Courtesy Federal News Service
JOHN MCCAIN CAMPAIGN CONFERENCE CALL
BRIEFERS: FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR RUDY GIULIANI (R) AND MCCAIN SENIOR POLICY ADVISER NANCY PFOTENHAUER
2:55 P.M. EDT, WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2008
MODERATOR: Thank you. And thank you all for joining us today. We have — we are very honored to have with us Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been campaigning for John McCain in New Hampshire the last couple days — (inaudible) — he would be available to discuss Senator Obama’s recent stop in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Mayor Giuliani, thank you for joining us, and (would you?) begin.
MR. GIULIANI: Well, thank you very much, and it’s a pleasure to talk to all of you in Wisconsin. I hope to get there during the campaign. I know it’s a close state. It was last time. This time it’s a close state, and this time we hope we can push it over in the John McCain column. And I believe we will, because I think the things that John is talking about are the things the people of Wisconsin are really concerned about.
And if I can — if I can just briefly describe it, I think the single most important thing that John McCain offers is leadership. It’s the reason I support him. It’s the reason that I admire him. It’s the reason that I said that, if I wasn’t running, I would be supporting John McCain because I thought that he was the kind of leader this country needs. And it doesn’t matter if you’re facing a crisis of a natural disaster, or a crisis caused by a terrorist attack, or you’re facing a crisis caused by an economy that seems to be in terrible trouble.
The main lesson that I think a leader has to learn — and you learn it through experience, which John has and Barack Obama doesn’t have, is you run to the fire, you don’t run away from it. And John McCain has run to the fire in order to help put it out — in order to help deal with it. That’s why he suspended his campaign. He knew he would take a lot of heat for doing that.
He went back to Washington. He made progress. He got us from four Republicans that were supporting the program, to 65 Republicans. And, due to reasons that I guess people can argue a hundred different ways — whether it was Nancy Pelosi’s speech, or not having the votes, or Republicans not having gotten enough votes, or Democrats not having gotten enough votes, or people worried about re-election, that package went down but that didn’t dissuade John McCain. He’s working now to put a new one together. He’ll be in Washington tonight. He’ll be working at this until he gets it done. That’s leadership.
On the other hand, Barack Obama’s first reaction to this was, ‘call me if you need me,’ which indicates to me a leader — or, a quality of leadership that says, I’m going to lead by retreating from the problem so I don’t get blamed for it. Then, just the other day when the package went down, I (saw him ?) — and I wrote this down because I was so amazed, because I study leadership and write about it, Barack Obama’s comment was, “They are going to” — “they” — “are going to have to fix the problem in Washington.” Of course, you know, Barack Obama’s day job is a United States Senator and he’s one of “they,” although he’s trying to remove himself from it. This isn’t a good tendency in a senator. It’s a very bad tendency in a president.
Then you get to policies. John McCain is advocating exactly what you should be doing. I faced several financial crises when I was mayor of New York City, the worst one being compared to one of the worst in the history of the City. Right now New York City is facing a fiscal crisis, and the present mayor — who is a good friend of mine, who I spoke to today, is facing that crisis. And what is he doing? The first thing he’s doing is he’s reducing spending. Michael Bloomberg is reducing spending in New York City by 2.5 percent across the board, every agency. When I was in fiscal trouble, I had 2.5 percent reductions, 5 percent reductions, and I went up to 15 percent reductions. I did that because, first of all, I needed the money to balance the budget; but secondly, it sent a tremendous sign of confidence to the business community and to everyone else that government was going to tighten its belt as a lesson to everybody else to do it.
John McCain recommended exactly this on Friday night in answer to Jim Lehrer’s question. Jim Lehrer asked, how would you restrain spending, or how would you deal with it? He said, I would restrain spending. He talked about earmarks. And then he went beyond earmarks, he said, I would do across the board cuts in the government agencies, with the exception of military — and he might have exempted one or two other things, but he would do essentially a cross-the-board cuts. He then gave specifics also, he would cut the ethanol subsidy and several other things.
The question then went to Barack Obama. Barack Obama first disagreed with the across-the-board cuts. He said it would — I remember his exact words, he said, “It would be like using a sledge hammer rather than a scalpel.” Well, what he doesn’t seem to understand is we need a sledge hammer to a budget that’s out of control. That’s exactly what (laughs) what we need to do. And we need a president who has the leadership abilities and courage to use that sledge hammer when it is necessary to beat a budget back — because he’s never done that, because he’s never run a budget.
Then, most amazingly — and it’s amazing to me that the media didn’t pick it up, he then went on to suggest not reductions in spending — which he was asked to suggest, he actually recommended some additional programs that he would fund. So, I sat there, because I was getting ready to comment, and I had him at about $980 billion in additional spending up to that point for the current budget. I added about $1.2 trillion more. So, he finished the question by Jim Lehrer, not by suggesting what he would cut, but what he would add to the budget.
And that’s — I mean, that’s the reality of what, of what makes the biggest difference between them. John McCain would cut spending. He has encouraged Treasury to back up the savings accounts. He’s encouraged the Treasury Department, even as they’re waiting for this package to pass, to make available at least a trillion dollars for mortgage relief. He is suggesting that the FDIC limit the — raise from $100 (thousand) to $250,000.
And he has, from the very beginning when this package was a package (backed ?) — when I first read this package, it was three pages. And it basically gave all discretion to the secretary of Treasury. Since then it’s become 103 pages. It includes things like an oversight board; restrictions on executive compensation; elimination of golden parachutes; the possibility of the exempting of mark-to-market accounting, when that stands in the way of a proper evaluation of a company; it has reporting safeguards that weren’t there before. And I mention all this because these are the things that John McCain didn’t alone have put into the bill, but these are the things that, along with Republicans and Democrats, he worked on to have put in the bill that make it not a bail-out, but a work-out and a recovery program. And now there are more things that are going to be put into it.
But this only happens when people get engaged. When you go to some of the Republicans that disagree, as John McCain did — I was with him when he was doing it, I was traveling with him when he was doing it, calling Republicans and saying, I know you don’t agree on this provision but here’s how we get it done. I worked for Ronald Reagan. That’s how Ronald Reagan got legislation passed. He didn’t say, you know, call me if you need me; and he didn’t say, you know, “they” have to get this done. He got it done — (laughs) — because he was a leader. John McCain is a leader.
So, today Barack Obama sounds like John McCain. And it really does remind me that this debate is carrying on. Eight times during the debate Barack Obama said to John McCain, “You’re right, Senator McCain.” I haven’t remembered a presidential candidate saying that that often since Richard Nixon said that in his first debate with John Kennedy, for which he was very severely criticized, where he constantly said to Senator Kennedy, “you’re right.” Eight different times Senator Obama said that.
Well, today he once again said to Senator McCain, “you’re right.” First of all, he decried — Senator Obama did, he decried runaway spending, because he’s voted for it consistently. He called, most amazingly, for a top-to-bottom review of the entire budget, across the board — precisely what he described as “using a sledge hammer” on Friday. He called for ending agricultural subsidies, which of course he had voted for, and Senator McCain voted against.
So, when you look at this — he argued for ending no-bid contracting, which, of course, John McCain has been not only arguing for but actually accomplishing. He saved $6 (billion) to $7 billion in dismantling the Boeing deal. So, essentially, he’s added four or five more “you’re right, Senator McCains” to his response (laughs) to government policy. I mean, by the time we’re finished he might be voting for him.
So, I think that on this question of who offers leadership in time of crisis, as the American people watch this play out — particularly if they get to debate more and more often, I think the American people are going to go in the direction of someone who has a clear plan, who’s willing to stick his neck out to help the American people, who’s willing to role up his sleeves in order to get things done, and not someone who has changed his position so often that I’m now using a scorecard to try to figure out where he is. And I have used a scorecard on his tax break for 95 percent of the American people, which I can’t imagine the American Press hasn’t really just exploded.
Only, I mean, 35 to 40 percent of the American people don’t pay taxes. So, when he says 95 percent of the American people are going to get (taxed ?), he means 95 percent of the American people who pay taxes aren’t going to pay taxes. He doesn’t explain how many more people he’s going to add to the people who aren’t going to pay taxes. And if you do that arithmetic it doesn’t — it doesn’t at all get you any kind of financial relief.
If you are then — if you are then going to support over a trillion dollars in additional spending, where’s it going to come from? You can’t possibly raise tax rates high enough on the small percentage that’s left to get the money that you’re going to need for your health care program, for your — for your world-wide (positive ?) relief program, which, those two alone make up 40 percent of the additional spending that he’ll be doing.
So, I think we’ve got to examine these things, and I think that the American people — (inaudible) –, and the people in Wisconsin — (inaudible) — they’re going to realize that John McCain is the person that can be trusted to get us through this financial crisis.
MR.: Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
Operator — (inaudible) — answer a question. There’s time for a few questions for Mayor Giuliani, and additionally by Nancy Pfotenhauer, senior policy adviser to the McCain campaign is also along for any additional questions.
OPERATOR: We will now begin the question and answer session. If you would like to ask a question, please press *1. Please unmute your phone and record your — (inaudible) — Your name is required to introduce your question. To withdraw your request, press *2. One moment, please, for your first question.
Our first question comes from Matt — (inaudible) –. Your line is now open.
Q Hi, Mayor. Actually, I had two quick questions. One is, Senator McCain today described Gwen Ifill as a highly respected professional who will do a totally objective job. I wanted to get your comment on that.
And also, you said that Senator McCain got us from four Republicans to 65 Republicans on the bail-out. I wanted to get your take. Are you say that Senator McCain was solely responsible for getting us from four to 65? Thank you.
MR. GIULIANI: Let me answer the second one first. I’m saying he participated in that. I can’t tell you that he was solely responsible for all 65. But, I can tell you he was responsible for a large number of them because I heard him on the telephone with them. And the number went from four to 65. So, I guess, what you’d have to say is, John McCain participated with a group of other Republicans in getting this from four to 65, including the leader, Congressman Blunt. I mean, a group of them were involved.
But, John, I’m sure — the fact that the leader of our party, the presidential candidate of our party would call on members of Congress asking them for his help, it switched a lot of votes. I even heard members say that, as they were giving their speeches. You know, that they were against it and, in essence, they were voting for.
And I think the other thing that was unfortunate, that the Speaker didn’t take into account was, she had to know that she had some Democrats that were — (inaudible) — or, Republicans rather, that were kind of being pushed to vote for something they weren’t really comfortable with. I mean, they were being pushed by leadership to make vote — I’m not saying all of them, by any means, but a group of them had real problems with. So, then to attack them at that very moment — (inaudible) — maybe it didn’t lose any votes, but it (may have been ?) impossible to (grow?) any vote, which sometimes happens, you know, if you understand how legislation occurs. So, that’s one thing.
On the Gwen Ifill thing, Senator McCain knows Gwen Ifill much better than I do, but I know her. All my experiences with her have always been very positive. I think she is a very honest, decent journalist and I have no question that she will be perfectly fair in the way she asks the questions.
I just have an observation, like I’ve had throughout this campaign — and this is by no means a criticism of Gwen Ifill, but I think if the moderator of this debate were someone who was writing a book that basically was — (inaudible) — “The Age of McCain,” I have a feeling that a lot more of these publications would be saying that the person should not be doing it.
Now, it might be totally unfair to do that, just as I think it’s totally unfair to do (this ?), but it’s just one more indication of how there is a double standard in the way this campaign is treated. But, on the basic question, “Should Gwen Ifill do the debate?” Yes, she should. But, the question is, you put the shoe on the other foot, what kind of outcry would there be?
OPERATOR: Your next question comes from Michael Zetto (sp). Your line is now open.
One moment, please. Your next question comes from Chuck Pardee (sp). Your line is now open.
Q Thank you, Mr. Mayor.
You know, some of these comedians, like Tina Fey and some of the journalists out there, seem to actually make a good living embellishing the facts. Do you think that embellishing the facts is what the concerned voter is really after? And specifically, Joe Biden seems to embellish forgotten facts just to kind of impress people. But when you take Sarah Palin, she seems to impress others with her quick study without embellishing the facts.
In other words, do you think people want a straight shooter, or do they want the fluff and stuff?
MR. GIULIANI: (Laughs.) Well, first of all, I would take Tina Fey out of it. Tina Fey is an entertainer.
She’s a really good one. And I have to tell you, I’ve performed with her several times, and she’s a friend and I like her. And she’s entitled to make fun of Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, me or anybody else. And I don’t think it has much of an impact on the race. I think we all laugh at it.
It is different when a candidate exaggerates. And if you’re asking me the question, is Sarah Palin treated differently than Joe Biden, the answer is yes, and horribly differently. And I think that it is very hard for some of the people in the media to stand up to the hypocrisy of what they’re doing.
Joe Biden the other day, when asked about — I think he was asked either about President Bush or John McCain’s reaction to the fiscal situation — said that President Roosevelt got on television and (soothed ?) Americans after the stock market crash in 1929.
Now, of course, you know, President Roosevelt wasn’t the president in 1929. He was the governor of New York at the time. And there just about were no televisions. So it was totally wrong, factually in error, historically incorrect, displaying a lack of knowledge, fairly basic lack of knowledge of American history, the kind of thing that Jay Leno does as a spoof when he goes out on the streets of Los Angeles and finds people that don’t know that George Washington was the president or something.
Now, am I saying that Joe Biden isn’t qualified to be vice president because of that? Of course not. I like Joe Biden. I think he’s a fine man. What I’m saying is — (inaudible) — Gwen Ifill. If Sarah Palin had done that, there would be, I think, an entire special devoted to why she should be put off the ticket. And if John McCain had done it, there’d be all kinds of issues raised about his age, the state of his health.
I can give you 100 examples like that. And that’s the part that to us Republicans — (inaudible) — not the fact that our candidates are attacked and our candidates are parodied, but that if you’re going to do that, it is not done to the same extent to the other candidates.
Barack Obama has, in my view, less experience than Sarah Palin. If you want to say he has more, you can, but it’s only slightly more. It’s a different kind of experience. Hers is executive. His is legislative. You say he has more foreign policy experience. I say where? He was not a particularly well-traveled senator. He was never involved in negotiations that I know of. Has he expressed himself in voting or taking positions at times? Yes. But has he ever negotiated anything? No. And has he written or been involved in these issues at some depth? No.
Yet her alleged lack of foreign policy experience becomes such a big deal, whereas his lack of executive experience is not a big deal. I think that there is a great deal of unfairness in this. I do not think it comes from the comedians and the people who are entertainers. I think it’s coming from the fact that there’s a different standard for a Republican candidate than a Democratic candidate. That’s just the way it is.
I tell Republican candidates, when I give lectures and speeches to them, that they shouldn’t have a chip on their shoulder about it. They shouldn’t feel paranoid about it. They should just accept it as reality. It’s the reality we live with as the Republican candidates. And then we’ve just got to do better, and we’ve got to be willing to have tougher hides, take no criticism. And I wish it were different, but it isn’t.
That is what Sarah Palin is going through, and I think she’s handling herself remarkably well, given the completely different lack of — completely different kind of scrutiny she’s put under than even Barack Obama was as a first-time candidate a year and a half ago.
MODERATOR: Operator, could you remind everybody how to ask a question? We have time for one or two more.
OPERATOR: Again, if you would like to ask a question, please press *1 on your touch-tone phone.
One moment, please, for your next question. Your next question comes from Sherry Reese (sp).
Sherry, your line is now open.
Q Thank you so much for your time, Mayor.
MR. GIULIANI: Thank you.
Q My question — I have two; I don’t know we’ll get to the other one. But the first one, the most important one for me, is you have mentioned that Barack Obama has no experience when it comes to a budget. And I would like to beg to differ. He was involved with Ayers as a chairman for the Annenberg Project. And he apparently, from the research I’ve done, was able to — (inaudible) — with $450 billion — (inaudible) — spending for educational projects. And every time math and science came up, he threw it out the window. He only spent the money on educational programs that were socialistic in their genre. And each one of them, as my research shows — (inaudible). Isn’t that a huge point to be able to bring up?
MR. GIULIANI: That’s very interesting. That is an area of Senator Obama’s background that seems to be very much hidden, and the media doesn’t seem to be spending a great deal of time on it. And I really would like to know more about it. And I don’t want to come to any conclusions about it until I know more about it, but he was involved with ACORN when he was a community organizer. I believe it was a group that included ACORN that recruited him.
He did give out a lot of money, and I know Ayers was on the same board that he was on. And I also know, from the readings that I’ve done, that a lot of the projects failed miserably. So that is an area that could be examined. And you do notice that even though he is often attacked for never having run a budget, he never mentions this as a budget that he ran, which is a tell-tale sign to me that maybe he isn’t very proud of how he managed this budget.
But I’m unfortunately — I don’t have the details at my fingertips. But I’ll get them, because now that you’ve mentioned it, about exactly how he managed that budget, how large it was, what responsibility he had, I’ve just kind of exhausted all my knowledge of it on what I’ve told you.
I have in the past said that I find his involvement with Ayers to be very troubling. And maybe this is in part my background as a United States attorney who had to deal with some of the aftermath of the Weather Underground and as someone who had five uncles who were police officers.
I find the involvement with a man who blew up public buildings, and still remains proud of it, I find that to be very troubling. And I don’t find that to be an unfair area to examine if all we’ve got to go on with Barack Obama is his judgment.
Look, being honest, he doesn’t have the experience. (Inaudible.) And if you say he has experience, he doesn’t have much. So if he hasn’t had experience, what does he have? Judgment. Well, then you’ve got to examine his judgment. And being on a board with Ayers, who is still a proud member of the Weather Underground, Ayers having done the first fund-raiser for him when he ran for public office along, I believe, with Ayers’ wife, Bernadette Dohrn, who was another member of the Weather Underground, these are troubling facts that have to be examined if Barack Obama is running on judgment. And it’s not unfair to examine.
And when you consider what they’re examining Sarah Palin on, how did it become unfair to be digging in and trying to find out how close was his involvement with Ayers? How successful was their program together? If they gave money to housing, did the housing work? Did they give it to legitimate housing projects, or was it friends? Was it Chicago-style politics, or was it more independent-style politics? All those are very fair questions. So — (inaudible) — some of them. Thank you. Thank you for alerting me too.
MODERATOR: Thank you. And thank you, Mr. Mayor. We’re going to have to wrap it up there. If you have any additional questions, please contact the McCain press office at 703-650-5550.
Thank you, Mayor. And thank you, members of the media, for joining us today.
MR. GIULIANI: Thank you.