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Straight Talk Express's Limited Engagement

By Robert Barnes
ASPEN, Colo. -- For a time today, the Straight Talk Express returned, to the approval of a large, pro-McCain crowd at the Aspen Institute -- and the likely worry of his campaign staff looking for a more disciplined message.

John McCain of late has abandoned the ask whatever you want approach that characterized his earlier campaign in favor of a message of the day structure that minimizes time answering questions from reporters.

But he sat down with Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson this afternoon and took all questions -- with the familiar results that often keep his staff on edge.

He admitted he had probably over-reacted to a Supreme Court decision on the rights of prisoners being held at Guantanamo -- and he also misstated it. He seemed again to say that increasing payroll taxes might be considered as a part of reforming Social Security, though he said tax hikes weren't needed. He got into a testy exchange with a questioner who said that McCain had essentially called Sen. Barack Obama a "traitor," but repeated that Obama used the war in Iraq to further his political ambitions.

He even defended Abba.

Under Isaacson's questioning, McCain said he continued to believe the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay should be closed. Reminded that he had called the court's decision that prisoners there have a constitutional right to challenge their imprisonment one of the "worst in history,'' McCain stepped back.

"Sometimes I'm given to a little hyperbole,'' he said.

He also misstated the case, saying it was about prisoners "Miranda rights" when it was about habeas corpus, the ancient legal right to challenge imprisonment by the government.

McCain denied he had abandoned his maverick ways when a questioner who said he had previously voted for McCain challenged the Arizona senator as having abandoned his principles on tax cuts and the Christian right.

McCain, who opposed President Bush's tax cuts but now wants to extend them, said he has always favored lower taxes but wanted them coupled with a reduction in spending. He said his newfound affinity for the Christian right was spurred by his desire to leave past differences behind.

"My life has been characterized, I thank God every day, by reconciliation,'' he said.

And when the man said McCain's criticism of Obama over the war amounted to calling Obama a "traitor,'' McCain did not answer directly but also refused to back off.

"I think he's wrong and I think he used the issue of Iraq for political purposes to get the nomination of his party,'' McCain said.

McCain has called for a bipartisan effort to fix Social Security and infuriated some conservatives by saying that everything, including increasing payroll taxes, could be on the table. He said today that "you know I'm opposed to tax increases" when Isaacson asked him about it. "I think I can convince people on the other side of the table that we do not need tax increases.''

When Isaacson said the proposal would have to be on the table to be negotiated off the table, McCain drew a smattering of laughter when he said "I have to be against tax increases, as you know.''

Isaacson also noted that McCain was recently asked to name his top 10 songs, and that he had chosen Abba's "Dancing Queen.''

"What we you thinking?'' he asked.

McCain swore that his favorite song was Frank Sinatra's version of "I've Got You Under My Skin,'' but said Abba gets a bum rap.

"Everybody says, 'I hate Abba, aw Abba, how terrible,' blah, blah, blah,'' McCain said. "But how come everybody goes to Mama Mia!?''

By Web Politics Editor  |  August 14, 2008; 11:59 PM ET
Categories:  John McCain  
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Next: McCain Ad Slams Obama Tax Plan as "Economic Disaster"


The Campaign trail has taken its toll on McCain. He seems more and more senile everyday. He forgets what he says. He contradicts what he says. He says he forgot what he said.

What does he know and when does he know it? How long will he know it? How long will he remember it?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 7:08 PM | Report abuse

We can't trust a cheat and adulterer (McCain) who asks us to accept him and his adulteress wife (Cindy) for our vote to put him in the White House.

If you feel it is okay to lie and cheat on your ailing and disfigured wife, why wouldn't you feel it is okay to lie to the country?

This man is a sleeze!

Posted by: NotoMcCain | August 15, 2008 7:05 PM | Report abuse

How very pathetic this man is. The GOP should be asham. They should have had his Mother run as their canidate, at least she can remember what she said.

Posted by: pokeymompokey | August 15, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Republicans have us at war in two countries as a result of Republican lies and deceptions, and we might be in two more wars--Iran and Pakistan--by November. We have alienated the entire Muslim world and most of the rest.

The dollar has lost 60% of its value against the euro, and the once mighty dollar is losing its reserve currency role.

The Republicans' policies have driven up the price of both oil and gold by 400%.

Inflation is in double digits. Employment is falling.

The Republican economy in the 21st century has been unable to create net new jobs for Americans except for low wage domestic services such as waitresses, bartenders, retail clerks and hospital orderlies.

Republican deregulation brought about fraud in mortgage lending and dangerous financial instruments which have collapsed the housing market, leaving a million or more homeowners facing foreclosure. The financial system is in disarray and might collapse from insolvency.

The trade and budget deficits have exploded. The US trade deficit is larger than the combined trade deficits of every deficit country in the world.

The US can no longer finance its wars or its own government and relies on foreign loans to function day to day. To pay for its consumption, the US sells its existing assets--companies, real estate, toll roads, whatever it can offer--to foreigners.

Republicans have run roughshod over the US Constitution, Congress, the courts and civil liberties. Republicans have made it perfectly clear that they believe that our civil liberties make us unsafe--precisely the opposite view of our Founding Fathers. Yet, Republicans regard themselves as the Patriotic Party.

The Republicans have violated the Nuremberg prohibitions against war crimes, and they have violated the Geneva Conventions against torture and abuse of prisoners. Republican disregard for human rights ranks with that of history's great tyrants.

The Republicans have put in place the foundation for a police state, which they have no problem using against fellow citizens!

We must get the Republicans totally out of power, or we will have no country left for any of us!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Wow! We're seeing a real loss of mental acuity in Senator McCain. He can't remember what he said about some core issues to his campaign.

I'm not willing to risk what this portends given his age.

Obama for me, and I'm glad of it.

Posted by: MT Guy | August 15, 2008 2:41 PM | Report abuse


You mean like McCain was too busy eating birthday cake with Bush to worry about New Orleans and Katrina?

Posted by: Marie | August 15, 2008 2:19 PM | Report abuse


I didnt hear much on Obama's end either. Maybe Obama could go and talk with Mugabe, look into his eyes and see his soul. Maybe thats the breakthrough that is needed there.

But I digress, obviously getting some sun and buying up self tanner is WAY more important to Barak than actually saying anything of substance over 1 super power invading a neighboring country.

Posted by: JakeD | August 15, 2008 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Straight-Talk is not McCain's strong suit. It is a marketing tag like Maverick- his is niether. Want proof - just look at who is running his campaign. Phil Gramm - now a sleazy lobbyist - is back together with McCain - he actually never left. Furthermore McCain's recent association with Jack Abramoff's pal, Ralph Reed- another corrupt bigot- also fits perfectly with his management by the Karl Rove team of the Big Lie and Smear. These handlers have muzzled McCain so he can no longer make a fool of himself in front of reporters on his bus. They have cut way back on his favorite platform, the Town Hall, because he can't answer the questions. Having Reed on board cements him with the religious right and provides another reactionary mouthpiece for his ugly campaign. Maverick? Straight-talker? - what a joke! He is nothing more than addled old hack who has turned over his campaign to the worst elements in US politics. Why? Because he is incompetent.

Posted by: jefflz | August 15, 2008 1:48 PM | Report abuse

McCain had a golden opportunity with the Georgia situation. Here, Obama on vacation and McCain having the press all to himself uses his bloated sense of self importance to make his case to lead and completely blows it with his idiotic comments, effectively threatening Russia as if he's trying to start a cold war again and then saying "In the 21st century countries don't invade other countries".

Maybe he doesn't realize that the whole reason we have no leverage is because of the very war he wants to keep going in Iraq, even though Bush and Maliki have embrace OBAMA's plan.

What an inept leader this man is and will be if elected president.

Posted by: JR | August 15, 2008 1:11 PM | Report abuse

So let's get this straight, he slams Obama as a "tax raiser" because he wants to let super-rich tax giveaway expire, yet he admits that he would raise payroll taxes to help fund the Social Security system, you know, the one he calls a "disgrace" and collects a monthly check from even though he and his wife are worth over 100 million, own ten homes and wears $500 Italian shoes? How arrogant, effete and elitest.

Also, if Obama was smart enough in 2004 to buck both parties and speak out against the Iraq war as a deliberate move to get the Dem's nomination then he must be a man of great foresight and probablt deserves to be president.

Posted by: JR | August 15, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Well, I WAS going to vote for McCain....until I read that he defended ABBA, that is WAAAAYYYY over the line.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Love the way Barak is totally engaged tackling the tough questions of everyday an dthe ongoing crisis in Georgia by getting his tan on in Hawaii.

Next time Russia invades a country and he's president he will not be able to be bothered 'cos he's hitting the gym or swimming a few laps at the pool or hitting the tanning bed.


I hope you will remember this comment when McCain is on vacation in Sedona at one of his three mansions or his "cabin". McCain has more palaces than Saddam Hussein had during his hey day. This guy has no understanding of how 99 percent of the country lives.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | August 15, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

McCain continues to barrel down the Low Road at ever increasing speeds.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Now we know why they never let this fool off his leash. A man running fro president whose handlers have to treat like a child. I wonder if they let him use his cell pone again, didn't they took it away from him for a while?

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 11:12 AM | Report abuse

McCain exagerates? gets things wrong? engages in hyperbole? changes his mind on a whim? never bothered with facts?

You want this man to be president? DUH?

Posted by: Nclwtk | August 15, 2008 10:58 AM | Report abuse
McCain’s Age
Old-time common sense.

By Thomas Sowell

"...McCain is not the kind of man who has given in-depth thought to many of the serious issues on which he shoots from the hip, which some people equate with “straight talk.”

The media have dubbed him a “maverick,” which is another way of spinning the fact that he is headstrong and unreliable.

Senator McCain’s teaming up with Senator Ted Kennedy on immigration, and with equally left-wing Senator Russ Feingold to violate the First Amendment in the name of “campaign-finance reform,” are classic examples of a loose cannon.

Senator McCain is not a bad man. He has some admirable qualities. But there are plenty of good people who would be dangerous in a job for which they are not suited.

Back in the 18th century, Edmund Burke said that some people “may do the worst of things without being the worst of men.” The White House is not the place for that."

Posted by: Donaldd | August 15, 2008 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: Donaldd | August 15, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

JakeD, |another racist heard from.

Posted by: blue111 | August 15, 2008 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Hey McCain - thanks for giving me a few more reasons not to vote for you.

"Sometimes I'm given to a little hyperbole,'' he said.

Do ya' think????

McCains overreaction to georgia was enough to seal the deal for me. His lobbyist foreign policy advisor also added and extra stench to the situation.

Nope, no more hot headed cowboy diplomats.

Posted by: j | August 15, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

McCain has the authentic kind of authenticity that comes from being real.

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 15, 2008 3:58 AM


Being real???

Being a real fool is more like it. Just listen to him either fumbling or mumbling or giving no answer to a question, or lying about his own record; or just being plain confused by a question.

Being real. He is an embarassment to American politics.

Posted by: BudInTexas | August 15, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse


Just like McCain was so vocal to support democracy in Zimbabwe. What is that I hear from McCain on Zimbabwean democracy? Oh yeah, crickets! That's what I hear!

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 15, 2008 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Love the way Barak is totally engaged tackling the tough questions of everyday an dthe ongoing crisis in Georgia by getting his tan on in Hawaii.

Next time Russia invades a country and he's president he will not be able to be bothered 'cos he's hitting the gym or swimming a few laps at the pool or hitting the tanning bed.

Posted by: JakeD | August 15, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

Miranda rights? MIRANDA RIGHTS?! Does he even know what that is, what the doctrine of Habeas Corpus is?

Posted by: RollaMO | August 15, 2008 10:03 AM | Report abuse

McCain is an experienced foreign policy expert! He knows that Iraq borders Pakistan. He said so on the news.

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 15, 2008 9:56 AM | Report abuse

We keep hearing about how the "real" McCain needs to come out. I actually think that we have a very fair picture of of the real McCain--it's not that he flip flops, it's just that he can't really remember what he thinks. He is just the sort of person you would want to have help you pass legislation--in the Senate. So quite honestly, it seems fair to say leave him there!

Posted by: DCH | August 15, 2008 9:49 AM | Report abuse

McFlip-Flop doesn't flip-flop. He just changes his mind drastically on key issue when "appropriate." And continually saying "the sugre is working/a success." is not trying to use the Iraq war to further his political ambitions. He's just presenting the facts.

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 15, 2008 9:37 AM | Report abuse

MAD DOG MC CAIN is unfit to run for president, let alone serve.

Posted by: blue111 | August 15, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

McCaint at 71, he apparently decided "now or never" and seems to have sold his soul, suddenly adopting a bunch of boilerplate conservative positions he was brave enough to resist 8 years ago.

Now, conveniently, he's even claiming to be a Baptist instead of an Episcopalian.

It didn't look like anyone was buying it for a while there, but danged if he hasn't come back and pretty much sewed up the Republican nomination.

McCaint went from front runner to 3rd or 4th in various polls, spent all of his huge pile of cash and lost most of his staff, and worked his way back into a dominant position.

John McCaint grew up Episcopalian. He went to an Episcopalian high school.

For at least 15 years, he has been listed as an Episcopalian in authoritative directories such as the Almanac of American Politics and Congressional Quarterly's Politics in America 2008. He told a reporter from McClatchy News Service in June 2007 that he was an Episcopalian.

Suddenly, in September 2007, he's campaigning in South Carolina, the heavily Baptist state where George W. Bush barely managed to stop McCaint's presidential campaign 8 years ago. And guess what? McCain tells a reporter "By the way, I'm not Episcopalian. I'm Baptist."

When pressed, he said he's attended the North Phoenix Baptist Church in Arizona for more than 15 years, though he has never been baptized in that church. Now see, that's exactly the problem. Baptism is kind of a big thing in the Baptist Church. (That's how they got the name.) No baptism, not Baptist.

Anyway, details aside, this is one very clear indication of how McCaint has changed.

Now, he's just another hungry politician, happy to pander if it helps him win. Which eliminates the very reason people were excited about him in 2000 -- his honesty.

Founding Member of the Keating Five
Back in the old days, defendants in famous trials got numbers -- the Chicago Eight, the Gang of Four, the Dave Clark Five, the Daytona 500.

McCaint was one of the "Keating Five," congressmen investigated on ethics charges for strenuously helping convicted racketeer Charles Keating after he gave them large campaign contributions and vacation trips.

Charles Keating was convicted of racketeering and fraud in both state and federal court after his Lincoln Savings & Loan collapsed, costing the taxpayers $3.4 billion.

His convictions were overturned on technicalities; for example, the federal conviction was overturned because jurors had heard about his state conviction, and his state charges because

Judge Lance Ito (yes, that judge) screwed up jury instructions. Neither court cleared him, and he faces new trials in both courts.)

Though he was not convicted of anything, McCaint intervened on behalf of Charles Keating after Keating gave McCain at least $112,00 in contributions. In the mid-1980s, McCain made at least 9 trips on Keating's airplanes, and 3 of those were to Keating's luxurious retreat in the Bahamas.

McCaint's 2nd wife and father-in-law also were the largest investors (at $350,000) in a Keating shopping center; the Phoenix New Times called it a "sweetheart deal."

In 1995, McCaint sent birthday regards, and regrets for not attending, to Joseph "Joe Bananas" Bonano, the head of the New York Bonano crime family, who had retired to Arizona.

Another politician to send regrets was Governor Fife Symington, who has since been kicked out of office and convicted of 7 felonies relating to fraud and extortion.

McCaint has a reputation as a politician who has difficulty keeping his pants zipped, according to Republican sources. He acknowledges that his adultery broke up his first marriage.

His second wife Cindy, the daughter of a wealthy Budweiser beer distributor, was addicted to prescription narcotics and even stole hard drugs from a medical charity that she ran.

McCaint acknowledges that she didn't want him to run, and only agreed once he promised that she doesn't have to go to New Hampshire or Iowa.

McCaint will soon squirm in his empty suit and $500+ shoes when he is asked this question...You were Episcopalian why are you a Baptist now...please explain??

Posted by: AlexP1 | August 15, 2008 8:58 AM | Report abuse

McCain "admitted he had probably over-reacted to a Supreme Court decision on the rights of prisoners being held at Guantanamo -- and he also misstated it. He seemed again to say that increasing payroll taxes might be considered as a part of reforming Social Security, though he said tax hikes weren't needed. He got into a testy exchange with a questioner who said that McCain had essentially called Sen. Barack Obama a "traitor," but repeated that Obama used the war in Iraq to further his political ambitions."

Straight Talk Suppress?

Posted by: 2mature2bhornswoggled | August 15, 2008 8:55 AM | Report abuse

There you have it. The man is lost without his neocon handlers. If he is elected they will only allow him to speak from a script. The world hasn't see anything like this since Rasputin.

Posted by: cdierd1944 | August 15, 2008 8:26 AM | Report abuse

McCain has had well more than two decades in the Senate to give voice to any and all issues of concern to him. In all that time, voters have a right to ask:

What did he do to stem the ever increasing need for mid-east oil?

What has he done prior to the current campaign to recognize and deal with climate change and global warming?

What bill did he write or sponsor to beef up the quality of public education, so people wouldn't clamor to send their kids to elite private schools?

While he has been vocal on the need to eliminate all budget "earmarks", what has he done to provide an alternate system for the government to recognize and fund legitimate particular local needs, especially from states or congressional districts represented by the minority party?

What has he done to deal with the epidemic of binge drinking of cheap beer (that his wife greatly profits from) by college students?

His self-proclaimed love of this county is a great thing... but his record is that of twenty plus years of missed opportunities to make our country ever greater!

Posted by: AMF in Boston | August 15, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

McFlip-Flop strikes again.

"I'm voting against Bush's tax cuts. But now I'm for them because I need Republicans to vote for me and it panders to the public. But a payroll tax increase is a totally cool way to deal with the social security problem."

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 15, 2008 8:10 AM | Report abuse

I'll give McCain credit and admit that his shift away from his usual open demeanor appears to be strictly staff/adviser driven. The real JMac still wants to come out...

Posted by: matt | August 15, 2008 8:07 AM | Report abuse

And McCain does not believe his continued use of Iraq retoric is any different from that of Obama's in this campaign?

Posted by: Ken | August 15, 2008 8:01 AM | Report abuse

No, Obama is not a traitor but he used the Iraq war as a campaign point. Since that is completely truthful, how is it not "straight talk"? It seems that this writer will only accept consistency, even when it is a lie. I certainly didn't start out wanting McCain to win, but I'm about to write a check. These hit pieces on his integrity are very disconcerting.

Posted by: dyinglikeflies | August 15, 2008 6:47 AM | Report abuse


Campaign bio is an "historical fiction" autobiography with "composite characters"

Repaints campaign airplane with "Air France One"

Affixes his presidential-seal-looking campaign seal to gate outside his home

Flies a silk campaign "flag" that has Blanc et Noir stars and stripes on it

Summer strategizing and positioning is about whether to allow convention delegates to actually vote

Convention night "fist bump" knocks runner up candidate off the stage

Picks his wife as VP because Obama-Obama sounds twice as good

Some convention concession labelled "Typical White Food" sell beer and hot dogs instead of wine and crudites

Keynote speech calls for "class based" affirmative vision in which someday bitter white rural voters will shop at Whole Foods, too

Immediately after nomination starts work on his "historical fiction" presidential memoir with "composite characters"

-- AsperGirl

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 4:42 AM | Report abuse

Truth about South Ossetia War

Posted by: Vladimir | August 15, 2008 4:26 AM | Report abuse

Truth about South Ossetia War

Posted by: Vladimir, Russia | August 15, 2008 4:24 AM | Report abuse

Obama has the inauthentic kind of authenticity that comes from the charismatic intensity of his false Narrative of Self being enlivened by a dopamine addiction in his social cognitive function. He goes on "me" highs that are magnetic and hypnotic but are, after all, about his false Narrative of Self.

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 15, 2008 4:02 AM | Report abuse

McCain has the authentic kind of authenticity that comes from being real.

Posted by: AsperGirl | August 15, 2008 3:58 AM | Report abuse

There isn't a "straight-talking" bone in Grampy McCain's body. The guy is a liar and a panderer, his campaign is run top to bottom by lobbyists and his policies are just a continuation of the very same disasterous policies that Bush and Cheney gave us the last 7 1/2 years.

Posted by: Bu$h Wacked | August 15, 2008 12:49 AM | Report abuse

Peace, prosperity, health care, education, energy independence and the environment. That's the agenda we should be pursuing, and Sen. McCain has not devoted his political career towards them.

He thinks he's smart, but Putin would eat his lunch. KGB Inc. is an arms dealing oil operation that has been greatly helped by Bush and McCain's war in Iraq and the arms sales and high energy prices that increase with inflamed tensions in the gulf.

We need to rebuild America, become energy independent, rebuild our image and alliances abroad while keeping nuclear proliferation, Islamic extremists, etc. in check. We need an Obama Administration that would create intelligent strategies. Sorry, Sen. McCain, you just don't have the right stuff.

Posted by: JR, Boston | August 15, 2008 12:15 AM | Report abuse

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