McCain on the Horn: Goin' After Romney and Rudy

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Oct 11, 2007 6:44 PM
Trying not to get elbowed out of the two-man race the press is proclaiming, McCain was after both of them today on a conference call with bloggers. I was on the call, but I had a meeting immediately after, so I couldn't write it up.

I'll let Geraghty do the honors:

2. On Mitt Romney’s answer on Iran, he said, “Calling in the lawyers is just inexperience. It’s just the product of inexperience.”

3. He also took a jab at Giuliani over his successful effort to get the line-item veto declared unconstitutional in the 1990s. “I fought for several years to get the line-item veto passed. The reason it was declared was not the line-item per se but the way it was written - I won’t get into separate enrollment, etc. If the President had the line-item veto, we would have far less wasteful spending. Forty-three out of fifty governors have it.”

I asked him about gutted earmark reforms in the Senate, a subject my fellow Townhaller Amanda wrote about this week.

A three-word rule change quietly made to Congress’s newly-enacted lobby reform package was recently discovered that significantly reduces disclosure requirements for the earmarks each senator requests.

The new ethics bill, which was signed into law in September, purported to require members of both the House and Senate to make public a signed letter that included the name and address of the intended recipient, or location of any requested earmark.

The final bill, however, contained an exception for members of the Senate. Instead, senators who request earmarks are only required to make public a letter that verifies he or she has “no pecuniary interest” their request.

Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said he caught the change when he met opposition from Senate Appropriation staff when he tried to obtain the public letters with the earmark information—they weren’t there. Instead, there were only “no pecuniary interest” letters on file. When he protested, he was told the law was being followed.

McCain responded that he was well aware the reforms would be gutted, they didn't have enough teeth to them in the first place:

"It's a joke and a sham and a disgrace, and the American people are not gonna stand for it any longer...The [loss of trust in government] out here on the trail is unlike anything I have ever seen. They have no trust and no confidence that we will make things better and they might be right if we're not careful."
I asked what he thought was the next step, and he said he's been talking to Coburn among others about making a fuss on the Senate floor again:
"We're just gonna have to take it to the people, speak about it on the floor...stall as much as we can, force votes on earmarks, be the kind of people that's won us the title of Miss Congeniality in past years."
Matt Lewis pressed McCain for some straight talk on his Romney characterization (also courtesy of Geraghty):

Matt Lewis: When you said Romney was inexperienced – did you mean as a leader, or as a debater?

McCain: Well, I believe in my qualifications and background and my answer to that question. I would never have answered that I would go to the lawyers… If you can, and you have the time, of course you consult with Congress. If they’re going to be in on the landing, you have to take them in on the takeoff.