McCain, Unbowed, Appears Back to Old Self

Posted December 14, 2008 at 10:30am

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) showed hints of his pre-presidential nominee self Sunday morning, indicating to journalist George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s “This Week” that he intends to be a thorn in the side of both Republicans and Democrats in the 111th Congress, which is scheduled to gavel in on Jan. 6. Alternately self-deprecating and serious, McCain said he would support President-elect Barack Obama when the two agreed and provide “loyal” opposition when they did not. And, as McCain has done in the past, the Senator suggested that he intends to buck his own party whenever he deems it to be in the nation’s best interest. Most notably, McCain said earmarks were once again in his sights, suggesting that he would decline to support any economic stimulus package proposed by the incoming Obama administration that does not include a wholesale reform of the federal budget process. “We also have to enact some fundamental reforms about the way we do business. The system cries out for reform — the elimination of earmarks and pork-barrel spending, which have led to corruption, as we all know,” McCain said. “This is an opportunity for us to clean up the system.” McCain was asked about the scandal surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and his alleged move to sell his appointment to fill Obama’s Senate seat, but declined to wade into the fray, turning a question on the matter into an answer on the need for both parties to work together on government reform. McCain did, however, take a jab at the Republican National Committee’s effort to link Obama to the Blagojevich scandal. “You know, in all due respect to the Republican National Committee and anybody … right now I think we should try to be working constructively together, not only on an issue such as this, but on the economy, a stimulus package and reforms that are necessary.” McCain maintained his assessment from his presidential campaign that world affairs presents serious challenges to the U.S. But the Arizonan praised the president-elect’s incoming national security team, acknowledging that it is made up of individuals he himself might have selected. But McCain declined to back away from implied criticism that some moves Obama might make as president would amount to poor national security strategy. For instance, when Stephanopoulos asked McCain how he felt about Obama engaging in more direct diplomacy with Iran, all McCain would say is that he couldn’t stop that from happening. “There are incredible national security challenges, which mandates — doesn’t argue for — but mandates that we all work together as much as possible,” McCain said. “That does not mean that we will agree on every issue.” McCain said the Republican Party’s road to recovery from two tough election cycles lies in up-and-coming GOP governors and Hispanics. McCain had good things to say about his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, but declined to endorse her as the best choice to represent the GOP in the 2012 presidential race. McCain said it was imperative that the Republican Party recruit and elect Hispanics to office in order to compete with the Democrats. McCain said there was nothing wrong with the party’s philosophical principles, but that the GOP needs to reach out to become multiethnic in order to remain competitive in the years ahead. McCain said his focus personally is doing his job as a Senator, rather than looking back at his Election Day loss to Obama. “Get busy and move on, that’s the cure for it,” McCain said, when asked how he is dealing with his defeat. “I’m still the Senator from the state of Arizona.”