McCain Tacks Away from Bush on Nuclear Policy

On Tuesday Sen. John McCain outlined a nuclear policy that aides called a significant departure from President Bush. But McCain also made sure to include one of his recurring criticisms of Democratic rival Sen. Barack Obama.

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BILL WOLFF: From NPR News in New York, this is the Bryant Park Project.

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RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Overlooking historic Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, live from NPR studios, this is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News. News, information, great mates. I'm Rachel Martin.

MIKE PESCA, host:

And I'm Mike Pesca. It's Wednesday, May 28th, 2008. Do you mean great mates or great mates?

MARTIN: Great - no, great mates. Like us, great mates.

PESCA: OK.

MARTIN: But that's really a reference to the Mates of State. It's a duo, husband and wife, indie-pop duo, and they are also great mates, and they're just great people. It's not a really big secret. I...

PESCA: Maybe they fooled you in their interview.

MARTIN: They could've.

PESCA: Just because they harmonize together on the instruments doesn't mean that their lives are in perfect harmony.

MARTIN: I think it is, actually. They tried to tell me that, oh, we're not perfect. We fight. And I'm like, no,4 you're not. You're good looking. You're talented. You've got cute kids. You live in Connecticut.

PESCA: Is there anyone else in the band?

MARTIN: No, it's just them.

PESCA: Like a Lindsey Buckingham or a Stevie Nicks to disrupt things, a la Fleetwood Mac?

MARTIN: Uh-uh. They bring in people every once in awhile...

PESCA: Right.

MARTIN: To, kind of, texturize the sound. It's just them. They got a new album out.

PESCA: And those people they bring in have to be ugly.

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MARTIN: Yeah, pretty much.

PESCA: So as not ruin their vibe that they've got going.

MARTIN: They're awesome. The new album is awesome. They came in for a live studio performance, and that is coming up in the show.

PESCA: That's cool. I'm interested in that. Also interested in the new study on how people deal with race in America. The findings? Americans don't deal with race, and that's kind of a problem. We'll talk about that study this hour.

MARTIN: Also, when's the last time you went to a real brick-and-mortar bookstore?

PESCA: What do you mean by "bookstore"? Like, a library where they charge you for things? I don't understand.

MARTIN: What is this concept?

PESCA: I live a block from a library.

MARTIN: You do?

PESCA: It's free. All the stuff is free.

MARTIN: No.

PESCA: What other store is there that equivalent?

MARTIN: I want the - I like to underline in the book. You can't do that in library books.

PESCA: They'd look askance , sure. So, I - you know, when I go to the library, and little Milo tears the pages - oh, my God, I'm turning into Kathie Lee and Cody, but - because I mentioned him yesterday in the show. He once tore a page, so I, like, became a friend of the library for a four-dollar contribution. I felt guilty.

MARTIN: So...

PESCA: I am a friend of the library.

MARTIN: Borders Books, good bookstore, trying to get fancy with their website. They launched a new flashy site yesterday in an effort to revitalize their online presence, because you know what the bigger story is. Those brick and mortar bookstores? Not doing so well. We'll discuss.

PESCA: It's true. And we will get today's headlines in just a minute. But first...

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MARTIN: Senator John McCain appears to be searching for the center. Yesterday, the presumptive Republican nominee outlined a nuclear policy, that policy experts are calling it a departure from current White House policy. He knocked Barack Obama's opinion that the U.S. should sit down with Iran and North Korea, but then continued.

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Senator JOHN MCCAIN (Republican, Arizona): Others think military action alone can achieve our goals, as if military actions were not fraught with their own terrible risks. While the use of force may be necessary, it can only be as a last resort, not a first step.

PESCA: In his speech at the University of Denver, McCain advocated diplomacy to build, quote, "a community of nations drawn together in a common purpose." He also called for a return to Syria's arms-reduction talk with Russia, a stark contrast to the approach taken by the current administration.

MARTIN: And McCain hasn't just been looking to distance himself from President Bush on paper. He also appears to be trying to do it in person. The two haven't appeared together publicly since early March at the White House, when President Bush said this.

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President GEORGE W. BUSH: If he wants me to show up, I will. If he wants me to say, you know, I'm not for him, I will. Whatever he wants me to do, I want him to win.

MARTIN: Well, yesterday, a large McCain fundraiser in Phoenix featured the president - featuring the president was rescheduled for a private residence, far away from cameras. That's in keeping with the McCain campaign's usual policy of refusing media coverage for fundraisers. And late last week at a news conference in central California, McCain was faced with this question, which will be harder in the next few months...

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Unidentified Reporter: Beating Barack Obama or pretending to like George Bush on a daily basis?

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Sen. MCCAIN: Are you with Comedy Central?

PESCA: In the end, McCain basically ducked the question, saying only that he wants to be judged on his own record. On the campaign trail, he's been stressing his independence. Pollster Andrew Kohut from the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press says the image does resonate with voters.

Mr. ANDREW KOHUT (Director, Pew Research Center for the People and the Press): He's seen as a different kind of Republican. He's seen as a maverick Republican. He's seen as a centrist. When we ask people to judge his ideology, they put him very far away from President Bush.

MARTIN: But Democrats are hoping to erode that image and instead focus on McCain's support for the Iraq war and for President Bush's tax cuts. Charlie Black, one of McCain's senior advisors, says so far, that strategy isn't working.

Mr. CHARLIE BLACK (Chief Advisor, John McCain for President 2008): You look at all the national polls against either Democrat, he's basically even, at a time when the Republican brand is lower than even with the Democratic brand. So we're happy with where we are.

PESCA: You can go to npr.org throughout the day for updates on this story. Now, let's get some more of today's headlines with the BPP's Mark Garrison.

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