Monday, June 23, 2008

Sen. McCain offers $300 million prize for new auto battery

GLEN JOHNSON / Associated Press

John McCain hopes to solve the country's energy crisis with cold hard cash.

The Republican presidential nominee-in-waiting is proposing a $300 million government prize to whomever can develop an automobile battery that far surpasses existing technology.

The bounty would equate to $1 for every man, woman and child in the country, "a small price to pay for helping to break the back of our oil dependency," McCain said in remarks prepared for delivery Monday at Fresno State University in California.

McCain said such a device should deliver power at 30 percent of current costs and have "the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars."

The Arizona senator is also proposing stiffer fines for automakers who skirt existing fuel-efficiency standards, as well as incentives to increase use of domestic and foreign alcohol-based fuels such as ethanol.

In addition, a so-called Clean Car Challenge would provide U.S. automakers with a $5,000 tax credit for every zero-carbon emissions car they develop and sell.

"In the quest for alternatives to oil, our government has thrown around enough money subsidizing special interests and excusing failure," said excerpts from McCain's prepared text. "From now on, we will encourage heroic efforts in engineering, and we will reward the greatest success."

The proposal comes as gasoline has reached a record cost over $4 a gallon. That has boosted the price of virtually all goods and services, sent commuters flocking to public transportation and increased tensions between the United States and its Middle Eastern oil suppliers.

Last week McCain suggested one way to ease supply concerns would be to lift a federal ban on offshore oil drilling if individual states want to allow it. His Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, opposes that idea, saying it would do nothing to address immediate price concerns.

In his latest speech, McCain expressed exasperation both with the federal government and the private sector.

He said rising costs during a time of stagnant wages evokes the 1970s era of "stagflation."

Without blaming his fellow Republicans in the Bush administration directly, McCain said: "It feels the same today, because the unwise policies of our government have left America's energy future in the control of others."

The pork-barrel opponent also blasted "a hodgepodge of incentives" for the purchase of fuel-efficient cars.

"Different hybrids and natural-gas cars carry different incentives, ranging from a few hundreds dollars to four grand. They're the handiwork of lobbyists, with all the inconsistency and irrationality that involves," McCain said.

Training his sights on Detroit, the senator noted Brazil went from about 5 percent to over 70 percent flex-fuel capability in its vehicles in just three years. At the same time, U.S. automakers -- who helped with Brazil's shift -- say it will take them longer just to reach a 50 percent goal.

"Whether it takes a meeting with automakers during my first month in office, or my signature on an act of Congress, we will meet the goal of a swift conversion of American vehicles away from oil," McCain said in his remarks.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Records shed light on career of McCain's father

Candidate's dad described as nervous, social, underweight, honest and stoic

This Sept. 2, 1945 black-and-white file photo provided by the McCain Presidential Campaign shows Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain's father and grandfather on the bridge of the submarine tender USS Proteus, in Tokyo Bay a few hours after WWII had ended. It was the last time father and son saw each other. The father died of a heart attack several days later.

As John S. McCain Jr. started down the road toward four-star admiral, he hit a bump.

McCain, the father of presidential candidate John McCain, was smitten by a pretty blond coed, Roberta Wright. The 22-year-old ensign left his ship, without permission, to elope.

"Showed lack of judgment," his commanding officer concluded. "He might have readily obtained such permission to get married." McCain was suspended for five days.

This youthful indiscretion went into McCain's official military personnel file, a 4-inch-thick stack of documents released to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act.

McCain apologized for his infraction, writing, "I contacted a messmate and asked him to inform my division officer as to my intentions and that I would be absent from quarters the next morning."

A Race for the White House panel discusses Sen. John McCain's first TV ad of the general elections, which focuses on his military service in Vietnam and will air in the battleground state of New Mexico.

Race for the White House"This method was irregular but the urgency of the situation and the absolute secrecy necessary made this seem the only solution at the time," he wrote. "I thoroughly realize that the manner in which I handled the situation was wrong and I would like to say that it will never occur again."

High-strung and underweightThe papers show that McCain's path quickly straightened out, and he went on to earn the same four-star rank as his illustrious father, Adm. John S. "Slew" McCain Sr.

But first, McCain had to get through the stress of submarine training and the early years of his marriage. A fitness report in 1934 said he was high-strung and underweight — so underweight, he was being treated for weight loss at Pearl Harbor Naval Hospital. "It is thought that with added experience in submarines more self-confidence will result eliminating the noticeable nervousness that is evident," his commanding officer wrote.

In fact, McCain blamed his new wife's cooking, or lack of it, for the weight loss. "My wife doesn't know how to cook, and my meals are very irregular," McCain wrote in response to his fitness report. (This response does not appear in the documents released by the Navy, but Slew McCain obtained a copy and, much amused, kept it to show friends, according to the 1999 book "Faith of My Fathers," written by John S. McCain III, the presidential candidate.)

Rising from the bottomMcCain, like his father and later his son, had been in his share of trouble at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., graduating 18th from the bottom of his class. Then in Submarine School, he stood No. 28 in a class of 29.

But while McCain was not afraid to break rules, he seemed very anxious to succeed, a desire that impressed his superiors. "This officer is extremely tactful and loyal," Lt. Herman Sall wrote in a September 1934 fitness report. "His military duties are done in a highly satisfactory manner. He is in all aspects qualified for promotion. He exhibits a varying degree of nervousness which should be lost with increase of age and experience."

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews tells viewers that when in trouble the Republican party ‘has always turned to a military man’ and has done it again through Sen. John McCain.

This is the last reference to any sign of nervousness in the newly released documents; subsequent fitness reports were ever more glowing, noting his interest in new submarine tactics as the United States entered World War II.

"His zeal in the investigation and development of new submarine tactics and weapons has been outstanding," Lt. Cmdr. R.M. Peacher wrote in 1944 after McCain had won the Silver Star as commander of the USS Gunnel.

'Little man with the big cigar'Aside from military skill, McCain was known for his personality and sociability, important traits in the insular world of the Navy.

"There is only one Jack McCain!" Adm. H.P. Smith wrote in 1965. "Vice Admiral McCain, by his enthusiasm, honesty and delightful personality makes many friends, not only officially but socially. He is energetic and enthusiastic in all his undertakings. The 'little man with the big cigar' is known to everyone."
While the documents help to sketch a picture of the man, they are notable for what is omitted.

Missing from the documents is any reference to McCain's drinking. His son, the presidential candidate, has written that his father drank too much. "He didn't drink at work, and was never completely incapacitated by his weakness," McCain wrote in "Faith of My Fathers." "But he would often ease his way into social settings by drinking too much. And, as with most people, drinking changed his personality in unattractive ways. When he was drunk, I did not recognize him."

Also missing is any reference to his Navy fighter pilot son, not even when he was shot down over Hanoi and taken prisoner in October 1967. A fitness report that year, before his son's capture, notes McCain's "boundless energy," his promotion to the rank of admiral and his appointment to commander in chief of U.S. naval forces in Europe.

That the papers are silent about his son seems in keeping with a stoicism his son has described. In "Faith of My Fathers," McCain wrote that his parents were in London, dressing for a dinner party, when they got word their son had been shot down; the Navy didn't think he had survived.

"My father informed my mother of what had happened," he wrote in the book. "They kept their dinner engagement, never mentioning to any of the other guests the distressing news they had just learned."

OriginaL MSNBC article link: