McCain Addresses Charlotte Chamber of Commerce
By Juliet Eilperin
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A day before North Carolinians head to the polls, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) addressed Charlotte's Chamber of Commerce on slew of business-oriented issues.
Because McCain isn't worried about Tuesday's primary -- he has secured enough delegates for the GOP nomination and faces just one last opponent, Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) -- he focused on staking out his general election positions on immigration, health care and energy.
"I'm willing to put my knowledge and experience and judgment up against Senators Obama and Clinton's any day of the week," he told the group of roughly 150. "I look forward to that campaign, and I look forward to that discussion, and I'm confident I'll win it. I want to win it right here in North Carolina."
Unlike most of McCain's audiences, which are generally filled with supporters, this group was friendly but not explicitly partisan. Members of the crowd laughed at his jokes and most of them applauded when he declared his determination to win the election, but they did not hail all of his lines with acclaim.
When the senator trotted out his proposal to provide a federal gas tax holiday for the summer, saying the recent rise in gas prices "is hurting people on fixed income. Why not give them a little break for the summer?" the audience remained silent.
He spoke at length about energy and the environment, saying he was confident an investment in environmentally friendly technologies would both wean the U.S. off foreign oil and help improve the climate.
"Whenever there's innovation in American history, prices come down. It's good for the economy," he said, noting that global warming comes with its own price tag. "Look at the environmental effects of some of the problems we have now, and what's the cost there."
McCain added that while he's in favor of all forms of renewable energy, federal mandates for ethanol have in part fueled the global food crisis.
"I'm all for every kind of alternate form of energy, wind, solar, tide, any form of alternate energy, but I'm not for distorting the market," he said, adding it's "one of the reasons we have seen a dramatic inflation of food prices."
Several audience members questioned McCain about his stance on immigration, though their perspectives ranged from complaining about immigrants returning to the United States after being expelled for criminal activity to arguing Americans do not want the jobs immigrants perform.
"People don't say to their children, 'I want you to get an education so you can grow up and be a roofer,'" said one woman. "We don't have people who want to do those jobs."
McCain said he understood the need for qualified foreign workers, adding he believed the country could only solve this intractable political problem by "securing the borders first" and then moving forward with more comprehensive reform. "I don't think you can take it piecemeal," he told the questioner.
And while McCain went out of the way to praise Bush for protecting America from terrorist attacks after Sept. 11, 2001, he also faulted the president for not conveying to Americans the need for shared sacrifice.
"After 9/11, I wouldn't have told the people of this country to take a trip or go shopping," he said. "I would have told them to serve this country."
Web Politics Editor
May 5, 2008; 11:52 PM ET
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