EXCLUSIVE: McCain lambastes Bush years

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“Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We’re about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. Remember, I said it standing here, if you don’t remember anything else I said. Watch, we’re going to have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy.”

Mr. Biden said Mr. Obama would have to make “some really tough” decisions when that occurs, adding emphatically: “As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it’s going to happen.”

The Democratic vice-presidential running mate said he could envision four or five scenarios, citing the Middle East and Russia.

Mr. McCain called Mr. Biden’s comment “the most remarkable comment I have ever seen in presidential politics.”

“Now he is saying — if we elected Senator Obama as president of the United States we are going to have an international crisis in these very dangerous times with the economy in the tank?” Mr. McCain said.

At a press conference Wednesday in Virginia, Mr. Obama noted Mr. Biden’s words, saying that although “Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes,” his central point was correct and a reason to back the Democratic team.

“His core point was, the next administration is going to be tested, regardless of who it is,” Mr. Obama said. “The question is: Will the next president meet that test by moving America in a new direction, by sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that we are no longer about bluster and unilateralism and ideology?”

In a statement, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds responded: “It’s not leadership for Barack Obama to promise to be straight with Americans, only to dismiss serious statements and concern from his own running mate as simple ‘rhetorical flourishes.’”

Poll standings

As for the state of the campaign map, Mr. McCain said he sees himself five percentage points down to Mr. Obama in the race for Pennsylvania, although every poll in the past two weeks has put the deficit in double digits. Still, he said he is making a comeback, and pointed to comments by Democratic luminaries he said encourage him.

“Ed Rendell just said, I want President Clinton to come back because I’m nervous,” Mr. McCain said, referring to the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania who has reportedly sent memos asking the Clintons to return to the state to campaign for Mr. Obama.

Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama’s giant fundraising total — he announced this weekend that he raised more than $150 million in September — is going to produce “a scandal.”

His campaign and the Republican National Committee have released the names of all his donors, including those who have contributed less than $200. That’s not required by federal election rules, and Mr. Obama has declined to release his small-dollar donors, leading to speculation that some donors are trying to circumvent fundraising laws.

“History is a clear indicator. Senator Obama has unleashed a force which we will pay a very heavy price for sometime in the future if not now, because it’s very unlikely we can track down and document the contributions that he refuses to reveal,” said Mr. McCain, who co-authored a bipartisan bill to overhaul campaign fundraising laws.

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