On the Stump, McCain Parries Questions on War
By Juliet Eilperin
MILWAUKEE -- Before a packed and largely supportive audience, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) parried with a few tough questioners about his commitment to the war in Iraq and reforming Washington.
Even as McCain conducted his town hall meeting, however, his aides sought to tamp down rumors that the senator was suffering from a cold. This afternoon, on the flight to Milwaukee from Los Angeles, McCain spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan told reporters the senator would cancel a town hall event in Pennsylvania Friday and would instead hold a press conference tomorrow in Milwaukee before flying to Long Island for a fundraiser.
Late this afternoon, press reports began circulating that the 71-year old senator was ill. Buchanan approached reporters as McCain was delivering his opening statement and said McCain did not have a cold. "He's not sick, otherwise we would have canceled this," she said. "It really is a scheduling issue."
His aides estimated that the crowd in Martin Luther High School's gym and its overflow room reached 1,400, and the audience enthusiastically cheered the presumptive GOP nominee on several occasions. But at the same time a few attendees questioned some of the central tenets of his campaign.
One woman questioned why he was committed to continuing the war in Iraq in light of the nation's current economic woes. "No surrender and not being willing to negotiate, how is that going to help our economy going further?" she asked.
"Let me put it this way, there would be catastrophic consequences. I would like to assure you, ma'am, no one hates war more than a veteran. I know war. I hate war," he said. "I believe that our economic difficulties can be addressed. I also believe that by winning in Iraq, that will reduce those costs."
Another woman indicated she was skeptical McCain could shake up the nation's political establishment in light of his long tenure in the Senate, and affiliation with the GOP. "As a Washington insider, how you can say it's going to be so different, when for the last four years we've been so bitterly disappointed?" she asked.
"I have a record of reform, and fighting against the special interests and the corruption of this country," he said, though he added that he realized some voters might not be convinced until he could convey a concrete plan of action for the nation. "I have a lot of work to do."
Earlier in the event, McCain made a point of touting his bipartisan credentials as a reason why he could break the gridlock that has dominated Washington politics for years. He said had a long history of reaching across the aisle to make legislative compromises, unlike Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.): "I've got a record of doing that, not a rhetoric of doing that."
Web Politics Editor
May 29, 2008; 7:15 PM ET
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