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Transcript of Senator McCain's remarks at The Saddleback Civil Forum

Transcript of Senator McCain's remarks at The Saddleback Civil Forum

I think America's greatest moral failure has been throughout our existence perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest, although we've been the best at it of anybody in the world. I think after 9/11, my friends, instead of telling people to go shopping or take a trip, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, Americorps, the military, expand our volunteer -- expand what you're doing -- (applause) -- expand the great missions that you are doing, that you're carrying out not only here in America but throughout the world, especially in Rwanda. And I hope we have a chance to talk a little bit about that later on. And, you know, a little pandering here -- the first words of your very successful book is "This is not about you." You know what that really also means? Serve a cause greater than your self-interest.

Transcript of Senator McCain's remarks at The Saddleback Civil Forum


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REV. WARREN: Welcome back to the Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency.

And welcome, Senator John McCain. Thank you for being here. (Cheers, applause.)

SEN. MCCAIN: I'm very glad to be here.

REV. WARREN: Thank you for coming.

Now, my first question: Was the cone of silence comfortable that you were in just now? (Laughs.)

SEN. MCCAIN: (Laughs.) I was trying to hear through the wall.

REV. WARREN: (Laughs.) Okay, this first set of questions deals with leadership and the personal life of leadership. First question is, who are the three wisest people that you know that you would rely on heavily in an administration?

SEN. MCCAIN: First one, I think, would be General David Petraeus, one of the great military leaders in American history, who took us from defeat to victory in Iraq -- one of the great leaders -- (applause) -- (inaudible).

Fourth of July a year ago, Senator Lindsey Graham and I were in Baghdad. Six hundred and eighty-eight brave young Americans whose enlistment had expired swore an oath of re-enlistment to stay and fight for freedom. Only someone like General David Petraeus could motivate someone like that.

I think John Lewis. John Lewis was at the Edmund Pettis Bridge, had his skull fractured, continued to serve, continues to have the most optimistic outlook about America. He can teach us all a lot about the meaning of courage and commitment to causes greater than our self-interest.

Meg Whitman; Meg Whitman, the CEO of eBay. Meg Whitman -- 12 years ago, there were five employees. Today there are one and a half million people that make a living off eBay in America and the world. It's one of these great American success stories. And in these economic challenging times, we need to call on the wisdom and knowledge and background of people like Meg Whitman, who have been able to make such a great American success story part of the world's folklore.

REV. WARREN: Okay. Let me ask you this. This is a character question.

SEN. MCCAIN: I hope they get easier. (Laughter.)

REV. WARREN: Well, this one isn't easier. We've had a lot of leaders, because of their weaknesses, character flaws, stumble, become ineffective, are not even serving anymore, serving our country. What's been your greatest moral failure? And what has been the -- what do you think is the greatest moral failure of America?

SEN. MCCAIN: They don't get any easier. (Laughter.)

REV. WARREN: No, they don't get any easier.

SEN. MCCAIN: My greatest moral failing -- and I have been -- (audio break) -- is the failure of my first marriage. It's my greatest moral failure.

I think America's greatest moral failure has been throughout our existence perhaps we have not devoted ourselves to causes greater than our self-interest, although we've been the best at it of anybody in the world.

I think after 9/11, my friends, instead of telling people to go shopping or take a trip, we should have told Americans to join the Peace Corps, Americorps, the military, expand our volunteer -- expand what you're doing -- (applause) -- expand the great missions that you are doing, that you're carrying out not only here in America but throughout the world, especially in Rwanda. And I hope we have a chance to talk a little bit about that later on.

And, you know, a little pandering here -- the first words of your very successful book is "This is not about you." You know what that really also means? Serve a cause greater than your self-interest. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: John, you know that a lot of good legislation dies because of partisan politics. And party loyalty keeps people from really getting forward on putting America's best first. Can you give me an example of where you led against your party's interest -- oh, this is hard -- (laughter) -- and really maybe against your own best interest for the good of America?

SEN. MCCAIN: You know, by a strange coincidence -- (laughter) -- I was not elected Miss Congeniality again in the United States Senate this year. (Laughter.) I don't know why. I don't know why. I don't know why.

Climate change, out-of-control spending, torture; the list goes on on a large number of issues that I have put my country first and I've reached across the aisle. But I'd probably have to say that one of the times that probably was one of the most trying was when I was first a member of Congress and a new freshman in the House of Representatives and very loyal and dedicated to President Reagan, who I still think is one of the great, great presidents in American history -- (applause) -- who won the Cold War without firing a shot, in the words of Margaret Thatcher.

He wanted to send troops to Beirut for a peacekeeping mission. My knowledge and my background told me that a few hundred Marines in a situation like that could not successfully carry out any kind of peacekeeping mission, and I thought they were going into harm's way. Tragically, as many of you recall, there was a bombing of the Marine barracks and well over 100 brave Marines gave their lives.

But it was tough, that vote, because I went against the president I believed in and the party that believed that maybe I was disloyal very early in my political career.

REV. WARREN: There's a verse in the Bible that says intelligent people look for ideas. In fact, they search for them. What's the most significant position that you've held 10 years ago that you no longer hold today?

I think the point I'm trying to make is that leaders are not stubborn; they do change their mind with additional information. So give me a good example of something that 10 years ago you said, "That's the way I feel about it," and now, 10 years later, it's different. That's not flip-flopping; it's just sometimes growing in wisdom.

SEN. MCCAIN: Offshore drilling. We've got to drill now and we've got to drill here, and we've got to become independent of foreign oil. (Cheers, applause.) I know that there are some here in California that disagree -- (laughter) -- that disagree with that position. (Laughs.)

Could I also mention very seriously about this issue -- my friends, you know that this is a national security issue. We're sending $700 billion a year to countries that don't like us very much, that some of that money is ending up in the hands of terrorist organizations. We cannot allow this greatest transfer of wealth in our history when our national security will continue to be threatened. (Applause.)

And Rick, I know we've got a lot of issues to cover, but let me just say, at the town hall meetings that I have every day, that's the issue on people's mind is energy. So I think if I could just take one -- 30 seconds. One, we've got to do everything. We've got to do wind, tide, solar, natural gas, hydrogen cars, hybrid cars, electric cars. And we have to have nuclear power in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- (applause) -- and save on our energy costs.

And by the way, in case you hadn't noticed it, the French -- 80 percent -- we love to imitate the French -- 80 percent of their electricity is generated by nuclear power. If they can do it and reprocess, we can too, my friends. And by the way, if you hadn't noticed, we now have a pro-American president of France, which shows if you live long enough, anything can happen in America. (Laughter, applause.)

REV. WARREN: (Audio break.) What's the most gut-wrenching decision you've ever had to make? And what was the process that you used to make it?

SEN. MCCAIN: It was long ago and far away in a prison camp in North Vietnam. My father was a high-ranking admiral. The Vietnamese came and said that I could leave prison early. And we had a code of conduct that said you only leave by order of capture. I also had a dear and beloved friend who was from California named Ev Alvarez, who had been shot down and captured a couple of years before me. But I wasn't in good physical shape. In fact, I was in rather bad physical shape. And so I said no.

Now, in interest of full disclosure, I'm very happy I didn't know the war was going to last for another three years or so. But I said no, and I'll never forget sitting in my last answer, and the high- ranking officer who offered it slammed the door and the interrogator said, "Go back to your cell. It's going to be very tough on you now." And it was; but not only the toughest decision I ever made, but I'm most happy about that decision than any decision I ever made in my life. (Applause.)

Could I finally say, it look a lot of prayer. It took a lot of prayer.

REV. WARREN: Great. We'll be right back with John McCain. (Applause.)


REV. WARREN: Welcome back. And we're here with Senator John McCain.

Now, John, in this next section we're going to talk about world view. And I actually invited a couple of hundred thousand people, my personal friends, to send me their questions. And these are heartland questions that came in from all over America. No matter how you answer them, somebody's not going to like it, because we have many world views, obviously, in America. But let's walk through these mine fields together.

First, you've made no doubt about the fact that you are a Christian. You publicly say you're a follower of Christ. What does that mean to you? And how does faith work out in your life on a daily basis? What does it mean to you?

SEN. MCCAIN: It means I'm saved and forgiven. And we're talking about the world. Our faith encompasses not just the United States of America, but the world.

Can I tell you another story real quick?

REV. WARREN: Sure. (Laughter.)

SEN. MCCAIN: The Vietnamese kept us imprisoned in conditions of solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. They did that because they knew they could break down our resistance. One of the techniques that they used to get information was to take ropes and tie them around your biceps, pull your biceps behind you, loop the rope around your head, pull your head down between your knees, and leave you in that position. You can imagine, it was very uncomfortable.

One night I was being punished in that fashion. All of a sudden the door of the cell opened and the guard came in; a guy who was just what we called a gun guard. He just walked around the camp with a gun on his shoulder. He went like this and then he loosened the ropes. He came back about four hours later; he tightened them up again and left.

The following Christmas, because it was Christmas Day, we were allowed to stand outside of our cell for a few minutes. In those days, we were not allowed to see or communicate with each other, although we certainly did. And I was standing outside for my few minutes outside of my cell. He came walking up. He stood there for a minute. And with his sandal on the dirt in the courtyard, he drew a cross. And he stood there, and a minute later he rubbed it out and walked away. For a minute there, there was just two Christians worshiping together. I'll never forget that moment. (Applause.)

(Off mike) -- so every day.

REV. WARREN: All right, let's go into the tough ones. That was just (opening ?). Let's deal with abortion. I, as a pastor, have to deal with this all the time -- every different angle, every different pain, all the decisions and all of that. Forty million abortions since Roe v. Wade. Some people -- people who believe that life begins at conception would say that's a holocaust for many people.

What point is a baby entitled to human rights?

SEN. MCCAIN: At the moment of conception. (Cheers, applause.) I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president and this presidency will have pro-life policies. (Cheers, applause.) That's my commitment. That's my commitment to you.

REV. WARREN: Okay. We don't have to go longer on that one. (Laughter.)

Define marriage.

SEN. MCCAIN: A union -- a union between man and woman, between one man and one woman. That's my definition of marriage. (Applause.)

Are we going to get back to the importance of Supreme Court justices, or should I mention it?

REV. WARREN: We will get to that.

SEN. MCCAIN: Okay. All right. (Laughter.) Okay.

REV. WARREN: Man, you're jumping ahead. You know all my questions.

SEN. MCCAIN: No, no, that's -- when we speak of the issue of the rights of the unborn, we need to talk about judges. But anyway, go ahead.

REV. WARREN: Well, let me just ask you a question related to that. We've got a bill right here in California, Proposition 8, that's going on because the court overturned --


REV. WARREN: -- this definition of marriage. Was the Supreme Court of California wrong?

SEN. MCCAIN: I believe they were wrong. And I strongly support -- (applause) -- preserving the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And I'm a federalist. I believe that states should make those decisions.

In my state, I hope we will make that decision -- in other states they have -- to recognize the unique status of marriage between man and woman. And that means -- that doesn't mean that people can't enter into legal agreements. That doesn't mean that they don't have the rights of all citizens. I'm not saying that. I am saying that we should preserve the unique status of marriage between one man and one woman.

And if a federal court, if a federal court decided that my state of Arizona had to observe what the state of Massachusetts decided, then I would favor a constitutional amendment. Until then, I believe the states should make the decisions within their own states.

REV. WARREN: Okay. (Applause.) All right. Another issue is stem cells. Now, we've had this scientific breakthrough of creating pluripotent stem cells through adult stem cells.


REV. WARREN: So would you favor or oppose the federal funding of embryonic stem cell research since we have this other breakthrough?

SEN. MCCAIN: For those of us in the pro-life community, this has been a great struggle and a terrible dilemma, because we're also taught other obligations that we have as well. I've come down on the side of stem cell research, but I am wildly optimistic that skin cell research, which is coming more and more into focus and practicability, will make this debate an academic one.

REV. WARREN: All right. How about the issue of evil? I asked this of your rival in the previous thing. Does evil exist? And, if so, should we ignore it, negotiate with it, contain it, or defeat it?

SEN. MCCAIN: Defeat it. (Applause.) A couple of points. One, if I'm president of the United States, my friends, if I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. (Applause.) I will do that, and I know how to do it. I will get that guy. (Applause.) No one, no one should be allowed to take thousands of American -- innocent American lives.

Of course evil must be defeated. My friends, we are facing the transcendent challenge of the 21st century -- radical Islamic extremism. Not long ago in Baghdad, al Qaeda took two young women who were mentally disabled and put suicide vests on them, sent them into a marketplace, and, by remote control, detonated those suicide vests. If that isn't evil, you have to tell me what is. (Applause.)

And we're going to defeat this evil. And the central battleground, according to David Petraeus and Osama bin Laden, is the battle -- is Baghdad, Mosul, Basra and Iraq. And we are winning and we are succeeding, and our troops will come home with honor and with victory, and not in defeat. And that's what's happening. (Applause.) And we have -- and we face this threat throughout the world. It's not just in Iraq. It's not just in Afghanistan. Our intelligence people tell us al Qaeda continues to try to establish cells here in the United States of America.

My friends, we must face this challenge. We can face this challenge, and we must totally defeat it. And we're in a long struggle. But when I'm around the young men and women who are serving us in uniform, I have no doubt -- none. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: All right. These next questions have to do with domestic issues. I believe that leadership is stewardship, not ownership. And for a few years, you're asking us to place the stewardship of our freedom and our security and our economy and the environment, everything, into your hands. So I have about 500 questions in this category.

The first one is on the courts. Which existing Supreme Court justices would you not have nominated?

SEN. MCCAIN: With all due respect, Justice Ginsberg, Justice Breyer, Justice Souter, and Justice Stevens.

REV. WARREN: Why? Tell me why.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I think that the president of the United States has incredible responsibility in nominating people to the United States Supreme Court. They are lifetime positions -- as well as the federal bench. There will be two or maybe three vacancies.

This nomination should be based on the criteria of proven record, of strictly adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America and not legislating from the bench. (Applause.) Some of the worst damage has been done by legislating from the bench. (Applause.) And, by the way, Justices Alito and Roberts are two of my most recent favorites, by the way. They really are. They're very fine. (Applause.) And I'm proud of President Bush for nominating them.

REV. WARREN: All right, let's talk about the role of faith-based organizations. There was a recent poll that came out that said over 70 percent of Americans believe that faith-based organizations do a better job at community services --

SEN. MCCAIN: Because Americans are right. (Laughs.)

REV. WARREN: -- than the government. (Laughter.) You know, addictions, homelessness, poverty, all of these -- prisoner rehab, things like that. Now, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 allows religious organizations, not just churches but faith-based organizations, to keep and hire the people that they believe share common beliefs with.


REV. WARREN: Would you insist that faith-based organizations forfeit that right to access federal funds?

SEN. MCCAIN: Absolutely not. And if you did, it would mean a severe crippling of faith-based organizations and their abilities to do the things that they have done so successfully.

Life is full of anecdotes, and I'm sorry to tell you so many anecdotes, but I went to New Orleans after Katrina. The Resurrection Baptist Church was doing tremendous work with thousands of volunteers, I'm sure probably from here at Saddleback, coordinating the efforts of thousands of volunteers, including my own church, the North Phoenix Baptist Church, who came from all over America.

And various authorities, off the record, told me off the record that they were doing so much more good than the government organizations; said it was incredible. And New Orleans could not have been on the path -- they've got a long way to go -- on the path to recovery if it hadn't been for the faith-based organizations, who are still operating in New Orleans, much to their great credit, thank God.

REV. WARREN: First in, last out.

SEN. MCCAIN: Yes. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: All right, let's talk about education. America ranks 19th in high school graduations, but we're first in incarcerations. Everybody says they want more accountability in schools. About 80 percent of America says they support merit pay for the best teachers. Now, I don't want to hear your stump speech on education.

SEN. MCCAIN: Yes, yes, and find bad -- (laughter) -- find bad teachers another line of work. (Laughter, applause.)

REV. WARREN: You know, we're going to end this -- you're answering so quickly.


REV. WARREN: Do you want to play a game of poker? (Laughter.)

SEN. MCCAIN: Choice and competition, choice and competition, home schooling, charter schools, vouchers, all the choice and competition. (Applause.) I want -- look, I want every American family to have the same choice that Cindy and I made and Senator Obama and Mrs. Obama made as well, and that was, we wanted to send our children to the school of our choice. And charter schools work, my friends. Home schooling works. Vouchers in our nation's capital works. We've got thousands of people in Washington, D.C. that are applying for a voucher system. New York City is reforming.

I go back to New Orleans. They were -- as we know, the tragedy devastated them. They now have over 30 charter schools in the city of New Orleans, and guess what -- it's all coming up. It's all coming up. It's a simple principle, but it's going to take dedicated men and women, particularly in the teaching profession, to make it happen.

And by the way, here in -- I won't go any further. But the point is, it's all based and it's being proven that choice and competition for every American family. And it is the civil rights issue of the 21st century, because every citizen's child now has an opportunity go to school. But what kind of opportunity is it if you send them to a failing school? That's why we've got to give everybody the same opportunity and choice.

REV. WARREN: Okay. All right, let's move on to --

SEN. MCCAIN: You're sorry you mentioned that my answers were short, aren't you? (Laughter.)

REV. WARREN: No, no, no. Actually, this is great, because I may actually get to ask you a couple of extra questions, which are good. They're the lightning bonus round, actually. (Laughter.)

SEN. MCCAIN: (Makes buzzing sound.)

REV. WARREN: Okay, on taxes, define "rich." Everybody talks about, you know, taxing the rich but not the poor, the middle class. At what point -- give me a number. Give me a specific number. Where do you move from middle class to rich? Is it $100,000? Is it $50,000? Is it $200,000? How does anybody know if we don't know what the standards are?

SEN. MCCAIN: Some of the richest people I've ever known in my life are the most unhappy. I think that rich should be defined by a home, a good job, an education, and the ability to hand to our children a more prosperous and safer world than the one that we inherited.

I don't want to take any money from the rich. I want everybody to get rich. (Laughter.) I don't believe in class warfare or redistribution of wealth. But I can tell you, for example, there are small businessmen and women who are working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, that some people would classify as, quote, "rich," my friends, and want to raise their taxes and want to raise their payroll taxes.

Let's have -- keep taxes low. Let's give every family in America a $7,000 tax credit for every child they have. Let's give them a $5,000 refundable tax credit to go out and get the health insurance of their choice. Let's not have the government take over the health care system in America. (Applause.)

So I think if you're just talking about income, how about $5 million? (Laughter.) So, no, but seriously, I don't think you can -- I don't think, seriously, that -- the point is that I'm trying to make here, seriously -- and I'm sure that comment will be distorted -- (laughter) -- but the point is, the point is, the point is that we want to keep people's taxes low and increase revenues.

And my friend, it was not taxes that mattered in America in the last several years. It was spending. Spending got completely out of control. We spent money -- (applause) -- in a way that mortgaged our kids' future.

My friend, we spent $3 million of your money to study the DNA of bears in Montana. (Laughter.) Now, I don't know if that was a paternity issue or a criminal issue. (Laughter.) But the point is, but the point is, it was $3 million of your money. It was your money.

And, you know, we laugh about it, but we cry. And we should cry, because the Congress is supposed to be careful stewards of your tax dollars. So what did they just do in the middle of an energy crisis, when in California we're paying $4 a gallon for gas? Went on vacation for five weeks. I guarantee you, two things they never miss -- a pay raise and a vacation. And we should stop that and call them back -- (applause) -- and not raise your taxes. We should not and cannot raise taxes in tough economic times.

So it doesn't matter, really, what my definition of "rich" is, because I don't want to raise anybody's taxes. I really don't. In fact, I want to give working Americans a better shot at having a better life. And we all know the challenges, my friends, if I could be serious.

Americans tonight in California and all over America are sitting at the kitchen table, recently and suddenly lost a job, can't afford to stay in their home, education for their kids, affordable health care. These are tough problems. These are tough problems. You talk to them every day --

REV. WARREN: All the time.

SEN. MCCAIN: -- every day. My friends, we've got to give them hope and confidence in the future. That's what we need to give them. And I can inspire them. I can lead. And I know that our best days are ahead of us. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: All right, great. All right, thank you. Now, we've got a couple of minutes left in this section. Here's a security question. I didn't get to it with Senator Obama; we didn't have enough time. When is our right to privacy -- when our right to privacy and our right to national security collide, how do you decide what takes precedence?

SEN. MCCAIN: It does collide. And there are always competing priorities. We must preserve the privacy of all of our citizens as much as possible because that's one of the fundamental and basic rights we have; and, by the way, including a secret ballot for union organizers, a secret ballot, not a ballot that someone comes around and signs you up. That's a different subject.

But the point is that we have now had technological advances over the last 20 or 30 years in communications that are remarkable. It's remarkable the ability that our enemies have to communicate. So we have to keep up with that capability. I mean, there's too many ways, through cyberspace and through other ways, that people are able to communicate with one another.

So we're going to have to step up our capabilities to monitor those. Sometimes there are calls from outside the United States, inside the United States. There's all kinds of communications of every different kind. So you need Congress to work together. You need a judiciary that will review these laws that we pass.

And at the same time, it's just an example of our failure to sit down, Republican and Democrat, and work these things out together for the good of the nation's security instead of this constant fighting which, according to our Director of National Intelligence, until we finally reached an agreement not long ago, was compromising our ability to keep America from attack. And so there's a constant tension. It is changing with changes in technology, and we have to stay up with it.

REV. WARREN: We'll be right back with Senator John McCain.


REV. WARREN: Welcome back to Saddleback's Civil Forum on the Presidency, and we're here with Senator John McCain.

John, these last questions are about America's responsibility to the world. We are, without a doubt, the most blessed nation in the world. We are blessed to be a blessing. And the Bible says to whom much is given, much has been required. So I want to talk about what is our stewardship to everybody else? And let's first talk about freedom and war.

As an American, what is worth dying for and what's worth committing American lives for?

SEN. MCCAIN: Freedom, our national security, our security as a nation. Wars have started in obscure places that have enveloped us. We also must temper that with the ability to effectively and beneficially cause the outcome that we want. In other words, there's tyranny and there's tragedy throughout the world. And we can't right every wrong, but we can do what America has done throughout our history, and that is be a beacon of hope and liberty and freedom for everyone in the world; as Ronald Reagan used to quote, a shining city on a hill.

And so there are conflicts that we can't settle. The most precious asset we have is American blood. And throughout our history, Americans have gone to all four corners of the world and shed that blood in defense of someone else's freedom. No other nation on earth has ever done that. But we've also succeeded in other ways. We won the Cold War, as I mentioned earlier, without firing a shot, because of our ideology and that communism was wrong and evil. And we can defeat it, just as we can defeat radical Islamic extremism.

Can we talk just a second about the latest in Georgia before --

REV. WARREN: Let me ask you this. What would be the criteria for which you would commit troops to --

SEN. MCCAIN: American national security interests are threatened.

REV. WARREN: Okay, I understand that one. What about, like genocide in Darfur or if mass killings took place in Georgia?

SEN. MCCAIN: Our obligation is to stop genocide wherever we can. We all know about Rwanda. No one knows that better than you and the Saddleback church, who have been so active. By the way, Cindy was just there with Mike Huckabee and Dr. Bill Frist and have seen what the women of Rwanda are doing. The women are taking charge of the future of Rwanda, because they're saying, "Never again." (Applause.) And they're doing an incredible job.

Darfur, our most respected former secretary of State, Colin Powell, called genocide some years ago. The question is, how can we effectively stop it? And obviously we've got to do more and we've got to try to marshal the forces all over the world to join us.

I think one of the things we ought to explore more carefully is us supplying the logistics and equipment and the aid, and the African countries step forward with the personnel to enforce a genuine cease- fire. It's a very complicated situation, as you know, but we've got to be committed to never saying "Never again" again.

REV. WARREN: What about -- you know, you're seeing Russia reassert itself in Georgia, and maybe now Poland. What's happening?

SEN. MCCAIN: I'm very saddened here to be with you and talk about a Russian re-emergence in the centuries-old ambition of the Russian empire to dominate that part of the world -- killings, murder. Villages are being burned. People are being wantonly ejected from their homes. The latest figures from a human rights organization is 118,000 people in that small country. It was one of the earliest Christian nations. The king of then-Georgia in the third century converted to Christianity. You go to Georgia and you see these old churches that go back to the 4th and 5th century.

My friends, the president, the president, Saakashvili, is a man who was educated in the United States of America on a scholarship. He went back to Georgia, and with other young people who had also received an education, they achieved a revolution. They had democracy, prosperity and a great little nation.

And now the Russians are coming in there in an act of aggression. And we have to not only bring about cease-fire, but we have to have honored one of the most fundamental rights of any nation, and that is territorial integrity. We must respect the entire territory of Russia -- excuse me -- the Russians must respect the entire territorial integrity of Georgia. And there's only 4 million people in Georgia, my friends. I've been there. It's a beautiful little country. They're wonderful people. They're suffering terribly now.

And there's two other aspects of this, very quickly. One of them: Don't think it was an accident that the presidents of Lithuania -- the presidents (of) Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and Ukraine flew to Tbilisi to show their solidarity with the president of Georgia, because they all have something in common with Georgia. They lived under Russian domination for a long period of time.

Second of all, of course, it's about energy. There's an oil pipeline that goes across Georgia that, up till now, had not been controlled by the Russians; and my friend, energy the Russians are using as a tremendous lever against the Europeans.

So keep them in your prayers. Let's get the humanitarian aid as quickly as possible to them and send the message to the Russians that this behavior is not acceptable in the 21st century. (Applause.


REV. WARREN: Related to that, America's responsibility in the world -- religious persecution. What would you do in your administration to end -- to put pressure on the Chinese, in Iraq and all the other places, so-called allies of ours, that will allow -- will not allow religious freedom, whether it's Christian or any other faith?

SEN. MCCAIN: The president of the United States, his greatest asset is the bully pulpit. The president of the United States -- and I go back again to Ronald Reagan; he went to the Berlin Wall and said, "Take down this wall," called them an evil empire. Many said, "Don't antagonize the Russians. Don't cause a confrontation with the Soviet Union." He stood for what he believed and he said what he believed, and he said to those people who were then captive nations, "The day will come when you will know freedom and democracy and the fundamental rights of man."

Our Judeo-Christian principles dictate that we do what we can to help people who are oppressed throughout the world. And I'd like to tell you that I still think that even in the worst places in the world today, in the darkest corners, little countries like Belarus, they still harbor this hope and dream someday to be like us and have freedom and democracy.

And we have our flaws and we have our failings, and we talk about them all the time, and we should. But we remain, my friends, the most unusual experiment in history. And I'm privileged to spend every day of my life in it. I know what it's like to be without it. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: John, most people don't know that there are 148 million orphans in the world growing up without parents. What should we do about this? And would you be willing to consider or even commit to something similar to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS, which he said AIDS is an emergency, a PEPFAR. Could we do a PEPFAR for the emergency plan for 148 million orphans? Most of these -- they don't need to grow up in orphanages. They need to be in families. And many of those families could take them if they had some kind of assistance.

SEN. MCCAIN: Well, I think we have to make adoption a lot easier in this country. That's why so many people go to other countries -- (applause) -- to get to be able to adopt children. My great hero and role model, Teddy Roosevelt, was the first modern American president to talk about adoption and how important it was.

And I promise you, this is my last story. (Laughter.) Seventeen years ago, Cindy was in Dacca, Bangladesh. She went to Mother Teresa's orphanage. The nuns brought her two little babies who were not going to live. Cindy came home. I met her at the airplane. She showed me this five-week-old baby and said, "Meet your new daughter." She's 17, and my life is blessed. And that's what adoption is all about. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: All right, you've got one minute to answer this one, and that is, why do you want to be president?

SEN. MCCAIN: I want to inspire a generation of Americans to serve a cause greater than their self-interest. I believe that America's best days are ahead of us. But I also believe that we face enormous challenges, both national security and domestic, as we have found out in the last few days in the case of Georgia.

And I want to be -- make sure that everybody understands that this is a time for us to come together. Throughout my life, from the time I was 17 and raised my hand and was sworn in as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, I've always put my country first. I put my country first when I had the honor of serving in the military, and I had the honor of putting my country first as a member of the House of Representatives and then the United States Senate.

America wants hope. America wants optimism. America wants us to sit down together. I have a record of reaching across the aisle and working with the other party. And I want to do that. And I believe, as I said, that Americans feel it's time for us to put our country first. And we may disagree on a specific issue, and I won't (review ?) them now -- (laughter) -- but I want every American to know that when I go to Gee's Bend, Alabama and meet the African-American women there who are so wonderful and lovely, in an experience I'll never forget, and when I go to places where I know they probably won't vote for me, I know that my job is to tell them that I'll be the president of every American and I'll always put my country first. (Applause.)

REV. WARREN: Thank you.

All right, 20 seconds left. What would you say to people who opposed me asking you these questions in a church?

SEN. MCCAIN: I say to them that I'd like to be in every venue in America. This is an important -- this is a very important election. Our nation was founded on Judeo-Christian values and principles. I'm happy to be here in a church. (Applause.) I'm happy to be here in a place that, with your program, such as peace, such as your help throughout the world, such as your outreach to so many thousands of Americans, I'm honored to be here. And I thank you.

REV. WARREN: Would you stand and welcome -- thank Senator John McCain. (Cheers, applause.)

Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: August, 2008; Politics; Congress; Election2008 - McCain; National Service; Arizona

When this story was posted in September 2008, this was on the front page of PCOL:

Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers RSS Feed
PCVs Evacuated from Georgia Date: August 19 2008 No: 1254 PCVs Evacuated from Georgia
The Peace Corps has announced that all Volunteers and trainees serving in the Republic of Georgia are safe and they have been temporarily relocated to neighboring Armenia. Read the analysis by one RPCV on how Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili believed that he could launch a lightning assault on South Ossetia and reclaim the republic without substantial grief from Moscow and that Saakashvili's statements once the war began demonstrated that he expected real Western help in confronting Russia.

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