By Michael D. Shear
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 27, 2008
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa, Oct. 26 -- Sen. John McCain said Sunday that he and President Bush share a "common philosophy" but insisted that he is his own man in his first appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" in more than nine months.
In the half-hour interview nine days before the election, the Republican presidential nominee asserted that he has bucked the president's policies and his party on spending, Iraq and climate change, a record that he said proves his distance from the unpopular chief executive.
But confronted by host Tom Brokaw with his own words from the show in June 2005, McCain said: "Do we share a common philosophy of the Republican party? Of course. But I'm still up against my own party."
Those words gave Democratic nominee Barack Obama another opening Sunday morning in his continuing effort to link McCain and Bush.
"Just this morning, Senator McCain said that, actually, he and President Bush 'share a common philosophy,' " Obama said at a speech in Denver, before a crowd of between 75,000 and 100,000 supporters. "I guess that was John McCain finally giving us a little straight talk, owning up to the fact that he and George Bush actually have a whole lot in common."
Obama said the Bush-McCain philosophy "says we should give more and more to millionaires and billionaires and hope that it trickles down on everybody else. It's a philosophy that gives tax breaks to wealthy CEOs and to corporations that ship jobs overseas while hundreds of thousands of jobs are disappearing here at home. It's a philosophy that justifies spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqi government sits on a huge surplus and our economy is in crisis."
Obama also mocked McCain's recent comments that the Republican would be more likely to bring about economic change -- "the strangest twist" of a strange campaign, Obama said.
Obama traveled to Fort Collins, Colo., before flying home to Chicago for the night. He plans to continue his trend of campaigning in states that voted for Bush in 2004 next week, with stops scheduled in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida and Virginia. He will also campaign in Pennsylvania, which McCain has set as his top target for trying to flip a state that voted for Sen. John F. Kerry four years ago.
After appearing on "Meet the Press," McCain held a small rally with about 2,000 people in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and then traveled to Ohio. He continued to accuse Obama of wanting to "spread the wealth around" and urged supporters to ignore the polls which show him falling behind.
He deviated a bit from his normal stump speech on the issue of energy, mocking Obama for being overly concerned about safety. Quoting Obama, he said, "Well, it has to be safe, environment, blah, blah, blah."
On "Meet the Press," Brokaw noted that McCain had blasted Bush in a recent interview. He then played part of an interview from three years ago.
"The fact is that I'm different, but the fact is that I've agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed," McCain said at the time. "And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I have been totally in agreement and support of President Bush."
The June 2005 interview concluded with McCain stating that "I strongly disagree with any assertion that I've been more at odds with the president of the United States than I've been in agreement with."
A somewhat flustered-looking McCain asserted that he was "the harshest critic of the failed strategy in Iraq" and that "I've supported action to address climate change since 2000 and said we've got to do something. Sharp disagreement there."
Brokaw cited polls that showed McCain far behind Obama nationally and in battleground states. McCain dismissed them, saying he sees a greater intensity for his campaign than he's ever seen for a presidential candidate.
"I choose to trust my senses as well as polls and the enthusiasm at almost all of our campaign events is at a higher level than I've ever seen," he said.
McCain also came to the defense of his vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, calling her a "role model for millions and millions of Americans."
When Brokaw asked McCain whether the Republican National Committee made a "colossal" mistake by spending $150,000 outfitting Palin and her family, McCain retorted she had already returned a third of the clothes that made up her new wardrobe and the rest will be given to charity.
"Look, she lives a frugal life," he said. "She and her family are not wealthy."
Palin spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt elaborated on the clothing issue in a statement Sunday, saying, "A third was returned post-convention. Many of the remaining clothes have never been worn. She wears a lot of her own clothes from Alaska. Regardless, what wasn't returned will go to charity after Election Day."
McCain also defended Palin's accusation that Obama is offering socialist policies to the country.
"All I know is that Senator Obama's record is very clear," McCain said. "He started out in the left hand lane of American politics and has remained there. He has been judged the most liberal United States senator."
McCain had one cringe-worthy moment during the interview. When Brokaw mentioned former secretary of state Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama, McCain said that he had been endorsed by five former secretaries of state.
He tried to list them but could only name four.
"I'm very, very happy to know that five former secretaries of state who I admire enormously -- Henry Kissinger, Jim Baker, Larry Eagleburger, Al Haig, uh, eh, uh."
He tried once again before giving up: "Jim Baker, Henry Kissinger, Al Haig, Larry Eagleburger, and one other." A few moments later, as Brokaw moved on, it finally came to McCain.
"George Shultz. George Shultz is the other one. George, I'm sorry I left you out to start with," McCain said. "George Shultz is one of the greatest secretaries of state in history."
Staff writers Robert Barnes in Denver and Juliet Eilperin in Washington contributed to this report.