Sen. John McCain says President Obama is breaking campaign promises he made to the American people and has passed up numerous opportunities to reach out to Republicans — a pledge the Democrat made repeatedly during their battle for the presidency.
“There are things that, statements that then-candidate Obama made during the campaign over and over and over again that obviously he’s not staying with,” Mr. McCain told The Washington Times in an hour-long interview with reporters and editors.
The Arizona senator said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “put it best” when she described the lack of bipartisanship in the drafting of the $787 billion bailout bill, which garnered just three Republican votes in the Senate.
” ‘We won, we wrote the bill.’ That applies not just to that bill, but it does to all of the other pieces of legislation, too,” he said, clearly exasperated. “We’re not in on the takeoff, and anybody who calls the stimulus package … bipartisan — you pick off three Republicans? That’s not bipartisanship.”
Mr. McCain also ticked off a list of campaign promises his presidential opponent has abandoned, including pledges to clamp down on pork-barrel spending, reinvigorate nuclear energy and expand free trade.
Mr. Obama, who vowed to change politics as usual in Washington, made a show of bipartisanship as he took office, even throwing an inaugural ball to celebrate his Republican opponent in the presidential race. But since then, Mr. McCain said he has been consulted just once by the administration, when a White House lawyer visited to discuss the closing of Guantanamo Bay.
“Aside from that, I have not known of an occasion where they sit down across the table. Now, there’s been occasions where the president comes and talks to Republicans, the president talks to — et cetera, but that’s not good bipartisanship,” he said.
The senator said he thinks Mr. Obama does want bipartisanship and, for his part, “I’m actively looking for ways that I can work with the administration and I seek them out because Americans want us to do that today.” But the 26-year Capitol Hill veteran said achieving the campaign promise 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.
That bipartisan pledge is not the only campaign promise Mr. Obama has broken in his first 60 days in office. Foremost, the Illinois senator, who pledged to bring all U.S. troops home quickly if elected, announced an 18-month timetable for withdrawal, along with a plan to leave 50,000 troops in Iraq.
That, though, hasn’t irked Mr. McCain, who throughout the campaign urged a less hasty drawdown of troops. “I’m glad, because he said he’d get them out, set date, and obviously, that is significantly different, particularly what he said when he was first a candidate,” he said.
But other broken promises infuriate the senator, long a critic of pork-barrel spending through congressional “earmarks” lawmakers insert into bills for special projects at home. In Mr. Obama’s first presidential debate, he said “we need earmark reform, and when I’m president, I will go line by line to make sure that we are not spending money unwisely.”
“We’re going to scrub the budget line by line — who read the stimulus package?” Mr. McCain said. Not Mr. Obama, who urged quick passage of the bill, then took a three-day weekend in Chicago before signing the legislation, packed with 9,000 earmarks worth billions of dollars.
“He said nuclear power - they have basically — not said nuclear power is gone but their positions make it impossible for nuclear power to be a viable alternative,” Mr. McCain said. “Um, what else?” the senator asked. “He’s been a bit contradictory on trade.”
“Said he was going to unilaterally renegotiate NAFTA, then said he was for free trade, and then he signed two bills, one of them with ‘Buy American” provisions in it and the other one with the Mexican trucks,” a pilot cross-border trucking program expanded under the North American Free Trade Agreement by President Bush.
“Both of them are sending a message to the world that the United States is practicing protectionism. … This is very dangerous,” he said. “One of my highest concerns about this administration is protectionism and the Mexican truck thing was inexcusable, absolutely inexcusable.”