Senators John McCain and Barack Obama have addressed issues of both general interest and of special concern to Catholics in two separate e-mail interviews with the magazine U.S. Catholic. The interviews, published in the October 2008 edition of U.S. Catholic, show the candidates’ stands on pro-life issues, health care, the environment, immigration, war, and the place of the United States in the world.
The interview began with questions about the pro-life issues of abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and the death penalty.
McCain said he is proud of what he called his “25-year pro-life record in Congress.” Professing support for the reversal of the Supreme Court pro-abortion decision Roe v. Wade, he added that its reversal is “only one step” towards ending abortion.
“Once the question is returned to the states, the fight for life will be one of courage and compassion—the courage of a pregnant mother to bring her child into the world and the compassion of civil society to meet her needs and those of her newborn baby,” McCain wrote.
Obama claimed that “no one is pro-abortion,” but said he “strongly” supports a “woman’s right to choose.” Saying “people of good faith will disagree on this issue,” he expressed commitment to reducing the numbers of abortions by addressing the “underlying factors” he believes drive women to abortion. To reduce abortions, he advocated programs of “comprehensive health- and age-appropriate sex education,” but also increasing pre- and post-natal care, parental counseling, and support for adoption.
Regarding stem cells, Obama said he was sorry that President Bush “has fought this potentially life-saving research,” apparently referring to Bush’s restrictions on embryonic stem cell research funding. He professed his belief that such research should be conducted with “the highest ethical standards,” explaining that he had co-sponsored U.S. Senate legislation requiring that donors provide written consent and that such research use only embryos “that would otherwise be discarded.”
The Illinois senator also told U.S. Catholic that he supported research into the viability of adult stem cells and cord blood.
McCain said stem cell research offers “tremendous hope,” adding “The compassion to relieve suffering and to cure deadly disease, however, cannot erode moral and ethical principles.” He did not mention his own support for funding embryonic stem cell research.
McCain did voice his support for capital punishment for “heinous crimes” when circumstances warrant it. Obama said he had worked to ensure that capital punishment is administered “fairly and justly,” saying he believes there are crimes “so heinous” that they deserve the death penalty.
Regarding poverty, McCain pledged to prioritize the eradication of poverty through programs like domestic oil drilling and higher fuel economy standards to lower the cost of gas. He said he would “overhaul” unemployment insurance to gear it towards worker retraining, while he also endorsed strengthening community colleges and technical training.
Obama said his work as a community organizer helped him witness the hardship of struggling Americans. Endorsing tax credits for those in need, he also pledged to create a universal mortgage credit and a fund to help homeowners avoid foreclosure.
On environmental topics, Obama pledged to make the U.S. a global leader on climate change by creating a Global Energy Forum and rejoining post-Kyoto treaty negotiations. McCain called climate change the “single greatest environmental challenge of our time,” endorsing the Lexington Project to increase “dependable” energy resources and to clean up the environment.
Turning to health care, McCain told U.S. Catholic that health care plans should be made more “portable and affordable” through “generous” tax credits, “direct refundable” credits worth $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for families to offset the cost of insurance.
Obama similarly said health care should be portable and affordable, saying his own health care plan would reduce costs by $2,500 for families. Saying no one would be turned away because of pre-existing conditions, he claimed that his plan includes “reasonable” premiums, “comprehensive” benefits, and “simplified” enrollment and paperwork.
On immigration, Obama said undocumented workers should be “brought out of the shadows” by creating a “pathway” to legitimate citizenship.
“They should pay a fine, pay taxes, and learn English,” he said, adding that he supports secure borders, a streamlined citizenship process for legal immigrants, and an improved legal visa system.
McCain lamented the failure of recent immigration reform legislation, saying Americans needed more reassurance about border security before they could support immigration reform. Calling for “practical, fair, and necessary immigration policy,” he endorsed the creation of a system to check a worker’s identity using a “limited set of secure documents that contain biometric data and are electronically verifiable.”
War and Terrorism
Regarding the war in Iraq and terrorism issues, Obama said the U.S. should use the withdrawal of troops to strategically “increase pressure on the Iraqi political leaders to come to a political agreement.” Saying war is a decision that must not be made lightly, he said the U.S. should use its “military, economic, diplomatic, and informational power” to advance its security.
According to Sen. McCain, defeating “radical Islamist extremists” is “the transcendent national security challenge of our time.” He similarly said he would use all “instruments of national power” to defend the U.S.
Were there to be a second terrorist attack on U.S. soil, McCain said he “would not rest until the perpetrators were captured or killed,” pledging that the planners of such attacks would be “rapidly targeted.”
“There would be no sanctuaries and no mercy,” he added, saying the U.S. should ensure there are no “safe havens” for terrorists.
McCain professed great optimism about the historical position of the United States, saying “We have a chance in our lifetime to raise the world to a new standard of existence.”
He added that the U.S. cannot “lead by virtue of its power alone,” saying Americans must demonstrate the “virtues of freedom and democracy,” defend the “the rules of international civilized society,” and create new international organizations to advance peace and freedom.
Obama told U.S. Catholic that global political or economic progress should not be made a “zero-sum enterprise,” saying he supported significant increases in global anti-poverty efforts and trade deals that include “binding labor and environmental provisions.”