- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sen. John McCain, an architect of sweeping campaign-finance reform who got walloped by a presidential candidate armed with more than $750 million, predicts that no one will ever again accept federal matching funds to run for the nation’s highest office.

“No Republican in his or her right mind is going to agree to public financing. I mean, that’s dead. That is over. The last candidate for president of the United States from a major party that will take public financing was me,” the Arizona Republican told The Washington Times.

In an hourlong interview at the newspaper with editors and reporters Friday, Mr. McCain also questioned President Obama’s pledge of bipartisanship, saying the Democrat has passed up several prime opportunities to work with Republican lawmakers. What’s more, the new president has abandoned key campaign promises, from Iraq withdrawal to congressional earmarks to nuclear energy, he charged.

“There are statements that then-candidate Obama made during the campaign over and over and over again that obviously he’s not staying with,” Mr. McCain said.

Despite his loss in the 2008 election, the 73-year-old Mr. McCain maintains the fiery passion that helped nearly 60 million Americans cast ballots for him. Throughout the lengthy interview, he was animated, even feisty, sometimes jamming a finger into the conference table for emphasis. But he was also reflective and expansive, delivering his comprehensive views on all of the issues of the day.

While he said he isn’t a “sore loser” and isn’t looking back in anger or bitterness at the often negative campaign run by Mr. Obama, he delivered his trademark “straight talk,” disagreeing with the new president on matters ranging from immigration reform to talks with Iran to nuclear energy.

The diminutive former Navy fighter pilot grew impassioned when he talked about Mr. Obama’s vow to end the partisan rancor that has hung over Washington since the days of President Ronald Reagan. His opponent promised a new postpartisan capital throughout his campaign — something the maverick Republican who often has crossed party lines also called for — but Mr. McCain said Mr. Obama not only hasn’t delivered, he seems to have abandoned the pledge.

Since Inauguration Day, Mr. McCain said, he has been consulted just once by the administration, when a White House lawyer visited to discuss the closing of the U.S. prison at the naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

“Aside from that, I have not known of an occasion where [White House officials] sit down across the table” from Republicans to negotiate the substance of an issue.

“Now, there’s been occasions where the president comes and talks to Republicans, but that’s not good bipartisanship,” he said.

The Arizona senator said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “put it best” when she dismissed Republican complaints that they were left out of negotiations over the $787 billion stimulus package, which garnered just three Republican votes in the Senate and none in the House.

“We won, we wrote the bill,” he said, quoting the California Democrat. “That applies not just to that bill, but it does to all of the other pieces of legislation, too.” His voice heavy with exasperation, he said: “We’re not in on the takeoff, and anybody who calls the stimulus package bipartisan — you pick off three Republicans? That’s not bipartisan.”

The 26-year lawmaker said achieving the campaign promise of changing the partisan ways of Washington will take a real commitment from the president.

“I’ve been around for a lot of administrations, and the way you address an issue in a bipartisan fashion is, you invite somebody over and you sit down at a table and you say, ‘OK, here’s our position on this issue, and here’s what we want — what do you want? What’s your priority?’ And you sit down and work out an agreement and you come out and you say, like [former Democratic House Speaker] Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan did, that we’ve agreed and we’re going to push this through,” he said.

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