losing the war on drugs. We ought to say, it's not a war anymore or we really ought to go after it. And there was a time in our history when we weren't always losing the war on drugs. It was when Nancy Reagan had a very simple program called Just Say No. And young Americans were reducing the usage of drugs in America.

So I can't agree with your thesis. But I also agree with you that there is an alcohol abuse problem in America.

I've got a couple of seconds, I want to add to what Gary said. Why is it that we can't come up with a decent patients' bill of rights? The Democrats are gridlocked by special interests of the trial lawyers, the Republicans by the insurance companies and special interests. Until we reform this campaign finance system, we're not going to reach a conclusion.

MCCAIN: I believe we can. There's no doubt that our new military requires a great deal of training, a great deal of expertise, and the technological skills that frankly don't lend themselves to a short-term draft.

And I believe that the all-volunteer force has not failed. I believe our government and Congress have failed the all-volunteer force.

We won Operation Desert Storm—one of the great successes in military history—with an all-volunteer force. What's happened since? The president and the Congress have allowed the military to deteriorate to such an alarming degree that it's almost obscene.

I identified $6.—in response to the lady, who I think is now gone...

I identified $6.4 billion worth of waste, worth of projects we don't need or want. It is—as I said, it's enraging.

People say that perhaps John McCain gets angry. My friends, I get angry when we spend $350 million on a carrier the Navy doesn't want or need.

Five hundred and some million on an airplane or C-130 that the Air Force has said for years they don't need. And meanwhile, my dear friends, we have 12,000 enlisted families— brave young men and women—on food stamps.

That's a disgrace. That's an outrage. I'm going to fix it as president of the United States, and I promise those men and women in the military that's my first priority.

And I want to tell you that when we have...

MCCAIN: Sure, I'm for a flat tax. I'm for a tax system where average Americans can fill out their tax return on a postcard and send it in and not have the fear of an audit.

But my dear friends, do you know why the tax code is 44,000 pages long? Do you know why it's a nightmare, a chamber of horrors for average citizens and a cornucopia of good deals for the special interests?

Do you know when we just passed the last tax bill through the Congress, Republican-sponsored, it had tax breaks for the special interests like a company, a corporation in Delaware that turns chicken litter into energy, and those tax cuts would have taken place immediately while the marriage penalty repeal, where young Americans are being penalized for getting married tax-wise? It's because of the special interests. It's because of the special interests.

The special interests rule in Washington. The big money, the huge six- and seven-figure contributions that come in: that every time we pass a tax bill we add another special loophole and a special deal for the special interests.

I'm for reform. I'm for reform of education, reform of the military, reform of the tax code.

My dear friends, that's not possible. That's not possible when average Americans are no longer represented in Washington, D.C.

And I will fight to the last breath I draw to eliminate the influence of special interests in the tax code and every other part of America. And I will not rest until I give the government back to you.

Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you for that question.

It is probably the—and we've answered several questions surrounding it—it's probably the pressing issue that faces America as we want to fully exploit the potential of this information technology revolution that we're going through.

We simply don't have the teachers, nor do we have the educated people to fulfill this incredible potential that is changing America in the world. And I'm pleased that America leads.

Look, may I propound one simple proposition? I don't see why a good teacher should be paid less money than a bad senator.

I think that it's important—I think that it's important that we have merit pay for teachers, that we have teacher testing, that we do everything we can to motivate young men and women to enter this profession.

As we all know, there's a whole generation that's retiring. It is unconscionable that the average salary of a lawyer is $79,000 a year and the average salary of a teacher is $39,000. And I promised not to tell a single lawyer joke.

But the fact is that we have to have choice and competition in our schools in order to improve our school system, including charter schools, including a test-voucher program that would be paid for with ethanol subsidies, which I would hope my friends would join in—the gas and oil subsidies—and with sugar subsidies. And in order to make that system work, a test-voucher program throughout America.

We have to have good teachers, and I would argue that merit pay, rewards for good teachers and helping bad teachers find another line of work is the way we must go about it.

And the really, the...

MCCAIN: .... future of our kids rests upon it.

Thank you for the question.

MCCAIN: I want to be president of the United States because I want to reform government. The only way you're going to do that is clean up this special interest ruling of our government through all of this huge amounts of money and donations.

Then, I want to inspire a generation of Americans to commit themselves to a cause greater than their self-interest. There are great causes in the world, where there are hungry children, where there's seniors without shelter, and where people are killing are people are killing each other because of ethnic and tribal hatreds.

MCCAIN: I can do that.

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