Republican presidential candidate John McCain holds a town hall meeting at Xavier

Senator from Arizona discusses nearly every major topic of the presidential campaign, from oil prices to the housing crisis, during the event | June 26, 2008

Presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain covered nearly every major topic of the presidential campaign—from the housing crisis to the price of oil—during an hour-long town hall meeting at Xavier on Thursday, June 26.

Senator McCain’s staff approached Xavier earlier this week about using a campus building for the event. His appearance at Xavier took place at noon on a day he was in the city for a private campaign fundraising dinner and reception in Indian Hill. Nearly 200 voters pre-selected by the McCain campaign were invited to the event, which was simulcast in the University’s Kelley Auditorium for an overflow crowd. About a dozen protesters showed up outside.

McCain’s comments covered a wide-ranging list of issues that he described as major challenges for America and Ohio in particular. He repeatedly noted that Ohio is the battleground state and he plans to visit often as his campaign gears up toward November.

“John F. Kennedy was the last person to successfully win the presidency and not carry the State of Ohio,” he said. “I’ll spend a lot of time here because the people in Ohio and the U.S. are hurting.”

The senator appeared comfortable walking around the Conaton Board Room with a microphone as he addressed the group and took questions. Among the first changes he would institute as president, he said, was the closing of Guantanamo Bay and elimination of the use of torture when interrogating foreign detainees.

“Our administration will never torture another person in our custody,” he said. “I will close Guantanamo Bay and move them [the prisoners] to a federal or military prison facility in the United States.”

McCain’s comment came toward the end of the meeting in response to a question about the differences between his and President George Bush’s views on foreign policy. McCain’s position against the use of torture such as water-boarding has been analyzed for months in the media.

“Guantanamo may be fine now, but it’s a symbol, and it harmed our image in the world,” he said. “In Iraq, I visited with a former Al Qaida leader and asked him, how did they succeed so well, and he said, ‘You didn’t have enough ground troops in Iraq, and our greatest recruiting tool was Abu Graib.’ That’s a lesson to us.”

Among the other challenges he said he would address as president are the sub-prime housing crisis and government waste.

“Ohio has the largest sub-prime problem in America, and every homeowner should be able to make application for a 30-year FHA guaranteed loan to give relief from a very bad mortgage they didn’t understand,” he said.

He pledged to help reform government practices such as pork-barrel politics and wasteful spending, and seek bipartisan solutions to the financial crises facing the Social Security and Medicare systems. But he kept coming back to the oil crisis and its links to every issue America faces.

“This energy situation is a looming and compelling challenge to America and we can meet it,” he said. “We’re in an energy crisis because of the ever-increasing costs of a barrel of oil. I have proposed the Lexington Project as a national mission we have to embark on. America has never had a challenge we wouldn’t meet and overcome together.”

He talked about proposals to finance research and development of battery-powered vehicles and reinvesting in nuclear energy and clean-coal technology, all toward becoming energy self-sufficient. As President, McCain said he would support the construction of 45 nuclear power plants within 15 years that would create about 700,000 jobs.

“We should also allow states to explore for natural gas and oil reserves. It would send a signal to the Middle East that we’ll use our own oil and become less dependent on theirs and that would affect the cost of oil,” he said. “We need a plan to become energy independent, eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce dependence on foreign oil.

"Radical Islam is our current challenge. Americans have faced challenges before. The 20th century was called the American Century, and I believe the 21st century will also be called the American Century. I believe I can motivate young Americans to serve a cause that is greater than their own self interests.”