McCain Calls For Strong Diplomacy On Georgia

Republican presidential hopeful Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) dominates the campaign trail while his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, is on vacation. McCain continued his tough stance against Russia's actions in Georgia, calling for strong diplomacy to end the crisis.

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One of many warnings for Russia today came from John McCain. Campaigning in Pennsylvania, he called for the United States, the United Nations and NATO to begin robust diplomacy to end the violence in the Caucasus. McCain said Russia's actions could threaten that nation's future relationship with the U.S. He spoke out while his opponent, Barack Obama, continued to vacation in Hawaii.

NPR's David Greene reports.

DAVID GREENE: John McCain has the campaign trail to himself, and he wasted no time taking advantage of it. Early this morning, he came to the microphone at his hotel in Pennsylvania.

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona; Presidential Candidate): Americans wishing to spend August vacationing with their families or watching the Olympics may wonder why their newspapers and television screens are filled with images of war in the small country of Georgia.

GREENE: Georgia may seem like an obscure nation, McCain said, but he said the violence there is alarming. He said Russia is trying to intimidate some of its neighbors who've become allies of the West.

Sen. McCAIN: Russian President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin must understand the severe long-term negative consequences that their government's actions will have for Russia's relationship with the United States and Europe.

GREENE: McCain's campaign has argued that the senator was out in front on this issue. Last week, when the violence began, McCain quickly blamed Russia while others including Barack Obama urged restraint from both Russia and Georgia. Over the weekend, Obama began toughening his language and he said in a statement today that Russia is escalating the crisis and has violated Georgia's sovereignty.

This morning in Erie, McCain didn't mention Obama. McCain did play up his own credentials.

Sen. McCAIN: I've met with President Saakashvili many times including several trips to Georgia.

GREENE: After his statement, McCain took a trip to a General Electric plant in Erie where he spent time talking to workers. He said he understands their struggles.

Sen. McCAIN: Tonight, families will be sitting around the kitchen table saying, how are we going to stay in our home? How are we going to educate our kids? We can't afford health care, and some hundreds of thousands have recently and suddenly lost their jobs.

GREENE: And McCain promised help. He said he would invest in new technologies that would allow companies like GE to thrive, and McCain said keeping taxes low is another way to help working families. Erie was McCain's first stop on a two-day visit to the Keystone state.

Sen. McCAIN: Pennsylvania, as every political pundit will tell you, will be one of the battleground states, again, for not the first time. And so you're going to be seeing a lot of me in this state, and we're going to be on the bus and we're going to go up from town to town.

GREENE: As McCain made his way across Pennsylvania today, he was still dealing with the tough news last week in another swing state, Ohio. The German-owned shipping company DHL said it planned to outsource its airfreight operations. It's a move that could cost Ohio thousands of jobs. And Obama is out with the radio ads, blaming McCain.

(Soundbite of political ad)

Unidentified Man: It was McCain who used his influence in the Senate to help foreign-owned DHL buy a U.S. company.

GREENE: McCain and his campaign manager Rick Davis did have a role in 2003 when DHL and its German parent company Deutsche Post took over the American firm Airborne Express. At the time, the takeover looked like it would help, not hurt the state of Ohio.

Last week, McCain met with residents who could be hit by job losses.

Sen. McCAIN: I believe that it would be important for the chief decision makers at Deutsche Post would come here - come here to Wilmington, come here to Ohio -and explain the reasons and rationale for their decision and meet with the people and their representatives.

GREENE: McCain has also said the federal government should be ready to help retrain workers if their positions are cut.

David Greene, NPR News, traveling with the McCain campaign.

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