March 26, 2010

Oh boy. The man who brought us Sarah Paling-Around-with-Terrorists Palin and who has promised to take his ball and go home rather than work with the Democrats now thinks we should have some "civility in the health care debate":

Sen. John McCain called for a more civilized political discourse on Thursday after members of Congress who voted for health care reform reported incidents of harassment and threats of violence.

"There is a lot of anger and passion out there," McCain said on CNN's "John King USA." "Let's change that into a spirited and healthy respectful campaign season between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives. Let's really go at it, but let's do it with respect, that's the key to it."

McCain noted that he has held thousands of town hall meetings during his long political career. "The only thing I ask people to do is be respectful," he said.

CNN didn't bother to mention in their Political Ticker that McCain defended Sarah Palin for her "reload" and political crosshairs Facebook posting. McCain wrote it off as just typical political rhetoric.

Full transcript via CNN below the fold.

KING: As you just heard and if you've been watching the past few days you know there is plenty of anger and name calling and even threats to members of Congress in the wake of the big health care vote. So how do we get past this unhealthy debate? Senator John McCain built his reputation as a consensus builder. He is here to go "One-on-One". Welcome.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Thank you, John. Thanks for having me on your show.

KING: Welcome -- you're welcome here. I want to read you something -- these are your words from very early in the 2008 presidential campaign, "I'm going to raise the level of political dialogue in America." As we try to get back, I assume you want to get back to a better place, a more civil debate, I want to give you a couple of examples that people say, some people say, are helping to stoke this environment and one is a map put up on her Web site by your running mate, Sarah Palin.

I know you're familiar with this. If you look over your shoulder here, you can see it. She says it's time to take a stand. She said in a tweet "don't retreat, instead reload." And you see those crosshairs. Those are congressional districts where she thinks Democrats are vulnerable. She could have used stars, Senator. She could have used arrows. She could have used points. Crosshairs are something you have in the scope of a gun, is that beyond?

MCCAIN: No, John, the rhetoric that we use in every day language about political campaigns, battleground states, it's going to be a war, all of those things we have used for years and years. They are in the crosshairs. I have heard you use that language. I have heard every commentator use that language. The fact is this is a very emotional issue. And people are very emotional --

KING: At a time when they are so emotional, should everybody -- should political leaders and people in my business maybe have a higher burden to step it back a little bit when you know the emotions are so wrong?

MCCAIN: We should try to -- we should try to step it back, but when I'm -- when we are passing legislation that is full of sleazy, sausage making deals that are special deals for special interests, whether it be the cornhusker kickback or the behind-the-scenes deal with pharma, of course they are going to be angry. I'm angry.

Now the question is do you turn that anger into voter registration and demonstrations and elections and ballot booths? That is what you have got to urge people to do, but I don't -- I don't begrudge people their anger. We are talking about a passage of legislation which is going to lay another $1 trillion of debt on our kids and our grand kids. Of course they are angry and frustrated.

KING: How do you throw the circuit breaker? Should a bipartisan group of people come out and say, look, we can fight about these things and we will fight about these things, but everybody needs to step back or do you just have to let it run its course?

MCCAIN: I think that would be very helpful. I say all the time and so do a lot of my colleagues say, look, we -- we are a nation that loves to have debates. My favorite person I debated with and we would go nose-to-nose was Ted Kennedy. We believed a fight not joined was a fight not enjoyed --


MCCAIN: But that -- it's got to be carried on with respect and obviously, you don't want things like, well, like in my campaign, when Congressman John Lewis compared my campaign to the bombing of a church in Birmingham where three young children were killed. Now that happened during my campaign and he alleged that of me. He has never apologized for it. I think that's kind of inflammatory.

KING: Let me show you something that others would find -- if you want to raise that example. I want to show you when Congressman Steve King, a Republican from Iowa, if you look over your shoulder this way, this is him on the deck, wiping, some say slapping a picture of the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Is that appropriate conduct?


MCCAIN: Of course that's uncalled for. Of course that's uncalled for, John, and we see from, you know the person that yelled "baby killer", but I think that we've got to urge everybody to be respectful. That's all we do. I have town hall meetings all the time and the only thing I ask people to do is be respectful. And I have had thousands of them. And so we ought to urge everybody to be respectful of one another.

KING: How about showing an example? Your friend, Lindsey Graham, has said because of the poisonous health care debate, as he calls it, he doesn't see any possibility for say bipartisan cooperation on immigration reform. Right now, there's a partisan divide over financial reform in the Senate. Is there something out there where people can say, look we disagree on a lot of things? We might even have some policy debates here. But look at us on this one, actually getting together. Is there one on the horizon?

MCCAIN: Afghanistan I think is a perfect example.

KING: Not immigration or financial reform though?

MCCAIN: Well the problem is (INAUDIBLE) in all due respect bipartisanship, there's been none. They have taken their 60 votes and when they had 60 and the majority in the House and they've rammed stuff through, the stimulus package, the budget, the omnibus spending bill and so any semblance of bipartisanship was not used by the majority. I understand that, but that's not changing Washington. In fact, it is change for the worse.

KING: Another example coming up would be another extension of unemployment benefits and your Republican colleague, Tom Coburn says, look, I will vote for this but only if we offset the deficit spending. We have got to find it somewhere else. And he says if you don't give him that offset that he will put a hold on this. He will use his power to slow this debate down if not stop this debate. Would you side with him in that or is this an issue on which you should not use those tactics, those levers at your disposal?

MCCAIN: In the last year, we have increased the deficit by a couple of trillion dollars. This year, we are going to have $1.4 trillion deficit, next year, $1.5 trillion deficit. The people want us to stop the spending and they want us to pay for things. The anger out there is at a lot of things but one of them is the generational theft we are continuing. Of course, why can't we find some way to --


KING: -- the unemployment -- that would you support Senator Coburn or do you think it is the wrong -- on that particular issue because --


MCCAIN: Doing exactly the right thing to find ways to pay for it. We have increased domestic spending by some 20 percent over the last year, while every state in America has had to tighten their belts and do incredible -- take draconian measures so can't we find a way to pay for these things? That's all that Senator Coburn is asking.

KING: Let me ask you in closing, you are going to head home tomorrow, you're going to be out campaigning with Sarah Palin.


KING: She's coming to Arizona to help you. You face a primary challenge, she is going to help you in your state. Any talk while you're out there campaigning, maybe (INAUDIBLE) get a role on her new reality TV show?

MCCAIN: I'd love it. I understand that she is being well compensated, almost as well as you are for this new show.

KING: I think she might be getting a little bit more than me.

MCCAIN: Could I -- could I -- could I just go back on this? Yes, there is a lot of anger and passion out there. Let's translate that into a spirited, healthy, respectful campaign season between Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives and that's a message we want to give everybody and that is a message I want to give, too. Let's -- let's -- let's really go at it but let's do at it -- do it with respect.

That's the key to it and obviously, you and I have seen examples where that's not the case and sometimes it has a bad influence on citizens who become too passionate. And I decry it and I know you do and all of us do.

KING: Appreciate your time, Senator.

Can you help us out?

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