John McCain: 'I'm the Same Person'

McCain talks about distrusting Sen. Barbara Boxer, being "proud" of Sarah Palin.

October 18, 2010, 12:41 PM

Oct. 18, 2010— -- Sen. John McCain is not afraid to use fighting words.

After lashing out at Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. during a campaign speech for her opponent, Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, on Saturday, McCain continued to bash the incumbent democrat off-stage.

"[Working with Boxer] has been an unpleasant experience because Barbara Boxer personalizes the political discourse that we have and that's why she's had so very little effect of any kind in the political process," the Arizona Republican told Terry Moran of ABC News' "Nightline" in an exclusive interview after the campaign event. "There is no Republican that will work with her."

McCain, 74, had ripped into Boxer during his appearance at the Fiorina event in San Diego immediately before, accusing Boxer of being anti-military and endangering American national security.

"[Fiorina] will never waive the white flag of surrender the way that Barbara Boxer has tried to do every single time we have been in a conflict," McCain told his audience at the Veterans Museum in Balboa Park.

"Barbara Boxer is the most bitterly partisan, the most anti-defense Senator in the U.S. Senate today," he said. "I know that because I have had the unpleasant experience of having to serve with her."

In his first extensive television interview since defeating Hayworth in the Arizona primary, echoes from the 2008 election lingered as McCain again said he supported his former running mate former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin.

"I haven't seen anyone since Ronald Reagan that with certain individuals and large groups of individuals who really have this passionate belief and support for her," he said, "It's really a remarkable thing to observe."

McCain also again defended his decision to bring Palin onto the national scene under his name.

"I couldn't be more proud of the campaign she waged," he said. "I couldn't be more proud of her or her performance and her continued performance. So, I think, you begin to think about legacy and I think that Sarah Palin will play a very big role in the American political scene for a very long time."

McCain was hiteven harder than usual from the right this summer as he faced a primary challenge from former congressman J.D. Hayworth.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., the architect behind the current crop of Tea Party candidates, said that he wanted "30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in the principles of freedom than 60 who don't believe in anything." Many saw the comments as a swipe at McCain, suggesting he hadn't been conservative enough during his time in the Senate.

Advocating for a big tent that includes far right conservatives, McCain said, "I work with the tea partiers in Arizona and I'm the one that fought against earmarks since it wasn't popular to do so....I think we have to recognize that there are different parts of our country and political flavor ... to be an inclusive party, we have to also have members who may not agree on every issue."

He added, "There is a movement across this country of anger and frustration with Washington, with the economy, with spending that has got to be reflected in the Congress," he said.

John McCain on Obama: 'The Most Partisan Administration I Have Ever Seen'

McCain went on to accuse President Barack Obama of not once approaching him to work on bi-partisan issues, and said, "This is the most partisan administration that I have ever seen ... and I came to the congress in 1983."

Despite his seeming resentment towards Obama's policies, McCain said he harbored no ill feelings towards the president himself.

"I'm the most fortunate man in America and for me to look back in anger at the wonderful life and experience that I've had would be foolish," he said. "[Obama] won fair and square. ... I accept the verdict of the American people and it's been a great honor for me to have served."

During his primary campaign against challenger J.D. Hayworth, McCain came under attack for moving to the right on several issues, including immigration reform and don't ask, don't tell" -- a policy on homosexuals serving openly in the military. Criticism that McCain rejected.

"I haven't changed on Don't Ask Don't Tell," he said. "On climate change I've said we have to have nuclear power which this administration has rejected."

McCain Answers Charges of 'Selling Out'

However, McCain conceded that he did change his stance on immigration, but said it was because he was following what the voters wanted.

"On immigration that was shifted with, frankly because the American people spoke they want the border secure," he said.

In an interview on April 3, 2010, McCain told Newsweek's David Margolick that he "never considered myself a maverick," prompting "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart to skewer him, saying, "It's like 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter' saying 'I never believed I was butter!'"

McCain explained what he meant in his recent interview with "Nightline."

"I consider myself a person who stands up for what they believe in," he said. "When I was against President Bush on a number of issues I was called a maverick. When I was against President Obama, then I'm called a partisan. What I was trying to say -- I'm the same person."

When asked if he would ever run for president again, McCain said it was out of the question, noting that he "wasn't getting any younger."

"No. Nope. I've run twice and what was that old line by some southern politician, 'There is no education [better] than two kicks of a mule' -- the second kick."

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