McCain on GOP debate complaints: ‘Move on’

November 3, 2015

John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, has some advice for his party’s 2016 White House hopefuls unhappy with last week’s CNBC debate:  “I think their complaints are legitimate, but come on, man up and move on. I think it’s OK if the temperature isn’t exactly 67 degrees,” McCain told reporters at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday.

Did the Arizona senator have his own debate requests during his unsuccessful campaign against Democrat Barack Obama? “No,” he almost snorted. “I should have. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe I’d have done better. I should have said, ‘Barack Obama’s only allowed one answer.  How’s that?’ It never crossed my mind, to tell you the truth,” McCain added.

The GOP campaigns met on Monday night to discuss demands for reforms in the wake of the CNBC debate, and the Republican National Committee canceled the next debate, which was to be moderated by NBC News and Telemundo.

McCain said presidential candidates should not be afraid of tough questions, although he said the questions should be fair. The Vietnam War veteran said he thought the media has learned a lesson from the furor, but said the candidates would gain nothing by complaining about reporters.

“I believe that there’s liberal bias in the media. But so what? What does it do for me to complain about it? It doesn’t impress people when you complain about media bias,” McCain said.

“They’re responsible for my losses, they’re responsible for every bad thing that’s happened in my life. They are responsible for my children’s misbehavior. They are responsible for, what else, missing votes. They are responsible for everything bad that’s ever happened in my life. Missing lunch,” said McCain, whose hallway chat with reporters delayed him from the from Senate Republicans’ weekly mid-day meal.

But McCain, a frequent critic of Obama’s foreign policy, did not agree with his 2008 Democratic rival’s criticism of the Republican presidential candidates. Obama tore into the 2016 Republican field during a fundraiser on Monday, questioning how they could handle talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin if they cannot deal with questions from CNBC debate moderators.

“I don’t know how Obama would know how to speak up to Putin, he never has, except to make sure that if Putin knows if he’s re-elected, he’ll be more flexible,” McCain said.

At least one of the 2016 Republican hopefuls shared some of McCain’s views of the debate flap.

“I don’t really care that much. I want a room, I want a podium, and then let’s get going,”  said businessman Donald Trump.

But Trump does not share McCain’s reluctance to criticize the media.

At a news conference in New York, Trump insisted that the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton was given a much easier time than his party’s contenders. “They didn’t talk about her foundation, they didn’t talk about any of the problems. They didn’t talk about the emails,” Trump said. “She only got softballs. That’s all she got. If you look at the way we were treated, it wasn’t the same way.”

Arizona Senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain speaks at a campaign town hall event for South Carolina Senator and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Lindsey Graham in Manchester, New Hampshire, August 1, 2015. REUTERS/Dominick Reuter

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