During the Associated Press annual meeting luncheon, Ron Fournier repeatedly asked Sen. John McCain whether he believes Sen. Barack Obama is an "elitist," citing comments Obama recently made. When McCain replied at one point, "I don't know, because I don't know him very well," Fournier asked, "You served with him for a couple of years. Did you ever see elitist behavior from him?"
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At the April 14 Associated Press annual meeting luncheon, referring to comments Sen. Barack Obama made on April 6, AP political writer Ron Fournier repeatedly asked Sen. John McCain whether he thinks Obama is an "elitist." Fournier asked: "You made a vague reference in your speech to Senator Obama's comments recently about working-class voters. Do you think the senator is an elitist?" McCain replied in part: "Oh, I don't -- no -- I don't -- I think those comments are elitist." When Fournier followed up by asking, "If those remarks were elitist, which you say they are ... does that make him an elitist?" McCain responded, "I don't know, because I don't know him very well." Fournier then asked: "You served with him for a couple of years. Did you ever see elitist behavior from him?"
In his March 17 "On Deadline" column, Fournier asserted that Obama is "bordering on arrogance" and that "both Obama and his wife, Michelle, ooze a sense of entitlement."
From the 10 a.m. ET hour of the April 14 edition of MSNBC Live:
McCAIN: Now before I take your questions, I'd like to respond briefly to the comments one of my opponents made the other day about the psychology and political mindset of Americans living in small towns and other areas that have experienced the loss of industrial jobs.
During the Great Depression, with many millions of Americans out of work and the country suffering the worst economic crisis in our history, there rose from small towns, rural communities, inner cities, a generation of Americans who fought to save the world from despotism and mass murder and came home to build the wealthiest, strongest, and most generous nation on Earth. They were not born with the advantages others in our country enjoy. They suffered the worst during the Depression, but it had not shaken their faith in and fidelity to America and its founding ideals. Nor had it destroyed their confidence that America and their own lives could be made better. Nor did they turn to their religious faith and cultural traditions out of resentment and a feeling of powerlessness to affect the course of government or pursue prosperity.
On the contrary, their faith -- their faith had given generations of their families purpose and meaning, as it does today. And their appreciation of traditions like hunting was based in nothing -- nothing other than their contribution to the enjoyment of their lives. In my other profession in the war I served in, the country relied overwhelmingly on Americans from these same communities to defend us. As Tocqueville discovered when he traveled America 200 years ago, they are the heart and soul of this country, the foundation of our strength and the primary authors of its essential goodness.
They are our inspiration, and I look to them for guidance and strength. No matter their personal circumstances, they believed in this country. They revered its past. But most importantly, they believed in its future greatness, a greatness they themselves would create. They never forgot who they were, where they came from, and what is possible in America, a country founded on an ideal -- on an idea and not on class, ethnic, or sectarian identity, and America must not and will not forget them.
FOURNIER: You made a vague reference in your speech to Senator Obama's comments recently about working-class voters. Do you think the senator is an elitist?
McCAIN: Oh, I don't -- no -- I don't -- I think those comments are elitist. I think that anybody who disparages people who are hard-working, honest, dedicated people who have cherished the Second Amendment and the right to hunt and the right to observe that and their values and their culture that they value and that they've grown up with and sometimes in the case of generations, and saying that's because they're unhappy with their economic conditions -- I think that's a fundamental contradiction of what I believe America is all about, that I tried to describe in my remarks. These are the people that produce a generation that made the world safe for democracy. These are the people that, today, their sons and daughters are in harm's way defending this nation. These are the people that have fundamental cultural, spiritual, and other values that, in my view, have very little to do with their economic condition but has everything to do what Tocqueville said America was all about 200 years ago and is the same today.
FOURNIER: If those remarks were elitist, which you say they are --
FOURNIER: -- does that make him an elitist?
McCAIN: I don't know, because I don't know him very well. I don't know Senator Obama very well. I can only look at his remarks, and I've seen them now several times, and say that those are certainly not the vision that I have of America and its strength and its greatness and what its fundamental values and beliefs are.
FOURNIER: You served with him for a couple of years. Did you ever see elitist behavior from him?
McCAIN: Well -- I know that positions on many of the issues that he has taken -- I don't know if you would call it elitist, but certainly are fundamentally different than mine. I mean, I am less government, less regulation, lower taxes, et cetera, et cetera. Ranging from national security to domestic issues, we are very different. That's why the American people will have the opportunity with either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama to see some stark contrasts in our vision for the future of America. And I look forward to that debate. I look forward to having that discussion all across America. I wish it wasn't so -- I wish the debate wasn't so protracted.
FOURNIER: So do they.
McCAIN: But certainly I look forward to it.
LIZ SIDOTI (AP political writer): Senator, a little straight talk here. Are we in a recession?