HEADLINE: U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ) HOLDS A CAMPAIGN EVENT ON VETERANS' DAY; NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE
SPEAKERS: U.S. SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ)
SENATOR MCCAIN AT THE VFW HALL IN NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE:
HOST: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, and especially you veterans and families of veterans, and the reason we're down here this afternoon in this crowded little space is to introduce Veterans for McCain in New Hampshire.
Now whileas I'm saying that, we have veterans all over the state right now participating in many, many functions that are all on the Veterans for McCain team. We couldn't fit them all in here anyway, but we do have some ardent supporters right here.
And I want to tell you it's a great honor and a great privilege for me to introduce to you today our choice for the next president of the United States, a true American patriot, a true American hero, and just a great guy, Senator McCain.
MCCAIN: Thank you very much, Paul. Thank you, and thank you for your leadership. Thank you for your support.
It is my understanding that this group here recogrepresents 10,000 identified veterans in the State of New Hampshire that have committed to me in my candidacy in writing. I am very grateful for that. In return, I am committed to providing the health care that we promised our veterans, particularly our World War II veterans as well as others.
I promise to give them a strong national defense, and I promise them that I will not conduct foreign policy as social work, which this administration has done, and I will be very carefulextremely careful with our most precious commodity, and that is American blood.
I'm honored by their support. I believe that they're one of the important bases that will allow us to win here in New Hampshire and across the country, and I'm very gratified and humbled by their support.
With that, I'd like to respond - of course, I'm very honoredwe're all very honored to have Connie Stevens with us as well.
I am very prepared to answer any questions or comments that you might have.
QUESTION: Senator, howto what do you attribute the fact that you are now, according to the latest poll, in a statistical heat with George Bush?
MCCAIN: I think we've worked very hard, but I also would give great credit to the men and women who are behind me as well as thousands of others across the State of New Hampshire, and I'm very pleased with where we are. I also know New Hampshire well enough to know that many voters will change their minds three or four times between now and the first of February. So we have a lot of work yet today, and we're still an underdog.
QUESTION: He was anointed for a long time as being the front runner in this race. What's happened in the last couple of weeks, the last couple of months to make a difference?
MCCAIN: About four months ago, we went to Peterborough, New Hampshire, and we gave away free ice cream, and we were in the basewe were in the basementKathy (ph) remembers that. We were in the basement of the town hall, and 40 people came. A week or so ago, we were in that same town hall, and we were upstairs, and 450 people came. There is no doubt there is interest in this campaign and that we are getting support.
But thethe people of New Hampshire take their responsibilities very seriously. Most of them have not made up their minds, and I view this as still an underdog situation that we're in.
QUESTION: Senator, why did you...
QUESTION: ... talking about what you have done both in Arizona and in the Senate, or are you going to start talking about George Bush's record? "The Washington Post" has been looking at his social policies within particular with welfare reform. When do you start attacking his record?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I don't think I attack his record. I think that the media and the American people and the people in New Hampshire will be able to make those comparisons, but I think he's a very fine and decent person who's been a good governor of the State of Texas, and he's a friend of mine.
I hope that people will compare our records. And we will be in debates. Iwe will be in one here in New Hampshire on the second of December, I believe, and at that time, people will be able to compare us on the basis of our vision for the future of the country. But I pledged a long time ago that there will be no negative comments out of my campaign or from me. That's not what the people want to hear.
QUESTION: Senator, why did you decide to pull the ad thatthat had the Arlington cemetery footage, and will you use any of that footage in any subsequent ads?
MCCAIN: We pulled it because we made a very serious mistake by not getting permission and violating the regulations of the cemetery. So the only appropriate thing to do was to change the ad and, obviously, I would not do such a thing again, and I regret the mistake that we made.
QUESTION: On veterans' issues, what do you think about the governor's proposals the last couple of days to improve veterans' health care? Contrast it with your plan.
MCCAIN: I haven't seen his specific proposals. I'm glad that on Veterans Day and approaching Veterans Day that the governor and other candidates are discussing veterans' issues. I've been discussing veterans' issues every day, and I will continue to discuss them every day until we give them the benefits that we promised them when they agreed to serve and sacrifice for this nation, and it has to be my highest priority...
MCCAIN: ... and Iand I applaud all of the other candidates being involved in veterans' issues, and I'mI know they'll make the same commitment to them that I am because this administration has had a flat VA budget while we have a group of aging World War II veterans who are not getting the long-term geriatric care that we promised them, and it's a national disgrace.
QUESTION: Senator, with respect to the veterans you just spoke of, are you tapping into a reserve of voters that was not previously identified by other veterans who have run for the presidencyBob Dole and George Bush specifically.
MCCAIN: Your point is extremely well made because President Clinton was able to get a majority of the veterans' vote in both 1992 and 1996. Some people are surprised when they hear that. President Clinton worked very hard to get the veterans' vote, and the veterans are not automatic knee-jerk voters. They are like any other voters. They want to know if you are going to be there to satisfy their hopes and dreams and aspirations. So I have to work very hard with their vote both in the primary and when I win the nomination in the general election.
QUESTION: Do you expect you will win the...
QUESTION: Are you...
QUESTION: ... majority of...
MCCAIN: Cancan I ask you to let him follow up, and then I'll...
QUESTION: Thank you.
MCCAIN: We've got plenty of time.
QUESTION: Thanks again. Are youare you concerned at all about the timing of what appears to be a peaking of your popularity?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I hope it isn't a peak, but, second of all, in an ideal situation, I think we would have preferred for this traction to be translated into the polling at a later time, but when I say that, it sure beats the daylights out of no traction at all. Thank you.
Yes? I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I can't even remember what my question was.
MCCAIN: I'm sorry. I'm sure you'll think...
QUESTION: Do you expectdo you expect to get a majority of the veterans' votes here in New Hampshire because of your campaigning and your message?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope so, but it is certainly by no means clear. We have a great deal of work to do. We have identified 10,000. There's 150 -- 30 -- 130,000 veterans in the State of New Hampshire. So we really have only signed up a very small percentage of them, and so we have a lot of work to do, and that's why I'm counting on my foot soldiers here behind me to do the job.
QUESTION: Are they your best example on aof retail politics? We've talked about this before. Is this your best example of retail politics at its best?
MCCAIN: I think this is the example of retail politics, an example of the people of New Hampshire who want to examine you. They don't want to hear long speeches. They want to hear answers rather than platitudes. And to give you an example, Ithisa true story. I met a man not long ago that said he'd been to five town hall meetings that I've given. That is ample testimony to my inability to close the deal, but thebut theythe people of New Hampshire really do examine you, and many of them who in this poll say they're supporting John McCain would also quickly add "but I have not decided who I'm going to vote for," and thatthat's something that all of us in this campaign have to keep in mind.
QUESTION: Based on your recent momentum in New Hampshire, do you think you will go back and make a stronger effort in Iowa and, if so, would that be a less risky strategy?
MCCAIN: We still don't see where I would have the most precious asset, and that's my time, just to devote a lot of that to the State of Iowa. We will debate. I ththere's two debates out there in Iowa, and I'll be a part of those and, certainly, I'll be appealing to any hearty soul who's willing to go through a snowstorm and raise their hand on my behalf, but so far, we have not changed our position that we have to devote most of our efforts and take our stand here in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
QUESTION: In answer to my question earlier, were you being critical of the Texas governor and your other opponents for not talking about veterans' affairs or...
MCCAIN: No, I'm not. Every candidate sets their own agenda and their own priorities, so my priority is obviously the conduct of national security issues and also veterans' affairs. So I'm not being critical of anyone else for whatever issue they produthey pursue. I'm just pleased whenever any candidate or any public officeholder expresses their support for our veterans.
QUESTION: Governor Bush has come out with a veterans plan. Have you seen it? And what's your response to it?
MCCAIN: I have notI have not seen it, and I'm sure it's good, and I applaud his involvement in support of veterans.
OK. Well, that's the last chance to beat the otherso, Ron, got anything else? No? I thought you'd have some...
QUESTION: On a generational level, I see a wide age range here of the folks standing behind you, but...
MCCAIN: We've beenit's interesting...
QUESTION: ... with all due respect...
QUESTION: ... they'reyou know, younger...
MCCAIN: Yeah. We're going to have to wheel some of them out there, you know. They've beenKathy (ph) -- Kathy (ph) herewe're going to have to get awhere are you, Kathy (ph)? Oh, she's already fallen asleep there. Sothey nod off sometimes in my speeches, too. Yeah.
QUESTION: ... younger voters who maybe said, you know, "I'm not going to go into the military. I'm going to try to earn a living."
MCCAIN: The realit's not exactlymy foot soldiers are getting restless here. Theone of the really heartening experiences I had was after the debate at Dartmouth, at Hanover, the other night, we went over to a restaurant, and there was 400 Hanover students there, and they were very enthusiastic. We're getting a kind of an odd combination of young people, students involved and older veterans, et cetera, and I'm very excited about that.
Soit's got to be broad-based coalition, and yetthis is one of the important bases, but I also think that my whole object of my campaignthe whole reason why I'm running is that I want to inspire young Americans to commit themselves to causes greater than their self-interest. So, obviously, we are focusing a great deal of attention on them as well.
But Ibut I'd like to repeat one more time: 20,000 World War II veterans are dying -- 30,000 World War II veterans are dying every month. They are not getting the care that they deserve, and it's not only a lesson for their generation, but it's a lesson that we've got to fulfill our obligation to them because some day we may call on another generation of Americans to serve and sacrifice as well.
QUESTION: ... bring up a point about earning a living. When I covered Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, a lot of families said, "We're having trouble making ends meet. We're having to work jobs above and beyond our duty to our country. We're making the sacrifice. Why can't they give us a decent paycheck?" What specifically are you going to do for people on active duty?
MCCAIN: You make a very important point. There are now 12,000 enlisted familiesproud, brave, young men and womenthat are on food stamps. That's a national disgrace, and it will change when I'm president of the United States. Those young...
MCCAIN: Thosewe have toon one of the networks a few nights ago was a comparison between military pay and civilian pay for people who do exactly the same work. The milthe civilian pay is twicetwice roughly what the military pay is. Obviously, we have to improve their pay, their benefits, their housing, their living conditions.
And, equally important to all that, cut back on some of these continuous deployments where they're away from their homes and families for unlimited periods of time. This is an all-volunteer force, and they're not going to stay unless we make sure that they have a reasonable amount of quality of life with their families and in their homes.
QUESTION: Senator McCain...
MCCAIN: See there. The foot soldiers are fired up.
QUESTION: A "Washington Post" article today reports on your use of corporate jets and a comparison between that and soft money contributions. Do you think some might find that inconsistent or troubling?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope not. I don't have Air Force Two to fly around in or have the money to lease a jet. We do reimburse according to the rules and, obviously, mythe object of my attention and attempt to reform are the large six- and seven-figure contributions in so-called soft money. So, no, I don'tI don't believe that that's a problem.
QUESTION: But don't you think you're accepting a favor?
MCCAIN: No, I don't. I'm reimbursing for making use of their airplane, according to the law and according to the standards that are set in which virtually every other candidate except for those that have an airplane of their own applyadhere to.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question?
QUESTION: You mentioned cutting back on deployments. Are you saying then fewer peacekeeping missions for Americans? Can I ask you about the UN dues?
MCCAIN: Sure. I'd be glad to. First of all, there are deployments that have been going on for many, many years that we ought to reevaluate. In the cases of Bosnia and in Kosovo, it's time we should urge our European allies to take over more of those responsibilities.
As far as our UN dues, clearly, we should pay our dues. We should pay our dues. We should pay our dues, and our alliesI meanexcuse methe United Nations should also, in return for that, institute many fundamental reforms which are very necessary because of the incredible inefficiency, bureaucratic waste, et cetera. But that does not relieve the United States of America of our responsibility to pay our dues which we have committed to as a nation.
QUESTION: ... more specific about where we get involved in the other parts of the world?
MCCAIN: We clearly have to be more specific, and we have to have a concept of what we want the world to look like, where our threats, our interests lie, and have a proactive foreign policy rather than a reactive one, as this administration has conducted policy by surprise. They were surprised when the North Koreans launch a three-stage nuclear mia three-stage missile over Japan, surprised when Pakistan and India test weapons. They're always surprised, and that's because they conduct foreign policy on an ad hoc basis.
QUESTION: What would a proactive foreign policy have meant in the case of Kosovo?
MCCAIN: In the case of Kosovo, we'd have never gotten into it because the Rambouillet accordsfirst of all, we would have forced an agreement when Mr. Milosevic came to Dayton. Second, we never would have forced the Rambouillet accords onor attempted to because the Rambouillet accords were not acceptable to Mr. Milosevic because he couldn't have stayed in power and accepted the presence of outside troops inin his country which was part of the Rambouillet agreement. So theso we never would have stumbled into it, much less the way that it was conducted, which was fundamentally immoral.
QUESTION: How do we then act proactively without being accused of being a bully, of abusing our status as the leader of the so-called free world?
MCCAIN: Well, that's the challenge. We have to have clear, consistent, predictable policies throughout the world. We have to explain very carefully to our friends and allies exactly where we feel our interests and values lie. And, again, we have to build alliances. We can't fall into these Kosovo traps. We can't say, "Oh, there's a problem in Haiti. Let's send 20,000 troops and spend $2 billion," and Haiti arguably is worse off for the experience. We have to understand that.
And, by the way, this isn't aan impossibility. I mean, these kinds of foreign policies literallypolicy was carried on since the end of World War II by Democrat and Republican alike. I may not have agreed with all of the things that have happened since World War II, but I had confidence that our leadership of the country was concentratingand carefullyon these issues.
This president invites the prime minister of China to come to the United States onwith the assurance that we're going to support China's entrance into the WTO, and then he's therewhile the prime minister of China is in the United States of America, does a flip flopI mean, one of the more bizarre acts in the history of American diplomacyand then we're surprised when the angwhen the Chinese get angry? I'm not taking the side of the Chinese, but at least they deserve some predictability. I'veI've never seen anything quite like that in my rather long life, for example.
Any more? For that, I thank you all very much. Thank you for coming. Thank you for being here. I thank all my veteran friends. Thank you.
SENATOR MCCAIN AT THE VFW HALL IN HUDSON, NEW HAMPSHIRE:
CONNIE STEVENS: As all of these men have and most of you hereand you know what I'm talking about, being military familiesJohn has yet to reach for the greatness that is going to happen in his life. He hashe has not finished, and I think that he has the qualities that I've always admired in my father, in my brothers, strength of character, funny, fair, protective. He can't be bought, and he can't be bullied, and I for one think that...
I think that's what we need. I think he's going to be the next president of the United States, and I'll be dancing with every one of you at the ball. Thanks for having me here.
MCCAIN: That was nice. That was nice.
You know what? I'm sorry. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you.
Joe Pratt (ph) is here, too. I forgot to mention him. Thank you, Joe, for being here. I thinkmaybe you can move just a little bit further so that everybody over there can see you.
Could I thankohDick Bailey (ph) andgood to see you, Dick. Thank you. Brad Stumpke (ph). Terry McGraff (ph). All of our old friends. All of us have one thing in common. We're getting old.
Could Icould I also thank our former state commander and the chairman of our veterans committee here in New Hampshire, Paul Chevaliers (ph), and the brains of the outfit, his wife, Kathy (ph), who you know is a
It's a wonderful way to end the day. We had a remarkable day, including dedicating a bridge named after General Merrill of Merrill's Marauders, thestarting out this morning with a wonderful breakfast. We've really had a remarkably wonderful day, and this is a great way to finish it off.
And, by the way, if somebodythere should be enough chairs. I hate to see you have to stand, and ifsorry. All right. OK, Paul. Whatever you say. Aye-aye, sir. OK. I won't say anything else.
And II have to tell you one brief story. Not too long before I retired from the United States Navy, I was over in San Diego at the bar having a Coca-Cola, as most fighter pilots do. II saw this old ancient senile-looking guy standing next to me. He looked likea lot like Paul Chevaliers (ph), as a matter of fact.
And I noticed that he had one stripe on his sleeve, and I said, "You're an ensign." I saidI said, "How long were in the Navy?" He said, "I was in the Navy for 41 years." I said, "Why were you not promoted?" He said, "Well, I was based at the first squadron at Guadalcanal early in World War II. One Japanese airplane which we called Washing Machine Charlie used to fly over our field every night at Henderson Field." Do you remember that? You're shaking your head. Indeed.
"And the siren would go off. I'd have to get out of my tent, go into the airplane, start the engine, sit there. Pretty soon, the all- clear siren would go off, and I'd shut down the engine to my airplane, get out of my airplane, go back to bed. I wasn't getting any sleep any night. It was killing me. I was feeling bad. The food was lousy.
"So I solved the problem. I went out in the jungle, and I caught this monkey, and I trained this monkey that, when the siren went off, he'd come out of the jungle, get into my airplane, start the engine, and sit there until the all-clear siren went off, and then he'd shut down the engine, get out of my airplane, and go back in the jungle. It was wonderful. I was sleeping like a baby every night.
"Well, sure enough one night I woke up. It was notit was not Washing Machine Charlie. It was a real Japanese air raid. I came out of my tent just in time to see that monkey taking off in my airplane." He said, "That's not what makes me mad. The monkey retired as an admiral last week." I thinkI think some of us served with thatI think I served with that monkey.
Ino, no, no, no, no, no. Anyway, I'm very happy to see all of you. It's a wonderful day. I want to just make a couple of additional comments to you because we want to have some enjoyment, listen to music, and have some fun.
First of all, I think a good thing is happening in America. A good thing. "Saving Private Ryan" is a gripping movie. Tom Brokaw's bookTom Brokaw's book"The Greatest Generation"we are finally appreciating the service and sacrifice of the greatest generation that, indeed, did make the world safe for democracy and a better life for all of us.
I want to thank them, especially along with all of our veterans tonight. Thirty thousand of them are dying every month. They are leaving us, and they're not getting the care that we promised them and the benefits that we promised them when they agreed to go out and serve and sacrifice. I want to tell you that will change. They deserve...
MCCAIN: ... and I'm sure all of my fellow veterans of other wars will understand when I ask if we could ask those who served as the greatest generation, World War II, would stand so we can especially recognize them for their service and their...
MCCAIN: Thank you, sir. The first wave at Tarawa (ph). Thank you, sir. Thank you and God bless. So I want to thank them especially. I want to thank all of you.
I wanted to talk about the men and women in the military today. I think it's disgraceful that the Congress of the United States has a pork-barrel spending to the tunes of billions of dollars which have nothing to do with defense. Meanwhile, 12,000 brave, proud, enlisted are on food stamps. That's a disgrace, and I'm going to change that as well.
We need a consistent, coherent foreign policy, one that the American people can admire again, and I want to tell you for the first timeone other thing that's going to change. This is the first time in history we've ever had a president of the United States, a secretary of defense, a secretary of state, and a national security adviser, none of whom ever spent one minute wearing a uniform of the armed forces of the United States, and that's going to change.
MCCAIN: I believeI believe that young Americans today are every bit as patriotic and as dedicated as our dear friend here who was in the first wave at Tarawa (ph). I believe that these young men and women need leadership. Once again, America needs a leader that itcan inspire Americans to causes greater than their self-interest.
There is no doubt that there are great causes left in the world. There are no doubt that service to one's country and sacrifice is, indeed, the greatest service that one can render, and there are many ways to serve our nation. I intend to do what other great leaders have done in the history of theirthis country, and that is to inspire Americans to those causes.
And when those young people tell me there are no great causes left in the world, I say everyplace there's a veteran without care, there's a great cause; everyplace there's a senior without a shelter, there's a great cause; everyplace there's a hungry child, there's a great cause; and everyplace in the world where people are killing each other for age-old ethnic and tribal reasons, they're a great cause.
My dear friends, we're embarked on another mission. My dear friends who are with me who I've had the privilege to serve with, those of you who are out there in the audience who I've had the privilege of getting to know here in New Hampshire.
By the way, I'm reminded of the old Mo Udall joke when he ran for president. One guy at Nashua said to the other guy, "What do you think of Mo Udall?" He said, "I don't know. I only met him twice, and"I'm notand I'm not here to hype my book either. I'm not here to hype my book. It's $24.95 Random House. It's available at anycertainly not one to hypenumber five on "The New York Times" bestsellers list.
I would never hypehype that book, but I have had a very interesting experienceatta girl. Proud of you. Wave it again, will you, just so they know? Justjust so they recognize the cover, you know, in case you're passing by anyas part ofpart of this book, I hadwent on a book tour.
I have a 14-year-old daughter named Meghan. I was on the Jay Leno show. Mr. Leno came in to the dressing room where I was getting the makeup on, which I need a lot of, and I said, "Mr. Leno." I said, "Thank you for allowing me to be on your show. Just for a few moments, I will have asome moments of admiration from my 14-year- old daughter, Meghan." He had his cellphone. He said, "What's your phone number?" Dialed up my phone number in Phoenix. My daughter, Meghan, answered the phone. He said, "Hi, Meghan. This is Jay Leno. How are you doing?" She said, "Aw, Dad, stop fooling around, will you?" SoI reallythere'sthere's very little you can do.
Again, I'mI'm reminded of another old Mo Udall joke. Mo Udall in 1976 when he was running for president walked into a barber shop in Manchester, New Hampshire, and said, "Hi. I'm Morris Udall from Arizona, and I'm running for president of the United States," and the barber said, "Yeah. We were just laughing about that this morning."
Sothat'sthat'sthat's the way we began this campaign, my dear friends. A lot of people were laughing about it that morning that we announced. A lot of people were laughing about it and said that this thing was a done deal. My friends, I think, thanks to you, dear friends and comrades in arms, it ain't any done deal. We're having a great time, we're on a roll, and we're doing just fine.
MCCAIN: So I began this morning's Veterans Day with my friends, and I said, "I'd like for you to do me a favor." It's probably a favor that will make me forever in your debt, and that is that I'd like for us to go on another mission, maybe the last, and I'd like to be your president. I'd like to have the opportunity to lead this country, which is an awesome responsibility, but I believe that I am qualified through my entire life to hold that position.
America doesn't owe me a thing. I have been blessed to grow old in my country's service, and I would like for you to join me in one more mission and help me to get to the White House and lead this country into the next century and make the next century, to be named as the last one we're leaving, the American century, and the reason why it is named the American century is because in quiet groves that once were killing fields all over the world rest the bones of those who died in defense usually of somebody else's freedom. For that, and on this day, we will be eternally grateful.
Thank you, my friends, and thank you for being with me.
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