McCain Bemoans Spread of Nuclear Arms

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Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, faults both parties for failing to contain the spread of nuclear weapons over the past 45 years. He said neither diplomacy nor military force alone are enough to stop proliferation.

NOAH ADAMS, host

Today, John McCain said if he becomes president, he will make controlling the spread of nuclear weapons a priority. But the Republican presidential candidate also left open a possibility of developing new nuclear weapons in the U.S.

Senator McCain delivered his speech on foreign policy at the University of Denver. It did not go entirely smoothly, as NPR's Jeff Brady reports.

JEFF BRADY: McCain's speech was interrupted three times by antiwar protesters and the shouted replies of McCain supporters.

Unidentified Woman #1: Iraq is (unintelligible); Iran has never been a threat.

Unidentified Man #1: Then move there.

BRADY: Each time, Senator McCain waited while the protestors were escorted out.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Republican Presidential Candidate): This may turn into a longer speech than you had anticipated.

(Soundbite of laughter, applause)

BRADY: McCain strayed from his prepared speech only a couple of times. But when he did, most of the crowd approved.

Sen. McCAIN: And by the way, I will never surrender in Iraq, my friends. I will never surrender in Iraq.

(Soundbite of cheering)

BRADY: Returning to his text, McCain quoted John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan about the risk of having too many nuclear weapons in the world. And he criticized Democrats and Republicans for not doing enough to stop the spread of such weapons. But he also said the U.S. must continue to deploy nuclear deterrent. The presumptive Republican nominee also talked about developing an international repository to store spent nuclear fuel so it doesn't get reprocessed for weapons.

Sen. McCAIN: It's even possible that such an international center could make it unnecessary to open the proposed spent nuclear fuels storage facility at Yucca Mountain in Nevada.

BRADY: Nevada is considered as swing state in the upcoming election, and voters there have long objected to the Yucca Mountain site.

Jon Wolfsthal is with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and advises Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. He says there wasn't much new in McCain's speech, and he's not buying the campaign's line that this is a departure from the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Mr. JON WOLFSTHAL (Center for Strategic and International Studies; Advisor, Hillary Clinton Campaign): He positions himself just outside the Bush administration, but not really that far. A lot of this is really either current administration policy or pretty reliable Republican public policy.

BRADY: McCain did depart from the administration on something called the robust nuclear Earth penetrator, often referred to as the bunker buster. McCain said he would cancel all further work on it. Terilyn Huntington(ph) was pleased to hear that. She's a graduate student studying foreign and security policy at the University of Denver. She's also a McCain supporter, and she thinks the program was not a wise use of money.

Ms. TERILYN HUNTINGTON (Student, University of Denver): Yeah, I mean, if we're talking about choosing between developing bunker busters and developing better aircraft carriers or better fighter planes, I'd pick those two options over the bunker bombers any day.

BRADY: While that element of the speech set McCain apart from the White House, it would not likely affect the bunker buster program, which already has been denied funding by Congress. McCain also repeated an implicit criticism of Democratic candidate Barack Obama and his willingness to talk to hostile foreign leaders. The Obama campaign responded by saying McCain's speech embraced, quote, "many aspects of Barack Obama's non-proliferation agenda," close quote, and said Obama had worked with key Republicans interested in the issue in the Senate.

Jeff Brady, NPR News Denver.

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McCain Urges Change to Nuclear Weapons Strategy

Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is calling for a new arms agreement with Russia that finds ways to reduce the number of nuclear missiles, and he suggested that the United States and Russia should jointly cut non-nuclear weapons as well.

As he also called for a dialogue with China on nuclear issues, McCain faulted both Republicans and Democrats on their efforts to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"If you look back over the past two decades, I don't think any of us, Republican or Democrat, can take much satisfaction in what we've accomplished to control nuclear proliferation," McCain said.

McCain said he would seek to cut the U.S. nuclear arsenal to the lowest level needed for national security.

Speaking on a campaign trip to Denver, McCain was interrupted by several anti-war hecklers who were removed from the audience after breaking into the candidate's speech, shouting "Stop this war!"

McCain will be joined by President Bush in Arizona later today for a fundraising event.

McCain's appearances with President Bush at a closed fundraiser in Phoenix will mark the first time Bush, whose popularity has sagged to record lows, will appear with McCain since he endorsed him at the White House nearly three months ago.

The two will appear together in public briefly, for a photo at the Phoenix airport.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press.

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