May 21, 2007

Another blogger conference call with McCain.

Starting momentarily. I don't have a question planned. Too busy getting that podcast up and so forth. I'm not going to ask why he said "f*ck you" to Senator Cornyn, or why he thinks people aren't going to think that he's too much of a hothead to be President, or whether he actually is too much of a hothead to be President, or what he would say to the face of whoever it was who tattled about his saying "f*ck you" -- presumably "f*ck you" -- or whether he wasn't in fact trying to bully people about the immigration bill, or didn't he know this would piss everyone off -- but I can't say "piss" to a Senator -- or wasn't Cornyn right that he was parachuting in? Maybe: Isn't there a problem running for President while trying to play an effective role in the Senate and doesn't this put you at a terrible disadvantage running against Giuliani and Romney (and Fred Thompson)?

Now, I'm on hold, listening to music... which includes some Huey Lewis and the News ("If This Is It"). I'll type out some notes as we go and update with numbered additions:

1. McCain says message today is government reform. We need to be "careful stewards of our tax dollars." And he is saying that the reports of his exchange with Senator Cornyn were "a bit exaggerated." "Every day kind of hard words are exchanged from time to time, and I'm sorry that YouTube wasn't there" to show us the whole thing. And the immigration system is broken.

2. I got my question in first. Surprising, because I wasn't trying to get in first and was rather shocked to have to go first. After his answer, they didn't bring in a second questioner, as I expected them to. There was a long silence. I was still on, and McCain said, "Anything else?" which left me to follow up, I received a longer answer, and had time to follow up on that as well.

3. A question about Ron Paul's interest in a new 9/11 investigation. McCain is disturbed if people get too interested in conspiracy theories, but it's healthy up to a point. A lot of this talk really reflects hostility toward George Bush.

4. I've missed taking notes on a few of the questions. Several questions on immigration. Here's a question about how Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney are using the immigration issue against him. "Maybe I should wait a couple of weeks," he says, and see if he changes. "Maybe his solution will be to get out his small varmint gun and drive those Guatemalans off his lawn." [ADDED: There's some talk in the comments about this wisecrack. I think it means that Romney has nothing but a lot of stupid tough talk meant to appeal to the Republican base. Being a rich guy, Romney probably has plenty of illegal immigrants doing his yardwork, and to picture him getting out his small varmint gun to drive them away is to lampoon his empty tough talk.][UPDATE: I'm emailed this news story: Illegal Guatemalan immigrants really did work for Romney. In that context, I think McCain's remark is f*cking hilarious.][And here's the story that's the source for the reference to the "small varmint gun": "'I'm not a big-game hunter,' said Mitt Romney, campaigning in Indianapolis. 'I've made that very clear. I've always been a rodent and rabbit hunter. Small varmints, if you will.'" Who says "varmints" and "if you will"?][MORE: Politico has the actual audio from this part of the phone call. Based on that, I've changed the quote to say "his solution will be to get out" instead of "he'll get out" and "those Guatemalans" instead of "the Guatemalans."]

5. He acknowledges the difficulty of presenting his position on immigration because it's so complex. It doesn't fit a sound bite. And people are very emotional, more emotional than on any other issue he's seen (except abortion). He hopes "maybe some of the emotion will die down and cool off a bit." The intensity of the emotion surprised him, because he'd thought the President's support would make things go more easily. [As a commenter notes, this notion is inconsistent with his earlier statement about all the hostility toward Bush. I thought of that when I wrote this point, but decided not to mention it because I think the idea is that it's hard to put together a solution to such a complicated problem, and having the President on board signals that this is our real chance to get something passed. Obviously, there is a huge problem here though. They seem to have adopted a strategy of making it look like a done deal -- and even the only possible deal -- and the bluff was called. Now what?]

6. David Brody (of CBS) notes McCain is "getting it" from the right and the left on immigration. Is the greater pressure from the right or from the left? I don't expect him to choose which and he doesn't. "We need to appear and actually be humane" on the immigration issue, because Republicans need to appeal to Hispanic voters. Hispanic voters have good reason to go Republican, because they tend to be involved in small business and to oppose abortion.

7. "I'll do this every week if you want to," he says at the end. He says that he realizes the immigration matter is hurting him politically. And he brings up YouTube again, saying that next time they have a close-door meeting he wants to make sure YouTube is there to record "any fireworks that may ensue" because it would be "entertaining." It's sort of hip to refer to YouTube, but he doesn't seem to know that YouTube doesn't go around filming things. If you want to something on YouTube, Senator McCain, you can make that happen. When are the candidates going to start carrying around their own cameras and doing some clips in a DIY-style and to put on YouTube. It would be like that part of "Journeys With George" when George Bush takes the camera from HBO documentarian Alexandra Pelosi and starts interviewing her. It was quite charming and cool... back in the 2000 campaign, oh, so long ago, when Bush could seem rather charming and cool....

8. Okay, let me get my head together and try to remember my conversation with McCain. I asked whether it isn't a problem to try to run for President and play an effective role in the Senate at the same time. I noted that it seemed to put him at a disadvantage running against his opponents. His first reaction was that he thought he'd already answered that question, which I think was a response he'd prepared to say if anyone tried to ask him anything about the Cornyn incident. He then switched to talking more generally either about immigration or repeating what he'd said in the introductory statement that was supposed to have preempted my question. At that point, I thought, okay, fine, he's not going to answer. Then silence, with me expecting the next questioner to come forward. He then says, "Anything else?" So I said, I accept the point about harsh language, but I was interested to know what he thought about how people are trying to hurt him with it and, more importantly, about the difficulty running for President when he needs to work with other people who may quite legitimately think that he actually is just "parachuting in." I'm not sure there is anything he can really say to that, now that I think about it more. What can he say? Yeah, you're right -- I'm f*cked. His response was about how much he's worked on the immigration issue -- and many other issues over the years -- and how much he can do off-site. I then said that I respected his work and the difficulty of the issue and that I'd defended him about the language use. My concern was only the way this was affecting the campaign. I can't remember if he said anything new after that, but he did speak again. It was interesting to get to talk to him that long. I hadn't planned to do that and found it rather stressful!

9. One thing that I thought during my question-and-answer was: Maybe he'll get mad at me. Frankly, I think he did, but he didn't tell me to go f*ck myself. I note that the conversation was all recorded at their end. Unlike with the last conference call he did with us, we were told at the outset that it was going to be recorded and invited to hang up if we didn't consent. Whether this is a new precaution because of the Cornyn incident, I don't know, but I think it is a very important precaution when talking with bloggers, because we might write up inaccurate or out-of-context quotes. I note that the L.A. Times used quotes I produced after a Giuliani conference call. I try to be scrupulous, but if I were a candidate, I wouldn't trust bloggers.

10. Hey, no one picked up on his government reform issue of the day. Crushingly dull, I guess.

30 comments:

PatCA said...

"Maybe he'll get out his small varmint gun and drive the Guatemalans off his lawn."

Wow, this guy is testy.

What was your question of him, and his answer?

PatCA said...

BTW this quotes also insults all of us who want to take the illegal out of illegal immigration, as if there is no down side to illegal immigration.

I wish I did have a small varmint gun the day a Hispanic man chased me up my driveway and then pounded on my door screaming at me for a few minutes. But he was probably just trying to get a job an American wouldn't do, I'm sure.

Howard said...

That McCain thought the support of the most unpopular president in anyone's memory would somehow rally the nation behind this secret legislative effort, tell me more than I wanted to know about McCain's ability. It would seem that he, like Bush, and like all the rest of the candidates in both parties, doesn't listen to the voters, they only listen to loud special interests---with lots of money. Personally I could care less about a few "f***l you's" uttered in more or less private, I do care about legislation written in secret and then dumped onto the Congress with a "pass this or f**k you."

BillT said...

I could care less what comes out of his mouth. I'm far more interested in what's on the paper he negotiated. It doesn't look good and no amount of spin will help this.

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Ann wrote:

It was quite charming and cool... back in the 2000 campaign, oh, so long ago, when Bush could seem rather charming and cool....

George said...

Is it just me, or does Sen. McCain seem like a tiresome windbag?

Roost on the Moon said...

I wish I did have a small varmint gun the day a Hispanic man chased me up my driveway and then pounded on my door screaming at me for a few minutes.

Hilarious. If "Hispanic man" was blacked out with a sharpie, it would sound like you were arguing for a leash law. Can we hear the rest of this story, or do you just have that effect on people?

Tim said...

"5. He acknowledges the difficulty of presenting his position on immigration because it's so complex. It doesn't fit a sound bite. And people are very emotional, more emotional than on any other issue he's seen (except abortion). He hopes "maybe some of the emotion will die down and cool off a bit." The intensity of the emotion suprised him, because he'd thought the President's support would make things go more easily. [As a commenter notes, this notion is inconsistent with his earlier statement about all the hostility toward Bush. I thought of that when I wrote this point, but decided not to mention it because I think the idea is that it's hard to put together a solution to such a complicated problem, and having the President on board signals that this is our real chance to get something passed. Obviously, there is a huge problem here though. They seem to have adopted a strategy of making it look like a done deal -- and even the only possible deal -- and the bluff was called. Now what?]"

I think this explains his surprise at the reaction from Republicans - that because the President was on board, we would either accept the deal, or mute our objections. While I'm not supporting McCain in the primary, I'd be terribly surprised if he thought for a moment the President's support carried any weight whatsoever with Dems or Dem-leaning independents. After the reaction and the unwelcome coverage of the Cornyn dustup, he probably didn't want to pick at the scab anymore by directly getting into it with the Republican base which he needs. He probably thought he could answer the question by implication.

PatCA said...

Yeah, Roost, women being assaulted is such a hoot! I will not tell you the rest of the story, or even talk to you at all. You're a jerk.

Rob said...

The best way for bloggers to deal with McCain is just to stop listening to him. Make him so yesterday's news. Send him to Coventry.

LonewackoDotCom said...

It's unfortunate that the sets of those who are given access to politicians and those who would ask tough questions are (deliberately) disjoint.

Perhaps for your next conference call, you could ask McCain why he calls them "guests", when he knows that "guests" will have U.S. citizen children while they're here, making it nearly impossible to deport "guests" who won't go home.

Bonus question: ask him to explain the PoliticalPower the MexicanGovernment has inside the U.S., what he's doing about it, and whether his scheme will give them even more power (tinyurl.com/8u2jm, tinyurl.com/23xg52, tinyurl.com/yo2j95, tinyurl.com/yns9zd, tinyurl.com/ysnpd2). Has he ever, for instance, done anything about Mexico lobbying local governments to accept their ID card? What about Mexico pushing for the prosecution of BP agents?

Roost on the Moon said...

I often make trips to a storage facility for the wife of an attorney at our firm, because, in her nose-wrinkling words, "there are an awful lot of Mexicans there". When I do go, I'm always kind of puzzled at why she's so afraid. Granted, I'm not a woman, and maybe that would make things a lot different. But these aren't dangerous people. They're just renting storage. I do think much of her fear is just the insulation of class and race.

So take my reaction with a grain of salt, and remember that you didn't mention that you were assaulted. If I'm a jerk, I'm a jerk, but lets not insult all Mexicans because one banged on you door.

boston70 said...

Good for Mccain regarding his comments on Romney. Romney deserves it. He has been badgering Mccain recently about his stands on things when Romney had many of the same views that abruptly changed 2 years ago.

Romney was for Campaign Finance Reform, Pro-choice, Pro Gay Rights, Pro Gun Control, etc. All of these issues he has changed in the past two years. The varmint comment by Romney was pathetic. He likes to kill small varmints-yes maybe once when he was 15 and last year.

Also, Romney has Guatelaman illegal immigrants working on his yard that were fired late last year.

Romney has got to be the most opportune, insincere polician I have ever seen. The democrats will recycle that windsurfing ad and put Romney on it in replace of Kerry.

The guy even recently changed his mind about his favorit book for christ sake. It was Battlefield Earth but once he found out that it was written by a scientologist he abruptly changed it.

Those youtube videos will bury Romney. I am not a big fan of McCain but he should pummel Romney with his flip flopping.

boston70 said...

Oh, also, as an independent, moderate blogger it is great to see you participate in two republican candidates blogger conference call.

When can we expect your conference call on one of the democrat candidates. I look forward to your feedback on thos calls also.
That would be great, thanks.

Ann Althouse said...

Boston, I'll do it when they invite me. How about criticizing them for not inviting me?

Cyrus Pinkerton said...

Ann,

Which of the candidates so far strike you as "cool" and/or "charming?"

The Vegas Art Guy said...

I'm just suprised he knew what youtube was. I'm glad he's making himself available to the media old and new. I still won't vote for him though.

boston70 said...

OK, Ann, sorry, I hope one of the democrats invite you on one of their calls.

I would vote for Mccain. I thought his Falwell turnabout was pretty disgusting but overall I do think he is a decent man.

Romney is the candidate that makes my skin crawl though. Seeing him in Massachusetts as a governor for 4 years (I voted for him) and now seeing him as a presidential candidate is looking at a total split personality. Back when he ran for governor as well as senator he was so sincere regarding abortion, gay rights, gun control. Think a Northeast Republican, you know, the ones most republicans hate-Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, Arlen Spector. He even brought up examples of his mother who was prochoice and his relative who had a back alley abortion. In less than two years he has had these amazing revelations regarding just about every issue, including, sadly his favorite book which has changed in the past two weeks. I mean come on, how insincere can one person be? No wonder he is 5th in South Carolina polls currently and lets face it if he doesn't win the south in the primaries he is not going to beat Giulani or Mccain in any of the larger states (California, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania).

By the way, I am coming to Madison next week to visit the family. Any new white-hot restaurants any cheeseheads can recommend?

David53 said...

Boston, I'll do it when they(democrats) invite me.

I'll donate $100 to the charity of Ann's choice if that ever happens. Anyone care to match me?

Ann Althouse said...

"Which of the candidates so far strike you as "cool" and/or "charming?""

Obama!

Harkonnendog said...

If you speak to him again please ask him this:

"Almost all conservatives would back your immigration bill IF amnesty happened after the borders were actually closed. Why don't you change the bill so that amnesty happens after the border has been mostly closed to more illegal immigration?"

Here's another suggestion.

"Many republicans who lean libertarian will never vote for you because of the McCain/Feingold bill. They believe you are an enemy of free speech. Are they wrong about that?"

S said...

[[ Who says "varmints" and "if you will"? ]]

Well, Romney does. "Golly", too, and "unbecoming". He uses a lot of old-fashioned expressions that would make me assume most people were being pretentious, but in Romney's case, I think it's just how he talks.

Luckyoldson said...

boston70,
Ann's a Republican...haven't you figured that one out yet?

She tries to paint herself as an Independent," but that's a crock.

*And by the way, there are many, many bloggers who don't wait for "invites" to conduct interviews. They contact the proper parties and request the time. You know, in the same way ALL reporters, journalists and writers handle such endeavors. And this should also tell you why only the Republicans are "inviting" Ann into their world of spin?

Jeremy said...

Seconded for Harkonnendog.

Ann Althouse said...

I don't consider myself a reporter. I'm a commentator. I was surprised when I first got asked. And look at how I write up things like this. It's not like the newspaper. I'm into exploring the writing form, and I just use whatever material comes my way. I don't have the time (or the interest) to develop sources. Isn't it obviousl that I have an idea of how to blog that is important to me and is successful. What do I care what the other bloggers do? I'm not trying to build a career in journalism. I'm a 56-year-old tenured law professor. I blog for the joy of self-expression. I need material every day, but I always find something or other. If some future President for some reason wants to be the material, because my blog has traffic, because people like reading me, that his decision. It's not necessarily a good one.

Revenant said...

That McCain thought the support of the most unpopular president in anyone's memory

Only if "anyone" is defined as "people under 30". Bush's worst approval rating, thus far, has been 28%, which ties him with Carter but still leaves above Nixon (23%) and Truman (22%).

Revenant said...

When can we expect your conference call on one of the democrat candidates.

I see Ann's already answered this question, but I'd like to point something out: you asked the same question before, and she gave the same explanation then. It is asinine to ask questions of a blogger and then not have the decency to listen to the answer.

Not that you, lucky, or any of the other lefties actually care what the answer is, of course, since you define "moderate" as "person who only supports liberal candidates".

Cedarford said...

Mary 9:15PM

Mary, all I can say about your lecture of the duty of the Blog host to "all thinking women" or not wasting time on the Sopranos and such not is lighten up!!

Althouse has fun with this. She does it well enough to distinguish her Blog from the pack. She also gets her essays in the NYTimes and other media from time to time - something I appreciate as a columnist in the "minor leagues".

I'd rather congratulate her on being selected.

Hope it works out and she gets to do more of these podcasts. I'd also like to see just ordinary citizens like a mayor, judge, head of a civics club do the moderation in a debate instead of a journalist.
And I'd love to see the candidates sit down for 60-90 minutes like Cheney and Lieberman did and Sarkozy and Royal did and have a civil discussion without the stupid "I got 30 seconds to get the killer soundbite" or the "fatal blunder" pressure the MSM wants.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Cedarford, but you need to know that you're responding to a commenter who is banned from this blog. All her comments are immediately deleted, unread. This is a permanent policy here.

Luckyoldson said...

Ann Althouse said...
I don't consider myself a reporter. I'm a commentator. I was surprised when I first got asked. And look at how I write up things like this. It's not like the newspaper. I'm into exploring the writing form, and I just use whatever material comes my way. I don't have the time (or the interest) to develop sources. Isn't it obviousl that I have an idea of how to blog that is important to me and is successful. What do I care what the other bloggers do? I'm not trying to build a career in journalism. I'm a 56-year-old tenured law professor. I blog for the joy of self-expression. I need material every day, but I always find something or other. If some future President for some reason wants to be the material, because my blog has traffic, because people like reading me, that his decision. It's not necessarily a good one.

*Now that's what I call a straight forward, honest response.