Register reporter interviews John McCain on 'Straight Talk Express' bus

SANDUSKY Except for the words "Straight Talk Express" emblazoned on the side, the bus look
Cory Frolik
May 24, 2010



Except for the words "Straight Talk Express" emblazoned on the side, the bus looks no different than a thousand other buses that carry tourists around the country every day.

But inside is a different story.

Faces familiar from television are everywhere -- the most striking of which belongs to one of the two remaining men who have a chance to become the 44th president of the United States of America.

Sen. John McCain leans forward and extends his hand. "Nice to see you," the senator says.

After giving a brief speech in downtown Sandusky, McCainpermitted five local reporters to climb aboard the Straight Talk Express with him. He gave the local press 15 minutes of his time.

Boarding the bus, reporters were led past a team of people in suits with Styrofoam lunch boxes on their laps. Near the back, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham stood gazing out the window.

In the very back of the bus was a U-shaped couch and folding table. This is where McCain sat, flanked by two familiar faces.

Seated on his right was Joe the Plumber, dressed in jeans and a brown, long-sleeved shirt. Cindy McCain was seated on his left, wearing a pink tweed jacket and sipping from a to-go coffee cup, occasionally glancing at herBlackberry.

McCain seemed genuinely pleased to have reporters in his midst. He cracked wise aboutGraham's southern accent and took a moment to compliment Joe the Plumber.

Then it was down to business.

Asked what he will do to bring jobs to small cities like Sandusky, McCain shot off a list of emerging industries.

"Clean coal technology. Alternative energy. Give people health insurance that they can afford, that is available. And again, we have to keep taxes low and get spending under control. You cannot keep doing what we've been doing in Washington. ... And also, the automotive industry -- we've got to obviously bring it back. Flex fuel, hydrogen, battery -- all those combinations. Small business remains the heart and soul of the economy. Sixteen million jobs are dependent on it that would get affected by Sen. Obama's tax increase, and 50 percent of small business income would be affected by it," McCain said.

Pressed whether he believed domestic auto makers were still part of a viable industry -- that they could "bounce back -- McCain said he did.

"We have to. I believe that the Volt (an electric car being developed by General Motors) and a number of the automobiles that are being developed now, we ought to give people a $5,000 tax credit to buy one of them -- No. 1. And No. 2 is it could revolutionize America and eliminate our dependence on foreign oil, which is$700 billion a year we're sending overseas," he said.

The U.S. president is in a position to free up federal funds to promote research and market new technology, McCain said. Leaningforward for emphasis, he asserted that 700,000 jobs could be created by building 45 nuclear power plants across the country.

Elaborating on his economic plans, McCain attacked his opponent's approach to solving the current financial crisis.

"The worst thing you can do, by the way, is raise taxes in a bad economy, and that's what Sen. Obama wants to do," McCain said.

Moving onto the topic of "wasteful" spending, McCain reiterated his hard-line stance on vetoing any legislation bloated with pork.

"I think it's compelling that 25 years ago a pork barrel project was a rare occurrence. Now it's billions of billions of billions of dollars. And if there's a worthwhile project in Sandusky, Ohio, it should compete with every other. It should not be dependent on the power of the congressman or senator. It should be competitiveness and requirement for it," McCain said.

Joe "the Plumber" Wurzelbacher kept quiet most of the interview. But when asked by a reporter why he was on the Straight Talk Express -- and not the Barack Obama equivalent -- he pulled no punches speaking about the Democratic presidential hopeful.

"John McCain embodies a lot of things I admire. Being a war hero is one. ... That and I mean Obama is absolutely just scary. I don't know how to put it -- I don't slander people. ... He's pretty much taking and destroying what our founding fathers defended and worked hard for, and created," Wurzelbacher said. McCain said he did not have a message that stuck until Wurzelbacher came along. But the Ohio plumber was a game-changer.

"Joe Wurzelbacher was able to crystallize what this campaign is all about," McCain said.

A minute after McCain said this, the Straight Talk Express slowed to a stop, and the reporters weretold it was time to go.

McCain and the famous plumber had many more places to visit. Time will tell if his message stuck enough.