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Amy Goodman Questions John McCain on the Smear Tactics of Karl Rove & George Bush

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We ask the Senator from Arizona about the South Carolina primary race in 2000 during which Karl Rove led a vicious attack on McCain and his family. Many see similarities between the attack on McCain and the attacks on Kerry. [includes rush transcript]

At the Republican Convention yesterday, I ran into Arizona Senator John McCain. Four years ago, McCain and Bush were bitter rivals in the race for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination. Today, he has emerged as one of President Bush’s most influential supporters. I caught up with him in the halls of Madison Square Garden.

  • Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: While at the Republican convention last night I ran into Arizona Senator John McCain. Four years ago, McCain and Bush were bitter rivals in the race for president in 2000. Today he’s emerged as one of President Bush’s most influential supporters. I caught up with him in the halls of Madison Square Garden.

JOHN McCAIN: Hey, how are you?

AMY GOODMAN: Senator McCain, hi.

JOHN McCAIN: How you doing?

AMY GOODMAN: Good. I was wondering if you could tell me how you feel about the attacks on Senator Kerry’s record?

JOHN McCAIN: Well, I think Senator Miller is entitled to his views, and I respect them. I don’t really have any more comment besides that.

AMY GOODMAN: But the campaign ads against his war record.

JOHN McCAIN: Oh, I have said the campaigning against his war record, the “Swift Boat” ads on his record in combat was dishonorable and dishonest because I believe he served honorably, as I believe President Bush served honorably.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think Bush should say that those ads should stop?

JOHN MCCAIN: We’ve been through this. We’ve been through this. The president, I’m glad, is going to go to court and to try legislatively to bring the 527s in line with campaign finance law, and that’s good.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this is similar to the attacks on you in 2000, the Bush attacks in 2000?

JOHN MCCAIN: No, I put the attacks behind me. The attacks that were made on me are long ago and far away, and I don’t ever think about them or dwell on them.

AMY GOODMAN: They were very personal, very harsh, and they questioned your war record.

JOHN MCCAIN: And I had to get over it. And I got over it, and I don’t look back in anger. I look back as running for president as the greatest experience of my life.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s one thing to get over it. It’s another to stand with and campaign with the man who did it to you, George Bush.

JOHN MCCAIN: I put it behind me. I put it behind me. Absolutely, we have a very good, friendly relationship.

AMY GOODMAN: Has he ever explained himself to you, why he attacked your wife, Cindy, and your kid?

JOHN MCCAIN: I can only —- -— my discussions with the president are private. Okay? Thanks, good.

AMY GOODMAN: Arizona Senator John McCain, who actually opened the convention, one of the headliners on Monday night. This is Democracy Now! Interesting, Juan, to hear John McCain saying all that is behind them, when you look at what happened in 2000, and you look at the attacks on John Kerry today. I’m looking —- -—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Yes, but, very similar. You have a situation where the Bush people, McCain was furious in South Carolina when the Bush people, in an effort to stave off a defeat in that primary, that Republican primary, ended up spreading all kinds of information, false information about McCain including that he was mentally unstable, that his wife had — was a drug addict when she had had some problems with prescription drugs in the past, and that he had fathered an illegitimate black child when the reality was that he and his wife had adopted a child from, I think it was the Middle East at the time, and all of this contributed to with anonymous flyers and the day before the convention, created enormous doubt in Republican voters’ minds about John McCain.

AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at a piece by Joe Connesin at, who writes, “Watching her husband embrace the president in the new commercial must be distressing to Cindy McCain whose former dependence to prescription drugs was highlighted in an anonymous campaign leaflets the night before the South Carolina primary. Before anyone knew that Rush Limbaugh would make addiction fashionable on the far right. According to _Newsweek_’s inside account of the campaign, she began sobbing loudly while watching the returns that sank McCain’s campaign. Trying to soothe her, her husband said, 'Think of how the Bushes felt two weeks ago in New Hampshire,' where Bush had unexpectedly lost the primary. Between her sobs, she replied, 'We never called his wife a weirdo.' The assault on McCain’s family didn’t spare Bridget, the litte girl they’d adopted from a Mother Theresa orphanage in Bangladesh. In the mouths of anonymous quote 'push pollers,' who called Republican voters across South Carolina to smear the maverick reformer, Bridget was transformed into an illegitimate black baby, a variation on Bill Clinton’s mythical black son. Christian conservatives eagerly spread baseless rumors that McCain had consorted with prostitutes, another old Clinton-bashing smear, and that he was also homosexual.” So very interesting, now insiders saying that McCain’s dislike of Bush is legendary and of course going back to this time 2000.

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