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McCain in Tucson: ‘Economy is the number one priority’



U.S. Sen. John McCain says the best cure for losing a campaign is to “get busy and get back to work,” and that’s what he plans to do in January when Congress reconvenes.

In a visit Tuesday with the Tucson Citizen Editorial Board, McCain touched on the war in Afghanistan, former vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin, immigration and President-elect Barack Obama.

But the former presidential candidate kept returning to dollars and cents, saying the U.S. is facing “the toughest and gravest economic challenge of our lifetime.”

McCain said he looks forward to working on an economic stimulus package, and the solution to the crisis lies largely with finding a way to solve the mortgage crisis.

“It was the housing crisis that triggered this tsunami, and it should be housing that brings us out,” he said.

Immigration reform remains a priority for McCain, but it will play second fiddle to working on the economy.

“There’s agreement (with Obama) that the issue has to be addressed, and I can’t put words in the mouth of the president-elect, but I think it’s very obvious that the economy is the number one . . . priority right now,” McCain said.

Temporary workers have to be part of any immigration reform that eventually comes before Congress, McCain said.

“I’ll tell you again, and I’m not ashamed or embarrassed: These are God’s children and there has to be a humane solution.”

McCain, who wears the bracelet of a soldier killed in the war, called Afghanistan the “central front” in the war on terror, describing the situation on the ground as “very serious.”

The senator recently returned from a visit to the Middle East and India and said he believes that the talk of “anti-Americanism has been exaggerated.”

“I think our image in the world can be improved, and I think we have a lot of work to do,” he said. “But America is still the most influential country in the world and a force for good.”

Obama “starts with a tremendous reservoir of good will,” McCain said.

“People are enthusiastic and excited by his presence. It is a great opportunity to mend fences.”

McCain, who wore a blue suit with a lavender and blue tie, said it is too early to endorse his former running mate Palin in a run for national office.

“I think she’s going to be an enormous beneficial influence in our party,” McCain said. “But suppose Jon Kyl announced he was running for president? It’s just way too early.”

As for himself, McCain said he’s done with runs for the presidency, but has “every intention of running” for the Senate in 2010.

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