Cindy McCain presses Obama on patriotism

June 19, 2008 8:21:05 PM PDT
At a hospital off the coast of Vietnam, Cindy McCain, wife of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, has traded in her designer suits and pearl necklaces for hiking boots and a baseball cap. In the coastal town of Nha Trang, she is helping Operation Smile screen children with cleft palates and cleft lips for life-changing surgery.

McCain says the faces of the children remind her of her daughter, who was adopted from Bangladesh. She got involved with the group years ago, after adopting Bridget, who needed the same operation.

"It also reminds me of what a simple $286 surgery can do to a child. Change their life forever," McCain said in an interview with ABC News' Kate Snow.

Drawing Women Voters

Back in the United States on the '08 trail, Sen. John McCain, D-Ariz., has been actively courting the female voters left without a candidate since former Democratic contender Hillary Clinton exited the race. Over the weekend during a virtual town hall meeting, McCain promised a "dramatic increase" in the numbers of women in government if he is elected.

Women's groups challenged McCain's efforts, saying that once women learned that McCain opposes abortion rights, they'll change their minds.

Cindy McCain says voters don't have to look past her husband's support of the troops to realize that he is "pro-woman."

On 'Making America Strong'

"Supporting our troops the way he does, supporting our young men and women right now who are serving so gallantly is pro-woman, because every mother, every wife, sister, aunt feels the way I have felt.," Cindy McCain says. "The things that he does doesn't make him any more pro-woman, pro-man, anti-anything. He is about America, making America strong."

As a mother with a son who has served in Iraq, when asked if she understood why people want the troops home, McCain replied, "I want a leader who will bring them home with dignity."

Pressing Obama's Patriotism Case

On the subject of patriotism, while Laura Bush may be ready to give Michelle Obama the benefit of the doubt, Cindy McCain is not.

"Everyone has their own experience," she says. "I don't know why she said what she said. All I know is that I have always been proud of my country."

Snow asked McCain if she was "insulted when Michelle Obama says she was proud of her country for the first time," referencing remarks Obama made at a Wisconsin rally during her husband's fight for the Democratic presidential nomination against Clinton.

"For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of country, not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change," Michelle Obama told the Madison crowd, sparking outrage from conservative critics and fodder for an online ad produced by the Republican Party in Tennessee.

The fact that Cindy McCain hasn't done a lot of interviews recently has shrouded her in mystery. The latest ABC News poll found fewer Americans had a favorable opinion of her than of Michelle Obama. More than a third said they had no opinion of Cindy McCain.

But to those who think she's just posturing on the trail, she says they should get to know her. "I'll talk to 'em," McCain says.