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No Agreement on Obama-McCain Town Halls

By Juliet Eilperin
PEMBERTON, N.J. -- Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) failed to reach an agreement today on the idea of holding several unscripted joint appearances as part of their bid for the presidency this year.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe issued a statement today saying his candidate was willing to hold three traditional debates with McCain along with a joint town hall on the economy on July 4 and a separate debate on foreign policy in August.

"That package of five engagements would have been the most of any presidential campaign in the modern era -- offering a broad range of formats -- and representing a historic commitment to openness and transparency," Plouffe said. "It's disappointing that Senator McCain and his campaign decided to decline this proposal. Apparently they would rather contrive a political issue than foster a genuine discussion about the future of our country."

In a press conference this afternoon, the presumptive GOP nominee called the comments "a very disappointing response," questioning why Obama would want to hold a town hall event on the Fourth of July.

"We all know what Americans do on the Fourth of July," McCain said, adding that he would be willing to participate in "as many as ten" nationally-televised town hall meetings with Obama.

When it came to the competing debate proposals, he said, "I will leave it to the American people to decide" which one is preferable. He added he was willing to negotiate to some extent, "but I want the American people to have the exposure to a number of town hall meetings, not just one."

McCain added that two presidential libraries, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, have offered to host joint town hall meetings between the candidates.

"I've accepted," he said. "I hope that Senator Obama will do the same."

Most of the town hall meetings that McCain holds are dominated by GOP supporters. Thursday night's town hall meeting in New York City's Federal Hall was by invitation only, and was heavily-Republican.

According to a McCain aide, the New York Independence Party was given roughly 25 tickets, McCain's New Jersey campaign got 60, the New York City GOP received 10, a Staten Island community group got five and 10 were given to non-political New York groups. A few tickets went to Democrats supporting McCain, along with retired police officers and registered independents.

By Web Politics Editor  |  June 13, 2008; 2:41 PM ET
Categories:  The Debates  
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A debate on the 4th of July would seem the ideal venue for Obama to show off his knowledge of the Constitution. After all, he was a constitutional law professor. Well, actually he wasn't, but that doesn't matter, he's smart enough to be one. Would a debate with McCain force Obama to make statements beyond his belief in hope? If so, I'd like to see what he has to say.

Posted by: Althea told me | June 15, 2008 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Obama supporters should relish the opportunity for their candidate to take on McCain. How can this tall, slim, young, vibrant politician not jump at the opportunity to stand next to McCain? Unless, of course, Obama really is just a brand, not a real person. Is Obama a hologram? He seems so manufactured. And how can he take on the real problems of our country if he is afraid of an old man. Hillary was right; Obama is just not tough enough. He's afraid that the Republicans won't pull punches like Hillary did. I really do think that Obama is afraid to tarnish his image. Obama believes too much in his brand Obama to sully it. Debate ... I double dog dare you, Obama. Unless you're scared.

Posted by: David | June 14, 2008 11:43 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: Buy LEVITRA | June 14, 2008 10:07 PM | Report abuse


Sen Obama, stick to your guns. Make McSame and the RNC fund their own campaign and draw their own crowds.

Sen Obama would run circles around McSame in any forum, except the hand picked Town Forums McSame holds, like the one this past week in N.H.. A Town Forum - No! A McSame pep rally - More so.


Posted by: payurownway | June 14, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

"I suspect that John McCain, viewed his wife's stroke more in terms of how it would affect his bid for the presidency than else."
Luckily Cindy McCain kept her good looks post stroke, the first Mrs. McCain was involved in a horrific car accident while waiting for McCain to be released from the Vietcong prison; Mrs McCain had been a model when they married; after the accident, she was left disfigured, and McCain started cheating on her as soon as he returned Stateside and got a look at her. Finally, at the age of 42, he dumped his disabled wife for 24 year old heiress Cindy. It takes an extraordinarily patient and unselfish man to stay with a wife that has been so changed by disease or accident, McCain wasn't that type of man apparently.

Posted by: Hold_That_Tiger | June 14, 2008 3:59 PM | Report abuse

The American values we hold most important have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power. What better day than the 4th of July to debate the significance of the Constitution. It is imperative that respect for the rule of law be restored in our country. How will that happen if McCain becomes president and continues all of Bush's policies? Afterall, they could debate in the morning, like the Sunday morning talk shows. That would leave the rest of the day for barbcues and beer -- and wine for the elitists.

Posted by: Kristin2 | June 14, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Cluck Cluck Cluck.

After boring the World to Tears debating Billary to a level of Nausea,

NOW, Empty Suit is scared to take on a Man!

P'cuuck! Cluck-Cluck!

Guess just more "Change" a'la Barry!

Posted by: SAINT---The | June 14, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Don,t debate him Obama he wants free media time like came to debate the issues and she came to do a character assasination with her cronies from the media, which she claims is sexist (lol)

Posted by: jane jones | June 14, 2008 9:51 AM | Report abuse

Should Cindy McCain's Brain Damage Be A Campaign Issue?

I don't know whether Americans care if the First Lady is mentally disabled - that's a question for McCain's pollsters. What I want to know is why McCain would even subject his poor wife to the rigors of a presidential campaign and worldwide scrutiny in the first place. The question speaks directly to McCain's personal cruelty and unbridled ambition.

Although the true extent of the brain damage has not been publicly disclosed, Cindy McCain's 2004 stroke is not a secret.

In a very flattering September 2007 interview in More, Paul Alexander wrote about the stroke damage:

"In conversation, she will occasionally have trouble remembering certain facts, especially from the recent past, and if you look closely you realize she cannot make her right hand into a complete fist, which has affected her handwriting, if not her ability to grasp a gearshift knob. "It's not bad," she says, describing the damage to her hand. "I can function. I have short-term memory loss. I can remember all the major details of my life, but I sometimes can't remember what happened last week."

I suspect that John McCain, viewed his wife's stroke more in terms of how it would affect his bid for the presidency than else.

From a January 2005 Larry King show:

"MCCAIN: I was the one at home that everyone came to to program their computers, fix their phones, do anything electrical, technical, anything on the computer. I can't get near it now. I'm overwhelmed by it.

And it's weird for me. And I might also say, I suffer from migraines also. And your last caller that called in -- and I just had an episode about a week and a half ago, where I didn't know, I thought I was having another stroke. It was a different kind of...

KING: Has the senator been very sympathetic?

MCCAIN: Yes. And I -- please don't -- let me explain that. He was very confused in the beginning. He didn't -- like everyone in the family, how could it happen to my wife? I'm 18 years older than she is. It doesn't happen to someone that's younger than you are. So on his behalf, I think he's trying to understand all this. It's a lot for him to take in."

In October 2007, Cindy McCain was hobbling around South Carolina as the result of a fall down in a Phoenix grocery store. Was her fall caused by her brain damage? Is the question any of our business?

Inevitably, the issue of the extent of Cindy McCain's brain damage will enter the public arena. So far, Mrs McCain has only had to field softballs lobbed at her by sympathetic journalists. Can the McCain campaign limit her public appearances to three-minute soundbites until November? I don' think so, not in today's political environment.

Why, Senator McCain, would you do this to your wife?

Posted by: Beth Martin | June 14, 2008 9:14 AM | Report abuse

Obama knows his impromptu answers are really poor, thats a fact by his famed "breathalyzer" video.

His speaking skills are totally dependent on teleprompters and staged rallies.

If he takes on McCain in 10 townhall meetings he will lose all ten and he knows that. Best thing for him is to limit the exposure and hope for predetermined questions and answers.

Posted by: Marko | June 14, 2008 8:13 AM | Report abuse

For those who think Obama will "screw up" during a town hall format debate/discussion, just remember it was at such town hall venues that McCain mentioned his "100 years" in Iraq (which still haunts him), as well as his riff on the Beach Boys (bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb bomb Iran").

So, obviously, it's not like McCain is some stellar statesman when attending these town hall gatherings.

Posted by: Piter | June 14, 2008 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Personally I don't think that Obama should share the stage on a casual basis with McCain. I think that if they are seen together it will tarnish Obama's vibe. Obama has everything to lose and nothing to gain.
Let McCain keep whining. Just look at how far it got Hillary. I do think though that McCain's surrogates do a better job of getting his message across because you can't translate hope and change through surrogates. I think that a winning strategy for Obama is to do 8 to 10 small town hall meetings and then a huge arena of 20,000 every 2 weeks to remind the nation how much charisma he really has.

Posted by: Rene | June 14, 2008 12:32 AM | Report abuse

Whenever John McCain is strapped for words, He gives the line " That's for the American people to decide." The reason McCain does well in these town hall meetings is because the questioners are planted. How convenient is it to have all the questions asked to be exactly what he has prepared in front of him to answer. Just look at what happens when McCain is asked to answer a question where he is unprepared. Barack Obama has been used to being 20 points behind and come from behind and win. Him being 5 to 7 points ahead might be a little hard to get used to.

Posted by: Ron | June 14, 2008 12:21 AM | Report abuse

Why not have it on the fourth of July. To busy having fun and not trying to think about were we stand as a country. It seems like the perfect day to talk about the freedoms that we have lost and are still losing in the United States. The day is to celebrate our freedom and to place more energy in to keeping our freedom from our own government. I feel that we should all stop with the traditional habits of celebrating with some liquor and celebrate with you r family by focusing on which candidate is going to final help America gain back the the real aspect of freedom.

The reality of the date of the debate is not practical because of the focus of this country.

Can you honestly say that you fit in to the 5% of people that McCain's tax policy. I don't...
I am more interest in were this economy is going the missing one day out of the year that has been turn in to a Hugh party day claiming that we are celebrating our independence. It is just another day claimed by BBQ. No real independence celebrating going on. I bet there will be more alcohol related issues with blue and red lights then realistic policies coming in to light.

If you look at Obama he strikes with real intention. He also response with sound and smart tuned mind. You kinda have too to avoid the leeches. It is also apparent that McCain is not ready for a debate on such short notice. I'd rather have someone who is prepared.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 13, 2008 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Obama is doing the right thing by not agreeing to meet with McCain in Townhall meeting. McCain would be the one who picks the locations and he would have all his supporters in the meeting. McCain knows he can't standup to Obama when it comes to debates. Obama will tear him apart in debates. McCain can't draw large crowds to hear him so he perfers small townhall meetings. Obama always draw large crowds when he speaks. So McCain just need to go to his little townhall meetings and try to gain whatever support he can and stop pestering Obama about attending with him.

Posted by: lclon | June 13, 2008 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Obama is a shrewd politician. Yes, Dorothy, Obama is a politician. Transcendent, please. I , Joe Voter, want as many debates as possible. No more sound bites. No more politics as usual. What's Obama afraid of? Debate McCain! Anytime, anywhere.

Posted by: David | June 13, 2008 9:46 PM | Report abuse

He was a uniformed member of a country which declared war on North Vietnam." Bob

Please Bob: look up the facts. It was called the Viet-Nam conflict. The United States never declared war on North Viet-Nam and our bombing was completely illegal according to the Geneva accords that we had signed. John McCain was bombing civilian targets in the north and was very lucky that he wasn't executed.

Have you ever wondered why neither the United States nor the South Vietnamese maintained POW camps in the south? It's because we killed all the people that we took prisoners.

There was no war- just a conflict- and we killed nearly 2,000,000 Vietnamese for nothing. Now we are doing the same in Iraq.

John McCain is heartless. He wants to deny rights to human beings because they are "bad." He should retake the American civics class that he apparently failed at the Naval Academy.

Viet-Nam veteran U.S. Air Force 1963-1968

Posted by: Luke | June 13, 2008 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Actually, we never wholly declared war on Vietnam, just like we havent in Afganistan or Iraq,, He asked for permission from congress who granted, allowing him to subvert an actual Declaration of war.
As for the detainees, its a crying shame we even have to debate this, and a former POW questions the reality of it?? Ibet when his arms were strapped to his ankles in a 2*2 cage he was wishing someone would give him a fair and expedient trial.
Some of the prisoners in Gitme have been there for 4 plus years, people with familys, with children, and the best we can do is say " too bad, you look like a terrorist so sit in your cell till were done with you""

Posted by: Bill | June 13, 2008 7:09 PM | Report abuse

Yet another non-issue which gets blown out of proportion by both camps.
First, give 1/3 to registered Rupublicans and Democrats each, and 1/3 to registered Independents.
2nd, let the audience submit questions that are asked to the candidates. After the answer is delivered, ask the questioner if he/she is satisfied with the answer. Too often these debates are little more than rehearsed rehashes of talking points that we could read on their websites.
Last, holding any debates before October is a waste of time. Americans have notoriously short memories; anything said in the summer will be long forgotten by November

Posted by: Smoke_Jaguar4 | June 13, 2008 6:51 PM | Report abuse

Let's get beyond the song and dance of the candidates' supporters on who is chicken and who is avoiding who.

Barack Obama's campaign would have to be stupid to agree to all these town hall meetings because they only serve to help neutralize the fund raising advantage that he is going to have over John McCain who is going to be reliant on public funding. McCain could be outspent two to three times by Obama. Every time Obama appears with McCain, he is just giving McCain free air time.

Obama should just tell McCain that there will not be any debates until after the conventions. It would probably be better if he could avoid those as well but,at least, he can dictate the format to his advantage because McCain needs the debates more than he does.

Given this situation, McCain is going to be desperate for free media coverage so he will propose all sorts of joint appearances and try to accuse Obama of dodging them.

Obama will probably just agree to the standard three presidential and one vice-presidential debate and will go through the motions well enough to preserve his lead and to become president. Another reason for him to try and limit debates that the more appearances that he makes with McCain the more of a chance he has to make a rookie mistake.

McCain could make mistakes as well but he has less to lose because if the dynamics of this race do not change he will lose. The more debates and joint appearances Obama has with McCain the more the dynamics could change so it is good political strategy by the Obama campaign to keep them to a minimum.

Posted by: danielhancock | June 13, 2008 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Obama wants it on the 4th of July because it means nothing to him. He doesn't even raise his hand to his heart when saying the pledge and doesn't recite it either. What an insult to everyone that lives in America. Shouldn't the next president have pride in their country? Not shame. I've always believed that voting for the president has always been a lesser of two evils battle and McCain wins this time round.

Posted by: tumadre | June 13, 2008 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Of course McCain wants a "town hall" style meeting - they are always packed with GOP kool aide drinkers and the ever-adoring media.

McCain '08: Because things can suck even more.

Posted by: FC | June 13, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

"These are people who are not citizens. They do not and never have been given the rights that citizens in this country have," he said. "Now, my friends, there are some bad people down there. There are some bad people." John McCain
Can't be much clearer than this. McCain is willing to let the executive branch rip up the First Ammendments. Without the rights to Habeas Corpus, the King is allowed to send his soldiers out on any night and round up anyone and put them in a dungoen. No questions asked. This is one of the most valued rights we gained when we told the King of England to stuff it. It's what McCain was fighting for in Vietnam.

If he thinks for a moment that we can just allow the Executive branch of governmnent to just arbitrarily throw people in prison because the laws don't apply anymore than this guy is a lot scarier than we realize.

It's like freedom of speech. Either we all enjoy it or we have to trust a committee to decide who gets it and who doesn't.

And for all you Clintonistas who want to vote for McCain, remember this last rebuke of the Bush Guantanamo policy was won on a 5-4 decision in the Supreme Court. So when you vote for McCain this fall think of who he will be replacing the retiring liberal judges with and then you work the math. I'm sure Hillary will understand if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Posted by: Humpty Dumpty | June 13, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

First time I ever saw a "Chicken" that could Squawk: "Change! Change-Change-Change!" Squuawk! "Watch me Change-Change!"

P'Cuuuck, Cluck-Cluck... Squawwk! ;~)

Posted by: SAINT---The | June 13, 2008 4:49 PM | Report abuse

McCain was a captured prisoner of war. He was a uniformed member of a country which declared war on North Vietnam. This business of rounding up civilians and rendering them is some weird temporary legal aberration concocted by our favorite Neo-cons.

But I don't have to agree with it!

Posted by: Bob | June 13, 2008 4:46 PM | Report abuse

McCain doesn't believe detainees should have due process. Wasn't he deemed an unlawful combatant by the N. Vietnamese. This guy ain't losing it, cause I don't think he ever had it..and now the "maverick" is saying that he pulled shady deals in AZ. because everyone does it and it's not illegal. So much for an above the board Republican nominee. Could we clone Nixon. He's looking good after all these christian socialist republicans they've been throwing at us for 3 decades now. Those of us that hold steadfast to the founding principles - the religious pandering have a new name. The non zealot minority

Posted by: rory carbunkle | June 13, 2008 4:26 PM | Report abuse

No, the headline should have been, OBAMA REJECTS McCAIN'S LAME TRY FOR SOME FREE MEDIA. Right on, Barack. Let McCain get his coverage somewhere else. And let him stand up for several formal debates, where his startling gaps in knowledge of both foreign affairs and the domestic economy will be glaringly obvious.

Posted by: DJ in LA | June 13, 2008 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Obama would love to have it on the fourth. He doesn't want alot of people watching while he screws up.

Posted by: Casey | June 13, 2008 4:09 PM | Report abuse

The title of this article could be "Obama Chickens out". Townhalls aren't good for Obama... he is better with a tele prompter and prepared speech. He is not good when not on his feet.

Posted by: Casey | June 13, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

The title of this article could be "Obama Chickens out". Townhalls aren't good for Obama... he is better with a tele prompter and prepared speech. He is not good when not on his feet.

Posted by: Casey | June 13, 2008 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Why not the 4th? RU joking?

Ummmm... how about cuz most NORMAL people are traveling or watching fireworks or partying over the 4th.

Obama clearly wants AS FEW PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE watching when he has to debate McCain. How embarrassing for him.

Posted by: K.Connell | June 13, 2008 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Why not the 4th of July McCain? You dictated what style of debate you wanted, Obama wants the time. Too short notice for you to put some info into that sieve you call a head?

Posted by: tydicea | June 13, 2008 3:12 PM | Report abuse

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