- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 15, 2008

John McCain” href=”/themes/?Theme=John+McCain” >Sen. John McCain on Saturday said he would take a hard line on dangerous Chinese exports, promised to appoint more women to his administration and heaped praise on Clinton” href=”/themes/?Theme=Hillary+Clinton” >Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in a town-hall meeting aimed at attracting the former Democratic presidential hopeful’s primary supporters.

“The next toy that came from China that endangered the life of a child from the USA, that’d be the last toy that came in,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said in response to a question during the meeting.

The event was the latest in a series Mr. McCain has orchestrated to try to win over independents and Democrats upset over Mrs. Clinton’s loss. He repeatedly noted he has worked with Mrs. Clinton in the past, and said they have even traveled together on official business.

“I admire and respect her. And yes, we have political differences, but I do especially admire the fact that when Senator Clinton came to the U.S. Senate, her first efforts were devoted to working together, Republican and Democrat, particularly on the Armed Services Committee,” he said.

The town-hall meeting was held on the same day his campaign announced Citizens for McCain, a group that includes one woman who was a pledged delegate from Wisconsin for Mrs. Clinton at the Democrats’ convention. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this weekend that state Democrats are now trying to have the national convention refuse to seat the woman, Debra Bartoshevich.

Facing the prospect of Democrats supporting Mr. McCain, Sen. Barack Obama, the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, deployed surrogates to push back.

“This effort to reach out to her supporters is an effort to mask his record on issues that are important to the women that supported her,” said Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm, a former Clinton supporter who said she now fully backs Mr. Obama.

Democrats called on Mr. McCain to give back $300,000 raised for him by Clayton Williams, a Texas Republican who during his 1990 failed bid for governor made an offensive joke about rape, saying: “Well, bad weather is like rape: if it’s inevitable, you might as well relax and enjoy it.”

Mr. McCain has reportedly canceled a fundraiser scheduled with Mr. Williams on Monday, but the Associated Press reported the campaign won’t return the money because Mr. Williams was merely organizing donations from other individuals. The Williams joke brings up a difficult situation for Mr. McCain as he courts female voters.

After their long and bruising primary, Democrats say they are aware of hurt feelings. Last week Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean repeatedly blamed the press for what he said were sexist and racist remarks that tinged the primary discourse.

Mr. McCain has challenged Mr. Obama to a series of joint town-hall appearances in addition to the usual three debates, but Mr. Obama has rejected them, instead proposing one town-hall meeting and a fourth debate.

Mr. McCain is going ahead with his own town-hall meetings, and his performance Saturday was far smoother than Thursday, when he held a nationally televised town-hall meeting in New York City. While he was stilted and uneven in New York, in Saturday’s event, he addressed questions directly and easily from both a live audience and phone-in participants.

He promised the audience he would achieve “a dramatic increase of women in every part of my administration”; he attacked Mr. Obama for opposing the Supreme Court nominations of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.; and he said sometimes “it’s tough” to be proud of the U.S.

“We’ve got to be more humble; we’ve got to be more inclusive; we’ve got to address issues of concern to people all over the world,” he told one man.

On China, a woman from Ohio who called in asked what Mr. McCain would do about defective products from China, and asked how he would bring back the manufacturing jobs lost to China.

Mr. McCain said it went beyond just defective products, recalling reports of arsenic found in some toys imported from China. He said the government has an obligation to act.