HUDSON, WIS.—Sen. John McCain sang the praises of town hall meetings at a town hall meeting Friday morning in Hudson.
“I regret that Sen. Obama has not taken up my request to have these town-hall meetings, perhaps together,” McCain told a group of about 700 mostly Republican women at J & L Steel Erectors. “This is a great and exhilarating experience. Of course, sometimes I will stumble and sometimes I later think of something I wished I would have said. But this is a chance to hear what’s on the minds of American people.”
This was billed as an opportunity for McCain to speak on women’s issues. And when he did speak from prepared text, he did address what he perceived as women’s issues.
“First of all, good news,” McCain said. “Women have made enormous progress. Every year, women in the Senate.”
He went on to praise the fact that a woman is Speaker of the House (“I just wish she’d switch parties.”). Hillary Rodham Clinton’s bid for the presidency. (“A great role model.”)
“I’m for equal pay for equal work,” said McCain to cheers. “I’m for equal opportunity in every aspect of our society.”
The site of this meeting, J & L Steel Erectors, had been picked for a couple of reasons: 1. It is located in the fastest growing county in Wisconsin. 2. J & L is owned by a woman, Lou Anne Reger.
Questions from audience
But when the program moved from McCain’s prepared remarks to questions from the audience, women’s issues didn’t sound much different from anybody else’s. There were questions about energy (“45 new nuclear power plants,” said McCain). Questions about Guantanamo. (“I don’t believe in torture, but I don’t agree with the Supreme Court either. “Some of these are the most evil people in the world.”) There was a question about whether McCain would “call out the Democrats and their Marxist ideas.” (“Yes,” he said, but later started talking about the importance of working across the aisle.)
There was a question from a Minnesota woman about whether McCain would select Gov. Tim Pawlenty as his running mate. McCain said Pawlenty was a “NEXT generation” leader.
There was even a question about Brett Favre and whether the Green Bay Packer quarterback should come out of retirement.
McCain sidestepped the question and used it as a chance to talk about the role models that athletes can be for fitness.
Childhood obesity, he said, “is the elephant in the room when discussing American’s economy.”
McCain spoke with the group for more than 90 minutes before heading to Eau Claire, Wis., where he is to board a plane for a trip home to Arizona.
Doug Grow, a former metro columnist for the Star Tribune, writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.