John McCain conducted another in his series of blogger conference calls this afternoon, and I had the chance to participate. It took a few minutes to get the conference going, but he did make it from his Detroit speech to the Hispanic business community. McCain talked about entrepeneurship and the need to get government out of the way of private enterprise.
He said that he's still pleased with the status of his candidacy. He's even more pleased that the leading Democrats would not commit to a date certain for withdrawal even before 2013. He says that General Petraeus gave a good case for continued commitment, and took the fight out of the Democrats over their demand for a withdrawal timeline. Ryan Crocker represents "the best" of what we have have to offer in the foreign service.
McCain also came out in favor of the new sanctions from George Bush against Burma. He wants ASEAN to expel Burma, and he wants to press China to isolate Burma as well. McCain keeps a picture of Aung Sang Suu Kyi on his wall to remind him of the need for action to defeat the "thugs" who run Burma.
Jennifer Rubin - Looking at the polls, New Hampshire looks good, Iowa not so well. How's the money going? -- Money is good, but budgeting is better. "A comfortable amount to do what we have to do" is how he characterizes it. Iowa is a tough fight, but he plans on contending for it.
Dan - Next month marks the 40th anniversary of McCain's shootdown over North Vietnam. Will he do something to commemorate it? -- "Maybe I'll fly over Hanoi and see if they want to shoot at me." He doesn't plan on anything else.
James Joyner - On Burma, what sort of action do you have in mind? -- Tell the Chinese to stop supporting the regime and do it publicly. Call on ASEAN to throw Burma out of the group. It has failed to affect the regime's policies, and they should not benefit from membership. Get the UN to start putting pressure on the regime. He doesn't mean an invasion of Burma.
Me - On the Morgan College/PBS debate -- McCain really did have a schedule conflict, he would have wanted to negotiate another debate. He will rest on his record on his efforts to make all Americans, including blacks, successful, especially in the military. He will continue his advocacy for all Americans; he has championed Martin Luther King day in Arizona, for instance. Republicans need to keep hammering the themes on free markets, punishing discrimination, and so on.
Jim Geraghty - None of the top three Democrats would guarantee a withdrawal of combat troops by 2013. Is this the Petraeus effect? -- It's "absolutely" the Petraeus effect. We have troops all over the world, and Americans don't mind that. The key is having the chance for success. We need to have the combat under control. McCain says he's encouraged.
Philip Klein - Hillary proposed giving a $5000 check to every baby born in America -- McCain would be interested in knowing how to pay for it. Why not $100,000, McCain says, as long as we're talking government largesse? That's not a harsh or cruel question to ask.
Fausta Wertz - As a Hispanic entrepeneur herself, how would you lower the barriers in the marketplace, especially government costs? -- McCain says we need to get rid of excess spending, and the corruption it brings. If we can get spending under control, then we can hand off a decent economic situation to future generations. We need to re-establish the credibility of Congress. There's been a tremendous erosion of trust from the American people in Congress.
McCain has really set the bar for blogospheric engagement in these conference calls. I'd like to see more of these from other Republican candidates.