McCain challenges Obama to town hall

Suggests a series of town hall meetings
June 4, 2008 2:06:16 PM PDT
John McCain challenged Barack Obama to join him in 10 town-hall meetings with voters before the Democratic convention in August.An Obama adviser was receptive to the idea and said the campaign would discuss it.

McCain, the Republican nominee-in-waiting, sent his rival a letter outlining the offer on Wednesday, the day after Obama clinched the Democratic nomination. McCain suggested the first town hall be held June 12 in New York.

"We need to now sit down and work out a way that we can have these town hall meetings and have a great debate," McCain told reporters Wednesday in Baton Rouge.

He credits a more intimate town hall format, a give-and-take with audience members chosen at random, with his victory in New Hampshire that launched his climb to the GOP nomination. McCain said the style would tell voters more than the typical formal, televised debates.

"I don't think we need any big media-run production, no process question from reporters, no spin rooms," McCain said. "Just two Americans running for office in the greatest nation on earth, responding to the questions of the people whose trust we must earn."

McCain said President Kennedy had made such an agreement with former Senator Barry Goldwater for the 1964 election before Kennedy's assassination.

A McCain adviser first floated the idea last month. At the time, Obama said, "I think that's a great idea."

"Obviously, we would have to think through the logistics on that, but ... if I have the opportunity to debate substantive issues before the voters with John McCain, that's something that I am going to welcome," Obama said in Bend, Ore., in May.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said Wednesday that while the idea is appealing, the campaign would recommend a less-structured, lengthier exchange more in line with the historic Lincoln-Douglas debates.

In the Lincoln-Douglas debates, held seven times during Abraham Lincoln's losing Senate campaign against Stephen Douglas in Illinois in 1858, a candidate spoke for an hour, the other for an hour and a half, and the first candidate was allowed a half-hour rebuttal.

The exchange over town halls was civil, but McCain drew sharp criticism on other fronts involving Senate legislation on Hurricane Katrina and divestment from Iran: -Asked by a reporter why he voted twice against commissions to investigate the botched response to Hurricane Katrina, McCain insisted, "I've supported every investigation.

-Asked why he didn't support an Obama bill forcing U.S.

companies to divest from Iran, McCain said he wasn't familiar with the bill, even though key allies, Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman and Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, supported it. "I don't know if it passed the Senate or had any hearing or anything else," McCain said.

Obama, speaking Wednesday to Jewish leaders in Washington, linked McCain, to Bush administration policies on Middle East policies that he described as disastrous.

Obama's campaign said in a written statement that the offer would be considered over the next few days.

You can read the entire letter by clicking here.