- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2008


Sen. John McCain said yesterday that cutting taxes and stimulating the economy are more important than balancing the budget, and accused both Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama of supporting tax increases that would worsen the effects of a recession.

“The goal right now is to get the economy going again,” the presumed Republican presidential nominee said on ABC’s “This Week,” adding that he would put the country “on a path to a balanced budget” by attacking wasteful spending.

Mr. McCain conceded it was probably a mistake to accept the endorsement of the Rev. John Hagee.

The Arizona senator said he had condemned the televangelist’s remarks about Roman Catholicism, including that the church is “the great whore,” but said the Hagee case is different from Mr. Obama’s relationship with William Ayers, a 1960s-era radical who, in an interview published on Sept. 11, 2001, said he did not regret bombing government buildings.

“How can you countenance someone who was engaged in bombings which could have or did kill innocent people?” Mr. McCain asked, calling Mr. Ayers an “unrepentant terrorist.”

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton, in response, said Mr. McCain had “stooped to the same smear politics and low road that he denounced in 2000” by commenting on Mr. Ayers.

Mr. McCain appeared on the talk show as the Democratic National Committee announced it will begin running an ad tomorrow on national cable networks critiquing Mr. McCain on the economy. The ad, released to reporters yesterday, shows Mr. McCain saying the country overall is “better off” than it was eight years ago, and ends by asking viewers, “Do you feel better off?”

The Republican National Committee said the ad is misleading.

Responding yesterday, Mr. McCain brushed off Democratic assertions that he is out of touch on the economy and reiterated a pledge to cut taxes even if it means running up deficits. Turning the tables on Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama, he said they are the misguided ones for proposing tax increases during a recession.

Both Democratic candidates support higher taxes for wealthy people and small businesses. Mr. Obama also has said he wants a capital-gains tax higher than the current rate of 15 percent.

“They are out of touch when they want to raise taxes at the worst possible time, when we’re in a recession,” said Mr. McCain, who has been under constant criticism from Democrats for saying the economy isn’t his best subject.

Mr. McCain said he has a solid economic plan, centered on extending Bush-administration tax cuts that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama have pledged to let expire. He also said he would not hold off on tax cuts if Congress didn’t approve his spending cuts and declined to make a pledge to balance the budget by the end of his first term in office.

“When economies are rough, then you’ve got to reduce the tax burden on people,” Mr. McCain said.

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