McCain calls for respectful campaign

April 5, 2008 7:31:22 PM PDT
Sen. John McCain called Saturday for a presidential campaign that is more like a respectful argument among friends than a bitter clash of enemies, and said he is better able than either of his Democratic rivals to govern across party lines. "We have nothing to fear from each other," the Arizona senator said as he wrapped up a weeklong trip designed to broaden his appeal beyond the voters who cast ballots in last winter's Republican primaries.

"We are arguing over the means to better secure our freedom, promote the general welfare and defend our ideals."

After a series of stops earlier in the week that emphasized his military service, McCain spoke on the steps of the Yavapai County Courthouse. The late Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona, the father of the modern conservative Republican party, launched his Senate campaigns as well as his 1964 bid for the White House from the same spot overlooking the town square of what was once the state's territorial capital.

McCain looked out at his largest crowd of the week as he recalled his early lessons in political bipartisanship. He described Goldwater and the late Arizona Rep. Mo Udall, a liberal Democrat, as close friends despite many political disagreements.

McCain recalled also that shortly after his own election to Congress in 1982, Udall took him under his wing. "I intend to wage this campaign and to govern this country in a way that they would be proud of me," he said of Goldwater and Udall.

And yet, he said, there are important differences to be settled in the fall on issues such as energy, the housing crisis, health care, the struggle with terrorists, and Medicare and other federal spending programs.

"It is more than appropriate, it is necessary that even in times of crisis, we fight among ourselves for the things we believe in," McCain said. "It is not just our right, but our civic and moral obligation."

"Let us exercise our responsibilities as free people. But let us remember we are not enemies," he added.

McCain also said that if elected, he would attempt to govern in the same spirit, and sharpened that theme in a news conference shortly after his speech.

"I have a record unmatched by either Senator Hillary (Rodham) Clinton or Senator (Barack) Obama of reaching across the aisle," he said. He said his record demonstrates "the environment for working together is clearly there."

McCain wrapped up the Republican nomination a month ago, and his weeklong trip down a sort of personal memory lane marked a new phase in his campaign.

In a series of speeches that recalled his education at the Naval Academy, his time spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam and his post-war military career, he repeatedly urged Americans to support a cause bigger than themselves.

The speeches touched only glancingly on issues likely to dominate the campaign, including the war in Iraq, which he supports, and the economy.

That will begin to change in the coming weeks, aides say, as McCain begins laying out a series of domestic proposals on taxes, health care, trade and other topics.


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