With Sarah Palin in attendance, John McCain gave opening remarks at the Clinton Global Initiative this morning. It turned out Bill Clinton was holding McCain’s copy of the speech, and there was some humorous byplay between them about the mix-up.
Maybe Clinton had read the address and wished to discourage it: it was essentially a campaign speech, with a large component devoted to the financial crisis which had provided the opportunity for McCain’s bold evasion of Friday’s planned Presidential debate.
McCain told the audience “I know and hope you’ll understand if I begin by addressing … a crisis that began not far from here in the financial district of this city.”
“History must not record,” he continued, “that when our nation faced such a moment, our leadership was unable to put aside politics and focus in a unified way to address this problem.”
Referring to the proposed bailout, McCain said “$700 billion is a stggering and unprecedented figure” that could “rebuild the crumbling infrastucture of every town, county, and city” in the country. “I’m an old Navy pilot,” he reminded auditors, “and I know when a crisis calls for all hands on deck. The whole future of the American people is in danger.”
Therefore, he said, “I cannot carry on this campaign as if a crisis had not occurred,” explaining that this was why he “suspended” his part in it. “The debate that most matters right now is taking place right now in our nation’s capital,” where “no consensus has developed to support the Administration’s proposal to solve this crisis.”
McCain laid out five “principles” which he intended to promote upon his imminent return to Washington: “Greater accountability,” to which end “I’ve suggested a bipartisan board to provide oversight” over a program which, he said, as proposed concentrates power “in the hands of one person”; “a path for the American taxpayers to recover those funds” expended in solving the crisis; “complete transparency” on details of the process, which should be made “available online”; an affirmation that it is “unacceptable for any kinds of earmarks to be included in this bill”; and a puzzling statement that he would “rather build a bridge to nowhere and put it in the middle of Sedona, Arizona” than use these funds unwisely.
He finally got around to energy, the topic of the forum, saying that “people are hurting” because “the cost of gasoline is out of control… the cost of living is rising and the value of paychecks falling… the price of oil is too high and the supply of oil too uncertain.” He acknowledged that we “need to avoid the consequences of global warming” and move toward “wind, solar, biofuels, and other sources yet to be invented.” He also mentioned as an alternative “clean burning coal,” at which concept Al Gore had violently scoffed the day before. He suggested also that we “put the market in the side of environmental protection.”
Eventually McCain acknowledged the global nature of the program, saying “today too many around the world are excluded from the benefits of globalization,” a problem to be addressed because “disparity can breed resentment” and “we can can never guarantee our security through military means alone.” By promoting worldwide development, McCain said, “we serve not only our strategic interests, we serve our moral interests as well.”
He applauded the efforts of the Gates Foundation and other NGOs in fighting malaria, because “America is more than its government,” and promised that “if I am elected, I will build on these and other initiatives to assure that malaria will be no more.” He also pledged that a McCain Administration would “fight tuberculosis,” “dramatically raise agricultural productivity in Africa,” and help engineer “an African green revolution.” He criticized “trade restrictions combined with agricultural subsidies,” which he said helped “choke off the opportunity for farmers to help themselves.”
He closed by telling the crowd that “I intend to be the agent of change” and thanking them for their time.
After the address Bill Clinton assured the crowd that Barack Obama, who would be heard from later by satellite, would be given “equal time in an equal way.”