Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Friday defended two debunked television ads attacking Democrat Barack Obama and claimed erroneously that running mate Sarah Palin never sought money for lawmakers' pet projects as Alaska governor. Palin has sought nearly $200 million in earmarks this year alone.
McCain made the comments during a feisty grilling on ABC's "The View," where the panel of female hosts pressed him on Palin's religious views, his position on abortion rights and whether he had traded in his maverick ways to placate conservatives.
In Alaska, meanwhile, the investigator looking into whether Palin abused her power as governor in trying to fire her former brother-in-law asked state lawmakers for the power to subpoena Palin's husband, Todd, a dozen others and the phone records of a top aide. The state House and Senate judiciary committees were expected to grant the request.
McCain's appearance on "The View," which is popular among women, came the day after ABC News aired Palin's first wide-ranging interview. She sought to clarify her views on global warming — in the past she has doubted the connection between human behavior and climate change — and hinted that the U.S. might need to go to war with Russia over its incursion into Georgia.
Palin appeared to agree with Obama that the U.S. military had the right to cross the Pakistani border without the government's approval to seize terrorists there. She also seemed stumped when asked by ABC anchorman Charles Gibson whether she agreed with the so-called "Bush doctrine" of preventive war laid out after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
When asked if she supported the doctrine, Palin replied, "In what respect?"
Palin was in Alaska on Friday, holding meetings and taping a new interview segment with Gibson. She was scheduled to attend a campaign rally in Nevada on Saturday while McCain took the day off, a reflection of her growing status as the GOP ticket's celebrity draw.
The McCain campaign defended Palin's much-criticized inquiry into banning books at her hometown library, saying her questions were only hypothetical.
Shortly after taking office in 1996 as mayor of Wasilla, a city of about 7,000 people, Palin asked the city's head librarian about banning books. Later, Palin told the librarian that she was being fired, although Palin backed off under pressure.
Taylor Griffin, a spokesman for the McCain campaign, said Thursday that Palin asked the head librarian, Mary Ellen Emmons, on three occasions how she would react to attempts at banning books. He said the questions, in the fall of 1996, were hypothetical and entirely appropriate. He said a patron had asked the library to remove a title the year before and Palin wanted to understand how such disputes were handled.
Records on the city's Web site, however, do not show any books were challenged in Wasilla in the 10 years before Palin took office.
On "The View," McCain said that Palin had "ignited a spark" among voters but acknowledged they parted ways on certain issues. The Arizona has said human behavior is largely responsible for climate change and opposes drilling for oil in a federally protected refuge, for example.
McCain also appeared to back off a bit from his claim that Palin was the best vice presidential pick in U.S. history when he joked, "We politicians are never given to exaggeration or hyperbole."
McCain said he had chosen Palin because she would help to reform Washington, specifically cited curbing federal spending for earmarks. When pressed about Palin's record of requesting and accepting such money for Alaska, McCain ignored the record and said, "Not as governor she didn't."
McCain also stood by two of his campaign commercials — one which said Obama favored comprehensive sex education for kindergarten students and another that suggested the Democratic hopeful had called Palin a pig. Both are misleading and factually inaccurate.
Obama, as an Illinois state senator, voted in favor of legislation that would teach age appropriate sex education to kindergartners, including information on rejecting advances by sexual predators. And while Obama told a campaign rally this week that electing McCain would be like "putting lipstick on a pig," he never used the phrase in connection to Palin.
"Those ads aren't true. They're lies," said "View" co-host Joy Behar.
"They're not lies," McCain said, insisting that Obama "chooses his words very carefully" and should never had made the lipstick remark.
McCain defended Palin's conservative religious views but said if president he would maintain a clear separation of church and state. He also reiterated his opposition to Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion rights.
"I believe Roe vs. Wade was a very bad decision," he said to a smattering of boos.
Asked what he would do to overturn the decision, McCain said he would appoint Supreme Court justices who would strictly interpret the Constitution.
McCain appeared irked when Behar asked him whether he had jettisoned his independence as a candidate, contending that he appeared to be in "lock step" with President Bush's policies.
"What specific area have I, quote, 'changed?' Nobody can name it," McCain said.
McCain has changed positions on significant issues. For example, he once opposed Bush's tax cuts but now supports making them permanent. He had opposed lifting the ban on additional offshore drilling but now calls for drilling off the U.S. coast. He was against mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions but now favors them.
Cindy McCain, who joined her husband for the last part of the show, said she disagreed with Palin's view that abortion should be illegal even in cases of rape or incest.
The wealthy beer heiress refused to say how many homes she and her husband own — a question that tripped up the candidate last month. They own multiple properties in Arizona, California and outside Washington, D.C.
"That's not part of this campaign," Cindy McCain said. "We are fortunate to be able to live a good life and share with other people who are not so fortunate."