“A man of integrity and a lifelong pro-life advocate” is how the former governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating, describes presidential contender John McCain. In a conference call that took place this afternoon with Catholic leaders from around the country, McCain explained to CNA where he stands on issues of concern to Catholics.
Pro-life issues were front and center as Fr. Frank Pavone, the president of Priests for Life, began the discussion by thanking Sen. McCain for his “clear and convincing pro-life voting record.”
Fr. Pavone took issue with politicians who regard their beliefs on abortion as personal beliefs without public ramifications and asked Sen. McCain what approach he will take to speaking about abortion. Even more specifically, Fr. Pavone wanted to know if Sen. McCain would raise the issue of abortion as a matter of social justice rather than a matter of private beliefs.
McCain replied, “Father I always quote that we are all created equal and endowed by our Creator with the inalienable rights, among them are life, and that applies to the born as well as the unborn… and I believe it is a human right, as you said. And that’s why I’ve struggled for human rights all over the world…”
When asked how often he would raise the issue of protecting the unborn from abortion as a human rights issue, the senator said, “…of course I would speak out for them because I think that one of the enduring legacies and obligations of the United States of America is to continue to be a beacon of hope and freedom and that means advocacy for human rights.”
John McCain also mentioned who he would look to for advice on pro-life issues. “I would surround myself with people, in particular with Sam Brownback and Frank Keating, people who will provide me with the moral and spiritual guidance on this issue and other issues….”
One pro-life issue that Sen. McCain is at odds with Catholic teaching about is his position on embryonic stem cell research. John Jakubczyk, a pro-life leader from Arizona, asked the presidential candidate if the latest breakthrough in stem cell research would mean that he might change his stance from being in favor of embryonic research to being against it.
McCain responded that he is excited by and very interested in the latest research breakthroughs, but that “I’m not there yet on changing that position for a couple reasons: one, I don’t think it’s totally been proven yet and second of all, there’s always the flip-flop aspect of this issue”.
Sen. McCain also sees his policy on immigration as an issue of human rights and security. Acknowledging that his efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform had failed, the presidential candidate said that he will focus on securing America’s border first, before pursuing more comprehensive reforms.
The Arizona senator does not want to stop at securing the borders. Pairing himself with Sen. Brownback, he said, “Sam and I and others, understand that we have to secure the borders”.
At the same time, McCain sees the treatment that some illegal immigrants have received from as inhumane. “I don’t think that it’s the proudest chapter in American history, what we’re going through right now.”
“We’ve got to raise the level of dialogue,” he continued. “We’ve got to understand that these are God’s children. And we need to address the issue with compassion and love,” said McCain.
When asked about the issue of reuniting families separated by deportation, the presidential aspirant said that he favors efforts to promote reunification.
McCain was also queried about how things are going on the campaign trail.
“In New Hampshire we’re a solid second and moving up while Romney moves down,” the senator related.
He also mentioned that in South Carolina he has a “very strong political base”.
“But I also have to give you some straight talk,” McCain said. “In Iowa we’re having significant challenges and part of that has to do with my opposition to subsidies for ethanol, my opposition to subsidies for cotton in Arizona and my belief that subsidies distort markets and I’m all in favor of ethanol. I think it’s fine. I just don’t think it needs to be subsidized.”
“The immigration [issue] has hurt me a bit, or more than a bit, some, in South Carolina,” he said.
Ending his summary, Sen. McCain noted that “some 70% of voters have not made up their minds yet,” and that the presidential campaign is “incredibly volatile”. McCain sees the road to the White House as an uphill battle but is counting on his work ethic. “I promise you I can out-campaign all of them,” he declared.