Friday, March 03, 2000

McCain: Message inspires new voters

Senator says he regrets ties to Charles Keating

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        U.S. Sen. John McCain says his bid for the presidency has struck a chord with younger, more educated voters who are ready “to serve and be served” by government.

        Four days before the Super Tuesday primaries, Mr. McCain said an Ohio victory will underscore how his message of government reform and Reagan patriotism has inspired new voters to show up at polls and others to cross party lines.

        “Winning the general election boils down to the articulation of a vision,” he said Thursday speaking from California in a telephone interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer's editorial board. “I have a desire to return integrity to the presidency of the United States.”

        In his blunt and upbeat style, Mr. McCain detailed his vision, using current events to discuss child violence, affirmative action and foreign policy to explain why he is a better Republican candidate than Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

        At the same time, the Arizona senator defended his record in Washington, stood up for friend and national campaign chief, former New Hampshire Sen. Warren Rudman, and apologized for his affiliation with Charles Keating Jr.

        “I was wrong,” he said of ties to the Arizona financier imprisoned for the $3.4 billion savings-and-loan scandal. “But I want to point out that I threw Keating out of my office.”

        Mr. McCain, once dubbed one of the “Keating Five,” said he has learned that “in politics, appearance is reality.”

        But appearance might not reflect all that he has done in the Senate, Mr. McCain said. While he has been involved in 234 pieces of successful legislation “and nearly every major foreign policy issue that has come before Congress in the past 10-15 years,” Mr. McCain said he also has endorsed unpopular causes such as campaign finance reform.

        “I have taken on the party,” he said. “I am proud of my legislative record.”

        And two days after a 6-year-old boy shot and killed a first-grade classmate in Michigan, Mr. McCain is talking about another subject unpopular with tradi tional conservatives: Gun control.

        He said he would like to pursue gun-control and gun-safety measures, including programs that would prevent guns from being fired unless the shooter wears an encoded device. That would keep a child from picking up a gun and accidentally firing off a round.

        Just as important, Mr. McCain said, is a child's access to violent images through the media.

        “They're not all crazy,” he said of children who resort to violence. Convinced of the impact of violent images on children, Mr. McCain said he wants parents, educators and politicians to work to limit access.

        One of his priorities is to require libraries to install filtering mechanisms for computer Web sites, so kids can't have access to explicit material.

        Underpinning some of his arguments with wry humor, Mr. McCain made clear his position as a moderate. Asked about a message he would like to deliver to Cincinnati's Roman Catholic community, Mr. McCain said he would be willing to speak at the fundamentalist Bob Jones University in South Carolina — where interracial dating is barred — if officials there “would be willing to enter the 17th, 18th or 19th century.”

        He also bristled over references to Mr. Rudman, his national campaign chief, whom religious broadcaster Pat Robertson referred to as a “vicious bigot.”

        Denying rumors that he would appoint Mr. Rudman to the U.S. Supreme Court, Mr. McCain said the former senator has no interest in the post.

        A Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, Mr. McCain used the United States military as an example of how he would model affirmative-action policies.

        “If affirmative action means quotas, then I'm against affirmative action,” he said. However, if affirmative action involves programs to help people, then he is for it.

        He said there are no quotas in the military, but there are programs to encourage advancement of minorities and women. Despite isolated incidents of discrimination, Mr. McCain said there is less intolerance in the military “than any other area of government.”

        That kind of inclusion is a big part of Mr. McCain's candidacy — a diversity he said the Republican party and the country have lost since Ronald Reagan was president in 1988.

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