EXCLUSIVE: McCain lambastes Bush years

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But on Wednesday, Mr. McCain went further in distancing himself from the man who beat him for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. In addition to the long list of failures he attributed to Mr. Bush, Mr. McCain blamed the president for supporting the Medicare prescription-drug bill, saying, “They didn’t pay for it.”

“They put a trillion-dollar debt on future generations of Americans, then allowed the liberals to expand it so they’re paying my — they’re paying for my prescription drugs. Why should the taxpayers pay for my prescription drugs?” he said with exasperation.

He rejected Mr. Bush’s use of issuing “signing statements” when he signs bills into law, in which the president has suggested that he would ignore elements of the bills, labeling them potentially unconstitutional.

“I would veto the bills or say, ‘Look, I don’t like it but I’ll obey the law that’s passed by Congress and signed by the president.’ I think the signing statements was not a correct implementation of the power of the executive. I think it was overstepping,” he said.

And Mr. McCain emphatically rejected Mr. Bush’s claims of executive privilege, often used to shield the White House from scrutiny.

“I don’t agree with that either. I don’t agree with [Vice President] Dick Cheney’s allegation that he’s part of both the legislative and the executive branch,” he said.

Still, Mr. McCain said Mr. Bush deserves credit for expanding faith-based organizations, which he said have done “enormously good things, domestically and overseas.”

“The president put into real practice compassionate conservatism when they supported and helped grow enormously a lot of these faith-based organizations, which, by the way, is now at risk because Senator Obama says they have to adhere to federal hiring practices, which would then cause them not to be able to function,” he said.

The Republican also targeted his own party, saying they got drunk with power and lacked the resolve of President Reagan.

“I think, frankly, the problem was, with a Republican Congress, that the president was told by the speaker and majority leaders and others, ‘Don’t veto these bills, we need this pork, we need this excess spending, we need to grow these bureaucracies.’ They all sponsor certain ones. And he didn’t do what Ronald Reagan used to and say, ‘No’; say, ‘No. We’re not going to do this.’”

When contacted about Mr. McCain’s criticism of Mr. Bush, White House spokesman Anthony E. Warren said the administration would have no comment.

Biden crisis

Mr. McCain said Mr. Biden has now as much as acknowledged that the world will be more dangerous if Mr. Obama wins the presidential election.

“We live in a dangerous world and Senator Obama’s running mate has just assured Americans it’ll be a heck of a lot more dangerous if you elect him president,” he said.

Mr. Biden predicted at a fundraiser Sunday that if elected president, Mr. Obama would face immediate challenge from a hostile power or terrorist group intent on testing the first-term senator.

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