At a town hall meeting yesterday on the Michigan State University campus here, John McCain delivered his trademark three-point stump speech, which outlines his plans to revive Michigan’s sputtering economy, eliminate dependence on foreign oil and win the war in Iraq.
Although McCain’s strategy to save the state’s economy has garnered the most attention leading up to tomorrow’s primary, the Arizona senator took additional time here to lay out his goal of reducing dependence on foreign oil and reducing climate change through the use of environmentally-friendly and American-made technologies.
“There’s gonna be hybrid cars, there’s gonna be hydrogen, there’s gonna be ethanol, there’s gonna be batteries,” McCain said. “And we’re gonna address this issue of climate change, we’re gonna reduce our dependence on foreign oil and it’s gonna begin in Michigan.”
Additionally, McCain said he would agree to sign a global climate change treaty – but only if China and India signed on as well – and would advocate for a return to the use of nuclear power in the United States if elected president.
If Americans embrace nuclear power and also the new wave of “green” technologies, he said, it will also help to lessen the impact of climate change in the United States.
“I believe that climate change is real,” McCain said. “And what I want is to hand you a planet that is safe, that we have absolute requirements in order to protect our environment and make a better planet rather than the one we’re facing now.”
Another key talking point for McCain, and one for which he has received the most criticism, is his plan to remain in Iraq until it is clear that the U.S. has achieved victory there.
And unlike the other candidates on both sides of the aisle, McCain remains optimistic about the future of American armed forces in the fractured Middle Eastern country.
“My friends, we are succeeding in Iraq,” McCain said. “This strategy (the mid-summer troop “surge”) is succeeding.”
He added, “We will never surrender (in Iraq) when I’m the President of the United States.”
For McCain, tied into the concept of victory in Iraq is also victory over what he described as “the threat of radical Islamic extremism.”
McCain said he believes the face of this “radical Islamic extremism” in the 21st century is terrorist Osama bin Laden and the global terrorist network al-Qaeda.
Amidst thundering applause and chants of “The Mac is back,” McCain told audience members that finding bin Laden would be of the utmost importance to him as president.
“If I have to follow him to the gates of hell,” McCain said, “I will get Osama bin Laden to justice.”
Steve Anderson, a Grand Rapids resident, said he favored McCain more than the other Republican candidates in the field because of the senator’s positions on reducing climate change.
“I was very happy to hear what he had to say about it,” Anderson said. “And unlike some people with an agenda who unfairly portray the issue in the press, I think he was absolutely right and made perfect sense.”
Despite describing himself as “a global warming critic,” Michigan State freshman Tim Henkel said he admired McCain for embracing technologies that lessen human impact on the environment, which he said makes sense regardless of whether or not someone is a global warming activist.
“They’re all good technologies,” Henkel said. “Plus, they’ll help bring our state a bit of money too.”
As snow began to fall outside, East Lansing resident Scott Hughes continued to protest McCain’s speech outside of Michigan State’s Kellogg Center, carrying a sign that read “McCain: When in doubt, send troops.”
Hughes, who wasn’t allowed in the Kellogg Center by campus police, said he thinks Americans have grown weary of the war in Iraq and don’t want the sustained presence in Iraq that McCain has advocated for.
“I think that after five or six years of the Iraq war, the people are going to want to move in a different direction and try to come up with other solutions that don’t involve sending in troops every time,” Hughes said.
Although many McCain supporters believe their candidate’s plan for winning the war are genuine, Hughes said he views McCain’s positions as the same old war-pandering.
“How many times have we heard that before from cheerleaders of war that things are going to turn around, that things are going to get better?” Hughes said. “I guess I’ll believe it when I see it.”