BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE : NOVEMBER 22, 1999 ISSUE
GOVERNMENT

McCain: 'I'm Not Going to Spin'


If there's one sure thing about Senator John McCain it's that he's tough to pigeonhole. During a recent bus trip through New Hampshire, the Republican Presidential candidate expanded on his multi-faceted philosophy in a conversation with Business Week's Lorraine Woellert. Here are excerpts from their conversation:

On the budget surplus:
"A few years ago, all the economists were saying there's going to be a deficit as far as the eye can see. Now, the same economists are saying there's going to be a surplus as far as the eye can see.... I'm not totally convinced there will be surpluses as far as the eye can see....

We can't defy history forever. No one ever has. To think we are just on an unending upward path is such a contradiction of economic cycles. I can't believe it's going to happen forever."

On abortion:
"I would certainly do everything I can to eliminate partial birth abortion. The Supreme Court, I think, will revisit this issue. That's why Supreme Court appointees are a very important aspect of the Presidency. I will appoint appointees who I think most closely adhere to the Constitution. My view is Roe v. Wade was an incredible distortion, a very weird interpretation of the Constitution.... I would never ask [potential court nominees] the [abortion] question, but I do believe that the closer people adhere to the Constitution, the better judges they make."

On moral leadership:
"In Washington the game now is spinning. Spin this, spin that. Spinning is lying. You go out, and there's a fact, and you distort it and turn it around so you can fool somebody. I'm not going to spin."

On his maverick image:
"I have lots of close friends in the Senate.... I'm worried about doing my job in the Senate, and I'm very eager in seeking friends. If I offend someone, that can't be my first concern.... I'm 63 years old. It's a little hard to change oneself even if I wanted to, at that age. I've always been like I am all my life, from my earliest years. I am what I am."

On conservativism:
"I think it's conservative to want to reduce taxes and take care of veterans and take care of our obligations. On the issue of health care, I've been very cautious on my proposals, while Bill Bradley has proposed a very large and encompassing health-care idea. So I think there is a big difference there. As a conservative, I want government to work to help people that deserve our help, those that can't help themselves and society. But I'd rather do it with a minimalist government approach. I'd rather do it with as much involvement of local and state authorities [as possible], and I'd like to do it with maximum participation of the private sector. I don't think true conservatives deny their obligation to [the] poor, to children, to Americans with disabilities. One of the major differences between liberals and conservatives is how we approach solving those problems."

On foreign policy:
"We cannot conduct foreign policy as social work, which is what the current Administration has done. This President has conducted a feckless, photo-op foreign policy for which we may pay a very heavy price in American blood and treasure in the next century. This is the first Administration in history that has a President of the United States, a Secretary of State, a Secretary of Defense, and a National Security Adviser, none of whom ever spent one minute wearing the uniform of the armed forces of the United States of America. That is wrong....

"I'm going to call up Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, people like [former Carter Administration National Security Adviser] Zbigniew Brzezinski, people who are Democrats, [former Representative] Lee Hamilton of Indiana, people who have been involved in national security policy and foreign policy, and sit down with them and say, 'Look, we're not going to agree on a lot of things, but at least we ought to go back to the tradition, that was a tradition of the United States of America since 1945, and that is that partisanship stops at the water's edge on issues of national security. We have to work together.'"

On violence:
"I am in favor of safety locks on guns. I am in favor of persuing technology that allows only the owner of a gun to fire it. I respect and will continue to adhere to the Second Amendment of the United States, but I think it's obvious there are measures we can take, [such as] instant background checks at gun sales.... [Even so,] I could still take you to a Web site that teaches kids how to make a pipe bomb.... I could show you where we sell video games where the object is to kill policemen. There's a new movie that just came out which is remarkable. It's called "Fight Club." The whole movie is these young men maiming each other. It's just a gratutious display of violence."

On Congress' rejection of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty:
"I opposed the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.... We want to have test bans, but we don't have the capability now to either safeguard or monitor our own nuclear inventory, but as important, we don't have the capability to monitor rogue states who might, like the North Koreans, sign a treaty but then violate it.... We should have delayed the vote on the treaty because it was clearly not ratifiable. And when we don't ratify treaties that any President of the United States pushes, then it erodes the ability of the institution of the Presidency to be able to negotiate with foreign countries. That was the damage we inflicted by not ratifying the treaty.... Unfortunately, a lot of Americans don't seem to care."

On health care:
"We have to have every child in America have access to health care. I would not only support a nutrition program, but we have to look at a number of other programs and expand those that work, if necessary, and also have new ones if we need to. But I would like to see a lot of those be public-private partnerships and see a lot of that burden taken up by private entitites and corporations and at the state and local level as opposed to creating new bureaucracies in Washington....

"[We should] put 10% of the surplus into Medicare. The issue of health care in America, ranging from our obligation to our veterans to the aging baby-boomer generation, is probably the most difficult we face. It's going to take tough decisions.... It's gonna cost more money."

On tobacco:
"Americans pay $60 billion in taxes a year in the form of Medicare and Medicaid expenses in order to treat tobacco-related illnesses. I'm trying to reduce that tax burden. I'm not trying to increase it. If you increase the price of a pack of cigarettes and use the money for youth antismoking programs, for treatment of tobacco-related illness and research on the causes of tobacco-related illnesses, I think it's an appropriate role for government."

On H1-B visas for technical workers:
"Any additional visas would have to be O.K.'d by the Labor Dept. And fees would be used for retraining.... Perhaps the greatest challenge would be to train these young workers."



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