RICHARDSON, Texas — Flanked by Texas Republican leaders, Sen. John McCain said Thursday that he is the only person running for president qualified to address the threat of terrorism.
McCain spoke to 600 employees at Texas Instrument's new factory here. Earlier in the day, he addressed students at Rice University in Houston and held a private fundraiser in Fort Worth.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Rep. Michael Burgess of Lewisville and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey answered questions with McCain and echoed his statements on national security.
McCain continued the argument he began Wednesday with Sen. Barack Obama. McCain, speaking in Tyler, mocked Obama’s position on Iraq, and Obama responded by criticizing McCain’s initial support for the war.
“Then Senator Obama went back and talked about the decision to go to Iraq. That’s about the past,” McCain said, declaring himself as the candidate focused on the future.
McCain also criticized recent negative comments by Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton about the North American Free Trade Agreement.
“I will continue to abide by a solemn agreement we made with Canada and Mexico,” McCain said, maintaining that NAFTA has helped the U.S. economy and created jobs.
On his hope of launching a commission to look at overhauling the tax code, McCain said: “Maybe have Alan Greenspan to head it up, whether he’s alive or dead, it wouldn’t matter. Maybe it could be like Weekend at Bernie’s. Put some dark glasses on him.”
McCain’s stump speech veered back and forth between jokes and starkly serious statements, most of them focused on terrorism and national security.
“If I have to follow him to the gates of hell, I will get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice,” McCain said to applause.
He continued: “This is a transcendental struggle, and we will never surrender. They will. They will surrender.”
McCain showed up about 45 minutes late to the Richardson event. While waiting, the crowd watched a 12-minute video focusing on McCain’s time in Vietnam.
“I apologize for being a few minutes late,” McCain said. “There is some road construction, so if anyone is looking for an earmark pork barrel project, see Senator Hutchison or Representative Burgess to fix that.”
TI spokeswoman Gail Chanders said the McCain campaign approached the company about holding the event. The company offered similar invitations to the other candidates, she said. The company is not endorsing any candidate for president.
TI employee Bill Cream of Richardson said he will likely support the Democratic candidate but found McCain a charismatic speaker.
“He wouldn’t be too bad” as president, Cream said. “He would be a great improvement over the Bush years.”