McCain Faces Protesters During Nuke Speech

Posted: May 27, 2008 3:51 PM
McCain Faces Protesters During Nuke Speech

GOP presidential nominee John McCain expertly handled an unusually high number of interruptions while unveiling a new nuclear security policy his advisers say represents a significant departure from the Bush administration.

“The time has come to take further measures to reduce dramatically the number of nuclear weapons in the world’s arsenals,” McCain said at a Tuesday morning campaign stop in Denver, Colorado—the city that will be home to the Democratic National Convention in August. “If you look back over the past two decades, I don't think any of us, Republican or Democrat, can take much satisfaction in what we've accomplished to control nuclear proliferation,” McCain said.

If elected president McCain said he would “reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal to the lowest number possible consistent with our security requirements and global commitments,” pursue a new nuclear arms agreement with Russia, talks with China and new limits on nuclear weapons testing.

He noted “I am convinced civilian nuclear energy can be a critical part of our fight against global warming.”

McCain also published a Tuesday op-ed with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I.-Conn.) in the Wall Street Journal Asia that said “American leadership is also needed with North Korea” to reach “complete declaration, disablement and irreversible dismantlement of its nuclear facilities, in a verifiable manner.”

The Democratic National Committee responded to the op-ed by circulating a press release charging that McCain’s North Korea policy was “remarkably similar” to President Bush’s “first term rhetoric.” The McCain campaign rejected comparisons between Bush’s rhetoric and the plan McCain unveiled Tuesday.

Steve Biegun, a national security adviser to the McCain campaign, told reporters on an afternoon conference call that McCain’s speech represents “a significant departure from the nuclear security policies of the Bush administration, whether on the ultimate goal, whether on the openness to further testing limits, whether on the openness to further reductions, whether on the openness to engage in treaty-based discussions with Russia, on the openness to talk with China and support for international enrichment centers and spent fuel repositories.”

“These are all significant differences from the Bush administration,” Biegun said.

Seven anti-war protesters interrupted McCain’s speech at four separate times during his speech. Some of them shouted “Endless war! Endless war!” Others videotaped themselves being escorted out by security. Each time McCain waited politely for their chants to subside and the protesters to be escorted away. Some of his supporters used the occasion to chant “John McCain! John McCain!”

“I have town hall meetings all the time when people are allowed to come and state their views,” McCain said during one of the interruptions. “One thing we don’t do is interfere with others’ right to free speech but that doesn’t seem to be the case with these people.”

“This may turn into a longer speech than you anticipated,” McCain told those who were forced to wait for him to resume his speech. As some of the protesters were being led away from the event room McCain indirectly addressed their accusations of “endless war.”

“I will never surrender in Iraq, my friends. I will never surrender in Iraq. American troops will come home with victory and honor,” he said.