McCain, on Daily Show, Runs Through Runningmate Options
By Juliet Eilperin
NEW YORK -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) defended his attacks against Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) during his appearance tonight on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" and suggested he might pick a fictional character from NBC's "The Office" as his vice president.
Marking his 13th appearance on the show, McCain parried with Stewart on questions ranging from his Secret Service detail to his relationship with President Bush. The senator joked that he decided to announce his vice presidential choice on tonight's show: Dwight Schrute, the assistant to the regional manager (or "assistant regional manager," if you ask Schrute) in the Scranton branch of the faux Dunder Mifflin paper company.
"You heard it here first: Dwight Schrute," he declared.
In response, Stewart offered an alternate possible running mate: Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). "If you chose Senator Hillary Clinton, you would win this election," the talk show host said. "Don't you think that's a great idea?"
"That's one I've never contemplated," McCain said, demurring when Stewart encouraged him to say on air that he would entertain the possibility of putting the Democratic presidential hopeful on the GOP ticket.
At points Stewart pressed the presumptive Republican nominee on more serious points, alluding to the fact that McCain had suggested in a fundraising letter that the Mideast terrorist group Hamas had endorsed Obama. McCain defended tying Obama to Hamas, saying, "The spokesperson said that."
"And you take Hamas at their word," Stewart observed dryly.
When Stewart drew comparisons between Obama's controversial relationship with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and McCain's ties to someone the host described as first "a religious zealot" and then "a religious person": President Bush.
"Will you take the opportunity to repudiate and denounce President Bush?" he asked, prompting a thunderous round of applause from the audience.
McCain passed on the opportunity, saying that while he differed with the president on federal spending, climate change and the strategy the administration had pursued in Iraq for several years, he also agreed with him on several issues. "I think the president's poll numbers are obvious," he said. "I have to run my campaign."
The senator seemed at ease throughout the two-part interview, pretending to walk off at one point and, during a commercial break, urging Stewart to eject members of his traveling press who were seated in the audience's front row. (Stewart let them stay.)
For the most part Stewart -- who skewered Bill and Hillary Clinton, Obama and television pundits during the first segment of the show, under the heading "The long, flat, seemingly endless Bataan Death March to the White House" -- took it easy on McCain, joking about the code name the Secret Service must use for him.
"My name is Jerk," McCain said.
Stewart wasn't satisfied with the supposed moniker. "McDreamy?" he inquired. "How about Grumpelstiltskin?"
At times the senator reverted to his usual stump speech, saying that when his candidacy ran into trouble last year it reminded him of the famous saying of Chairman Mao, "It's always darkest before it's totally black."
"I remember getting that in one of my fortune cookies," Stewart responded.
And when McCain turned more somber at times, saying, "It feels really incredible, in all seriousness, to receive the nomination of the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan," Stewart was having none of it.
"You know those guys aren't around anymore, right?"
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