In aboard his campaign plane this morning, John McCain said that he is open to choosing a pro-choice running mate and named former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge as someone who merits serious consideration despite his support for abortion rights. McCain also criticized Barack Obama's presidential campaign for attempts to "politicize" the debate over Georgia and criticized President Bush for failing to recognize the true nature of Vladimir Putin. "I think that the pro-life position is one of the important aspects or fundamentals of the Republican Party," McCain said. "And I also feel that--and I'm not trying to equivocate here--that Americans want us to work together. You know, Tom Ridge is one of the great leaders and he happens to be pro-choice. And I don't think that that would necessarily rule Tom Ridge out." McCain's comments came in response to a question about comments he made to several reporters during the Republican primary season. During that exchange, McCain was asked whether New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg would make a good running mate. McCain offered strong words of praise for Bloomberg but said that Bloomberg's position on abortion--he is also pro-choice--would make it difficult to choose him as a vice presidential candidate. In the interview this morning, McCain suggested that Ridge would be more palatable to social conservatives than Bloomberg. "I think it's a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice. We just have a--albeit strong--but just it's a disagreement. And I think Ridge is a great example of that. Far moreso than Bloomberg, because Bloomberg is pro-gay rights, pro, you know, a number of other issues." Of the four individuals most frequently mentioned as potential McCain runningmates--Joe Lieberman, Tom Ridge, Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty--Lieberman and Ridge are pro-choice and Romney, by his own account, was pro-choice until at least November 2004. (During the primary, McCain's campaign challenged this claim by highlighting a May 2005 press conference in which Romney said he was committed to the "status quo" on "abortion and choice.")McCain has a solid pro-life voting record and has promised to appoint "strict constructionists" to the Supreme Court. His campaign website says: "John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench. Constitutional balance would be restored by the reversal of Roe v. Wade, returning the abortion question to the individual states. The difficult issue of abortion should not be decided by judicial fiat." Earlier in the interview, McCain criticized the Obama campaign for comments Obama adviser Susan Rice made on Hardball last night. Rice suggested that McCain's strong anti-Russian rhetoric might have contributed to difficulties there. "John McCain shot from the hip, a very aggressive, very belligerent statement," Rice told MSNBC. "He may or may not have complicated the situation." McCain raised Rice's comments unprompted and laughed them off before saying: "It's just an example--they politicize these issues without understanding that national security is not something that's a political issue. Same thing with the surge. It's in keeping with sort of the path that they've been on--to politicize national security for their perceived short term political interests." Over the past five days, McCain said, Obama has shown his lack of experience on foreign policy issues and a lack of understanding of the region. McCain, asked why he had not directly criticized Obama's response to the crisis, said: "Well, I'm more concerned about the situation there, number one. Number two is--people will make their own judgment. But I think people will obviously conclude that his inexperience and his lack of knowledge of this region and the issues are very apparent. But I think people will reach that conclusion." McCain often jokes that when he first saw into Vladimir Putin's eyes he was "a K, a G and a B," a reference to Putin's experience in Russia's intelligence services and George W. Bush's claim, back in 2002, that he saw into Putin's soul and found a good man. Asked if his comments were to be taken as a criticism of Bush, McCain said: "Yep, yep." And what is his assessment of Bush administration policy toward Putin's Russia? McCain shifts to the passive voice. "Well, I've always believed there was not significant appreciation of the realities of Vladimir Putin. And I think that it's very obvious that as soon as he came to power he went directly to the suppression of Chechnya. That was the utmost brutality. We looked on it somewhat benignly because they were terrorists, they were Islamic extremists, and all that kind of stuff. But I think we have not appreciated enough that this individual is interested in restoring the Russian empire. And I don't mean to say, Steve, that this is the re-ignition of the Cold War--that we're now going to have nuclear confrontation or a Cuban Missile Crisis or anything like that. And I don't think that's his interest, either. But I do believe that he's hell-bent on the restoration of Russia as a major power in the world with safe and secure regional interests in a region that is clearly aligned in the Russian orbit."
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