ARLINGTON, VA — U.S. Senator John McCain today delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery at the McCain-Palin 2008 rally in Albuquerque, New Mexico:
In less than a month, the American people will make a choice on where they want this country to go, and who they trust to lead us in a time of war and economic crisis. The time for debating and electioneering is drawing to a close. Soon it will be the time for choosing.
Today we have seen a reminder of the importance of that choice. The action Congress took last week to address our financial crisis was a tourniquet, but not a permanent solution. Today we are seeing the stock market fall, and the credit crisis spread to other parts of the world. Our economy is still hurting — working families are worried about the price of groceries, the price of gas, keeping their jobs and paying their mortgage — further action is needed. We need to restore confidence in our economy and in our government.
Washington is still on the wrong track and we still need change. The status quo is not on the ballot. We are going to see change in Washington. The question is: in what direction will we go? Will our country be a better place under the leadership of the next president — a more secure, prosperous, and just society? Will you be better off, in the jobs you hold now and in the opportunities you hope for? Will your sons and daughters grow up in the kind of country you wish for them, rising in the world and finding in their own lives the best of America? And which candidate’s experience — in government and in life — makes him a more reliable leader for our country and commander in chief for our troops? Who is ready to lead? In a time of trouble and danger for our country, who will put our country first?
I set out on my own campaign for president many months ago. I promised at the beginning to be straight with the American people, knowing that even those who don’t agree with me on everything would expect at least that much. I didn’t just show up out of nowhere, after all — America knows me. You know my strengths and my faults. You know my story and my convictions.
And though familiarity in politics can be both helpful to a candidate, or not so helpful, it does at least fill out the picture and answer the essential questions. You need to know who you’re putting in the White House — where the candidate came from and what he or she believes. And you need to know now, before it is time to choose.
In 21 months, during hundreds of speeches, town halls and debates, I have kept my promise to level with you about my plans to reform Washington and get this country moving again. As a senator, I’ve seen the corrupt ways of Washington in wasteful spending and other abuses of power, and as president I’m going to end them — whatever it takes. I will propose and sign into law reforms to bring tax relief to the middle class and help to businesses so they can create jobs.
I will get the rising cost of food and gas under control. I will help families keep their home, and help students struggling to pay for college. I will make health care more accessible and affordable. I will impose a spending freeze on all but the most vital functions of government. I will review every agency of the federal government, improve those that need to be improved and eliminate those that aren’t working for the American people. I will confront th e ten trillion-dollar debt that the federal government has run up, and balance the federal budget by the end of my term in office.
This is the agenda I have set before my fellow citizens. And the same standards of clarity and candor must now be applied to my opponent. Even at this late hour in the campaign, there are essential things we don’t know about Senator Obama or the record that he brings to this campaign.
We have all heard what he has said, but it is less clear what he has done or what he will do. What Senator Obama says today and what he has done in the past are often two different things. He has often changed his positions in this campaign, and the best way to determine where he would really take this country is to examine where he has tried to take it in the past.
My opponent has invited serious questioning by announcing a few weeks ago that he would quote — “take off the gloves.” Since then, whenever I have questioned his policies or his record, he has called me a liar.
Rather than answer his critics, Senator Obama will try to distract you from noticing that he never answers the serious and legitimate questions he has been asked. But let me reply in the plainest terms I know. I don’t need lessons about telling the truth to American people. And were I ever to need any improvement in that regard, I probably wouldn’t seek advice from a Chicago politician.
My opponent’s touchiness every time he is questioned about his record should make us only more concerned. For a guy who’s already authored two memoirs, he’s not exactly an open book. It’s as if somehow the usual rules don’t apply, and where other candidates have to explain themselves and their records, Senator Obama seems to think he is above all that. Whatever the question, whatever the issue, there’s always a back story with Senator Obama. All people want to know is: What has this man ever actually accomplished in government? What does he plan for America? In short: Who is the real Barack Obama? But ask such questions and all you get in response is another barrage of angry insults.
Our current economic crisis is a good case in point. What was his actual record in the years before the great economic crisis of our lifetimes?
This crisis started in our housing market in the form of subprime loans that were pushed on people who could not afford them. Bad mortgages were being backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and it was only a matter of time before a contagion of unsustainable debt began to spread. This corruption was encouraged by Democrats in Congress, and abetted by Senator Obama.
Senator Obama has accused me of opposing regulation to avert this crisis. I guess he believes if a lie is big enough and repeated often enough it will be believed. But the truth is I was the one who called at the time for tighter restrictions on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that could have helped prevent this crisis from happening in the first place.
Senator Obama was silent on the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and his Democratic allies in Congress opposed every effort to rein them in. As recently as September of last year he said that subprime loans had been, quote, “a good idea.” Well, Senator Obama, that “good idea” has now plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
To hear him talk now, you’d think he’d always opposed the dangerous practices at these institutions. But there is absolutely nothing in his record to suggest he did. He was surely familiar with the people who were creating this problem. The executives of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have advised him, and he has taken their money for his campaign.
He has received more money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac than any other senator in history, with the exception of the chairman of the committee overseeing them. Did he ever talk to the executives at Fannie and Freddie about these reckless loans?
Did he ever discuss with them the stronger oversight I proposed? If Senator Obama is such a champion of financial regulation, why didn’t he support these regulations that could have prevented this crisis in the first place? He won’t tell you, but you deserve an answer.
Even after he refused to lift a finger to prevent this crisis, when the crisis hit, he was missing in action. He didn’t start making calls to round up votes until after the rescue bill failed in the House and the markets crashed. We continue to see the price of delay today as the markets continue to fall. Today the DOW has fallen below 10,000. And yet, members of his own party said they felt no pressure to vote for the bill. Why didn’t Senator Obama work to pass this bill from the start? Why did he let it fail and drag out this crisis for a full week before doing a thing to help pass it?
Again on taxes, we see a difference between what Senator Obama says today, what he said yesterday and what he has actually done. Over the course of this campaign, he has had many different plans to raise your taxes. During the Democratic primary, he promised to double taxes on every American with a dividend or an investment. He promised to raise payroll taxes. He promised higher taxes on electricity. Now, Senator Obama claims he will give 95 percent of Americans tax relief. He actually promised the same thing when he was running for Senate in Illinois, but once elected he never introduced legislation to do so. Instead, he voted for the Democratic budget resolution that promised to raise taxes on people making just 42,000 dollars a year. At the time, he even said his vote was intended to get “our nation’s priorities back on track.” If he’s such a defender of the middle class, why did he vote to raise their taxes? Whatever ha ppened to the tax relief he promised them when he was a candidate for the Senate? And why should middle class Americans trust him to keep promises he has already broken?
Senator Obama and I both have differences with how President Bush has handled the economy. But he thinks taxes are too low, and I think spending is too high. The government’s out of control spending has resulted in a weaker dollar, raising the cost of groceries and gasoline, and killing jobs.
I will veto pork barrel legislation and cut wasteful government spending. Senator Obama has a different plan. According to third party estimates, he will increase government spending by over 860 billion dollars. He has denied it, but he has refused to tell you how much he does plan to spend. What is the total of his increased spending? Americans deserve to know just how much more of their money Senator Obama intends to spend, and how much more debt he plans to burden them with.
Senator Obama has also criticized earmark spending, those wasteful pork barrel projects stuck in spending bills behind closed doors. And yet, despite his talk on the campaign trail, his actual record is full of requests for earmark projects. In his three short years in the Senate, he has requested nearly a billion dollars in pork projects for his state — a million dollars for every day he’s been in office. Far from fighting earmarks in Congress, Senator Obama has been an eager participant in this corrupt system. In one instance, he sought more than 3 million dollars for a new projector at a planetarium in his hometown. Coincidentally, the chairman of that planetarium pledged to raise more than $200,000 for Senator Obama’s campaign. We don’t know if they ever discussed the money for the planetarium, and no one has asked Senator Obama. But even the appearance of this kind of insider-dealing disgusts Americans. I’m going to put a stop to that, my friends, if I’m President.
I have made every single donor to my campaign publicly available, while Senator Obama has taken in over 200 million dollars from undisclosed sources. We have already seen the potential for fraud because of his refusal to disclose his donors. His campaign had to return $33,000 in illegal foreign funds from Palestinian donors, and this weekend, we found out about another $28,000 in illegal donations. Why has Senator Obama refused to disclose the people who are funding his campaign? Again, the American people deserve answers.
On health care, Senator Obama has been misleading you about my plan to give you more money for health care, and he has been equally misleading about his own plans. He has said his goal is a single payer system where government is in charge of health care and bureaucrats stand between you and your doctor. Under the plan he has proposed, he will fine families that don’t have the kind of health insurance that Senator Obama tells them to purchase. He will fine employers who do not offer the health insurance that he thinks they should offer.
What he doesn’t say, and what nobody has asked, is how big his fines will be. What he doesn’t want you to know is that with a small fine, his plan will encourage companies to just pay the fine, drop existing health care coverage for their employees and leave them with only one real option: government run health care.
Who is the real Senator Obama? Is he the candidate who promises to cut middle class taxes, or the politician who voted to raise middle class taxes? Is he the candidate who talks about regulation or the politician who took money from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and turned a blind eye as they ran our economy into a ditch?
Is he the candidate who promises change, or is he the politician who has bought into everything that is wrong with Washington? We can’t change the system with someone who’s never fought the system.
Washington is on the wrong track and I’m going to set it right. The American people know my record. They know I am going to change Washington, because I’ve done it before. They know I’m going to reform our broken institutions in Washington and on Wall Street because I’ve done it before. They know I’m going to deliver relief to the middle class, because that’s what I’ve done.
You don’t have to hope that things will change when you vote for me. You know things will change, because I have been fighting for change in Washington my whole career. I’ve been fighting for you my whole life. That’s what I’m going to do as President of the United States. Fight for you and put the government back on the side of the people.