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Home > India > News > Columnists > K V Kumar

McCain is a man of great conviction

March 14, 2008

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I first met with Senator John McCain briefly in 1988 at a meet-and-greet photo op. I have since heard him speak on several occasions, and have been extremely impressed by him and his values.

When I was president of the National Indian American Chamber of Commerce in the early 1990s, he was chairing the Senate Commerce Committee. In the second half of 1992, I met with him at his Senate office to inform him that I was thinking of setting up an office in Phoenix, Arizona, and that I was planning to visit Phoenix in October to check things out for myself.

Even before I finished, Senator McCain told me that his office in Phoenix would help me in any way possible. 'You are most welcome to come and stay with us,' he added. I accepted his offer to have his office help me out, but politely declined his offer that I stay at his home, feeling that to accept would be an imposition.

The staff at his Phoenix office was very helpful, though people there had no idea who I was. Their help went beyond the call of duty: it was a true reflection of Senator McCain's commitment to help small businesses, whether they were based in Arizona or not. At the time, I was not an Arizona resident and could not have voted for him when he sought re-election, nor could I have contributed to his Senate campaign.

The importance of small business is often under-estimated, even ignored. Small business has been responsible for a majority of the jobs generated in this country in the last decade -- at precisely the time employment opportunities were declining across the board, and outsourcing was making the job situation worse.

In that sense, John McCain is a visionary -- I know from personal example and anecdotal evidence that he supported small businesses when he was a Senator, often going beyond the call of duty, and I know from his public statements that he will continue to support small businesses as President of the United States.

I have always found John McCain to be a man of great conviction. When he feels that an issue is important and needs to be addressed, he goes out of his way to do so in any way he can. As a voter, irrespective of your political affiliation, rest assured that a McCain administration will do much good for small business.

That is only one reason I am backing Senator McCain for our next President -- another is because I have found no politician who is as straightforward as he is. For example, Senator McCain was second to none in supporting the war on terrorism. He was also the first to oppose the failed Iraq war policy, and to ask then defense secretary Don Rumsfeld to step down. Senator McCain had everything to lose by speaking out as he did -- in fact, all available analysis indicates that it is statements such as these that have kept the right wing of the Republican party from getting firmly behind his candidacy. But knowing what he stood to lose, he spoke out anyway.

Again, when the new, modified Iraq policy appeared to be changing things around in Iraq for the better, McCain said as much. He is being blamed for that 'support' of the Iraqi war, but you should remember that following the success of the surge strategy, many politicians have welcomed it. Even Congressman John Murtha, a Democrat from Pennsylvania who has always been a strong opponent of the war, has publicly admitted to the success of the latest strategy.

During election year in particular, candidates pretend to know everything about everything. Senator McCain has been honest enough to tell the public that he is not particularly good at economics -- again, a potentially damaging statement at a time of economic crisis for the country, but he was honest enough to say it.

Some have misinterpreted his remark, and have been suggesting that he is not fitted to handle the country's shaky economic situation properly. This could not be farther from the truth. His critics need to realise that Senator McCain was modestly admitting that economics was not his area of expertise -- however, as I pointed out before, he has chaired the Senate Commerce Committee, and arguably understands the issues affecting our economy better than most.

Additionally, it needs to be remembered that a President does not need to be a world class economist -- he will have expert advice available to him from the Treasury Secretary, Council of Economic Advisers, Federal Reserve Board, and other government agencies that have the necessary know how to properly advise him.

Similarly, his defense of George W Bush's [Images] tax cuts has attracted criticism from various quarters, but it should be pointed out that Senator McCain has repeatedly said that he did not want to vote yes to tax cuts without at the same time instituting spending cuts. His opponents have distorted his statements to suggest that he is two faced on the issue -- welcome, folks, to the world of rough and tumble politics.

Another major issue being held against him is immigration reform. McCain, along with Edward Kennedy, has presented two separate bills for Congress to consider and pass. Perhaps both plans would have been better served if they had explained the alternatives in more detail.

I remember how, in 1986, the issue of amnesty came up as part of efforts to stop illegal immigration. Now, of course, we can see that it did not work. Unless we act fast and make provisions for increased border security and then address the matter of reform, there will be no point to immigration reform -- which is what John McCain has been advocating.

I like Senator McCain's position on this for a number of reasons. First, his primary concern is strengthening our borders. He is firm about deporting illegal immigrants who are criminals, but wants the law-abiding kind to be dealt with on a case by case basis.

In my view the alternatives other presidential candidates have presented on immigration are less than convincing. If more than 12 million illegal immigrants are deported, as some have demanded, the country has to prepare for a major backlash, locally and internationally. These consequences could be even worse than the fallout of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

First, if we deport all illegal immigrants currently in the country, the economy will suffer because of the resulting drastic reduction of the work force, and the consequent drop in production that will in turn trigger a rise in prices.

Second, assuming we do decide to deport all illegal immigrants, as some people have suggested, the question is how are we going to do this? It will involve, among other things, a concerted nationwide effort by the police and intelligence agencies nationwide over a considerable period of time -- at the expense, and to the detriment, of crime fighting and national security efforts. Besides, Congress will then have to find funds for such a major initiative.

Third, if all illegal aliens are deported, we will convert Mexico, currently an excellent and friendly neighbor, and other countries into formidable political enemies. Never forget that the Hispanic population in this country will almost certainly be most unhappy with such a decision, and that dissatisfaction will be manifest in ways difficult to foresee at this point in time. Also, hostile nations such as Iran and Venezuela would love for us to make such a monumental misstep. Do we need to convert friendly neighbors and important business partners into enemies overnight, for no tangible gains whatsoever?

A far more sensible option is to tighten procedures so no more illegal immigrants come into the country. Once that is accomplished, and the problem has been halted, we can proceed to deal with the ones who are already within our borders, on a case by case basis.

That was what McCain advocated in his bill, so why did Congress not pass it? Perhaps it felt that if the immigration reform bill was passed, credit would accrue to President George W Bush. Also, Democrats could have worried that Hispanic voters, on whom they depend to a large extent as a reliable vote bank, would go away from them.

In sum, as a citizen of this country, as a small businessman who is proud to contribute to its economy, and as someone who has been fortunate enough to interact with him over a period of time, I have no doubt whatsoever in my mind when I say that Senator John McCain is, among all the available options, the one best fitted to be the next President of the United States.

K V Kumar, an entrepreneur who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, is a member of the National Finance Committee, John McCain for President 2008, and a member of the Indian American Republican Council.

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