- The Washington Times - Friday, January 7, 2000

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah says Sen. John McCain of Arizona, his Republican presidential nomination rival, should be held to account for standing by while defense preparedness deteriorated.
"John is constantly saying it's abysmal that we have 12,000 soldiers on food stamps. But where has he been for the last 16 or 17 years? He's been on the Senate Armed Services Committee," Mr. Hatch said.
"If I had served on the Armed Services Committee, there wouldn't be 12,000 young people on food stamps."
Mr. Hatch, trailing both Mr. McCain and front-runner George W. Bush in the polls, offered the remarkably candid remarks during a luncheon meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.
Mr. McCain, he said, has so alienated fellow Republicans on so many fronts that he cannot win the nomination, regardless of how well he does in New Hampshire.
"If McCain's the nominee, I'll do everything in my power to help him, but I've got to admit I think [Vice President Al] Gore will trim his sails and I think [former New Jersey Sen. Bill] Bradley will trim his sails," he said.
Said Mr. McCain: "I respect his view. I always respect Senator Hatch's opinions. But I wouldn't be running if I didn't think I could be president of the United States."
McCain spokesman Howard Opinsky said Mr. McCain "has a long record of standing guard over America's national security and has been very critical of pork-barrel that are unneeded or unwarranted when we have national security needs that remain unfounded or underfunded, including men and women who have to subsist on food stamps, a disgrace that John McCain is going to change."
But Mr. Hatch, noting that Mr. McCain last year brought to the floor an amendment for "$3.1 billion in across-the-board cuts in the military," said, "I'm suggesting there was a political advantage in the eyes of the liberal press that hates the military.
"And by bringing up an amendment that he knew he would lose on and that [Senate Republicans] would have to beat him on, he wanted credit from the liberal press that says he is willing to attack the military. He wanted to look like he's willing to cut back on the military."
Mr. Hatch, 65, acknowledged that he is a long shot for the nomination but said Republicans will turn to him as the most experienced and reliable candidate if Mr. Bush falters.
Mr. Hatch described Mr. Bush, governor of Texas, as a product of the same country-club elites that have often chosen the party's nominee. However, he said he would support Mr. Bush if he is the nominee.
"Many [country-club Republicans] are friends of mine, they're good people," Mr. Hatch said. "I'm not running them down, but I'm just saying that I think it is important to have new blood in this party and we should not let somebody become a nominee for president just because he is a nice guy with a good smile and who has the best Rolodex in the business and the parents who can help him to do this."
Mr. McCain, 63, leads Mr. Bush, 53, in the New Hampshire polls, but trails far behind in other states.
Mr. Hatch accused Mr. McCain of citing his family military tradition but attacking the military when it serves his political interests.
He asked, rhetorically, where Mr. McCain "has been while the Navy's dropped from 562 ships down to 305, with 15,000 [jobs] at sea unfilled, with a large group of the technical people who run the Navy leaving the Navy, with the F-22s being dragged out till 2008, when we know we have to have it to replace the F-15 Eagle?"
Mr. McCain faces a ceiling of support, Mr. Hatch said. "He can't go any farther because the party is not going to latch on to McCain… . If he hits [that ceiling of support] and Bush slips, they're going to be looking around in the Republican party for someone with the dimension [to] take on Gore and Bradley" namely, himself.
"I'm not counting on Bush slipping I'm hoping he can do his best. I can live with a George W. Bush. I just want him to win, if he's going to be our nominee."
On his first day as president he said he would "restore integrity to the White House… . Everyone who works for me is drug free I mean illegal drugs." And to avoid future "filegates," no FBI reports on any citizen would be allowed into the White House unless that person is informed first.

Dave Boyer contributed to this report from Durham, N.H.

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