- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2008

NEWSMAKER INTERVIEW:

ABOARD THE STRAIGHT TALK AIR — Sen. John McCain on Wednesday blasted President Bush for building a mountain of debt for future generations, failing to pay for expanding Medicare and abusing executive powers, leveling his strongest criticism to date of an administration whose unpopularity may be dragging the Republican Party to the brink of a massive electoral defeat.

“We just let things get completely out of hand,” he said of his own party’s rule in the past eight years.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Mr. McCain lashed out at a litany of Bush policies and issues that he said he would have handled differently as president, days after a poll showed that he began making up ground on Sen. Barack Obama since he emphatically sought to distance himself from Mr. Bush in the final debate.

“Spending, the conduct of the war in Iraq for years, growth in the size of government, larger than any time since the Great Society, laying a $10 trillion debt on future generations of America, owing $500 billion to China, obviously, failure to both enforce and modernize the [financial] regulatory agencies that were designed for the 1930s and certainly not for the 21st century, failure to address the issue of climate change seriously,” Mr. McCain said in an interview with The Washington Times aboard his campaign plane en route from New Hampshire to Ohio.

“Those are just some of them,” he said with a laugh, chomping into a peanut butter sandwich as a few campaign aides in his midair office joined in the laughter.

In the interview, Mr. McCain rejected the notion that he could win on the strength of voters who won’t vote for a black president.

“I reject categorically the concept that people would, any number of people would vote on the basis of race,” he said.

He also hit Mr. Obama for breaking his pledge to take public campaign financing; said Democratic vice-presidential nominee Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. has as much as acknowledged that Mr. Obama would make the world more dangerous; and cautioned that while he may be down in the race, he’s not out.

“There is one lesson of history, and that is every time we’ve been written off, that’s when we’ve had a comeback,” he said with an emphatic chop of his hand, just after flying out of the state that propelled him to the Republican nomination.

The self-described maverick, who was counted out of the Republican race in summer 2007, may to be doing just that. Although he trails in the polls in at least a half-dozen pivotal states, a new Associated Press survey finds the race statistically even, with Mr. Obama at 44 percent and Mr. McCain at 43 percent.

The survey found that Mr. McCain had surged among whites and people earning less than $50,000; among rural voters — he now has an 18-point advantage, up from four points in the previous poll — and on the issue of the economy, where he picked up nine percentage points and now trails the Democrat by just six points.

Harsher criticism

Mr. Obama has spent virtually the entire campaign linking Mr. McCain to the president, saying a McCain term would be “four more years of George Bush” and identifying various Republican policies with the adjective “Bush-McCain.”

Mr. McCain has in recent days sharpened his criticism of Mr. Bush, including adding a line from his final debate to his daily stump speech, that if Mr. Obama “wanted to run against George Bush, he should have run four years ago.”

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