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August 1, 2008 — Sen. John McCain took Sen. Barack Obama to task at the National Urban League’s conference in Florida earlier today, criticizing the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for not signing on to the Education Equality Project, bi-partisan coalition that promotes similar reforms.
McCain’s speech echoed many of the education themes he promoted at the NAACP convention two weeks ago, including school choice, expansion of Opportunity Scholarships, alternative certification for teachers, and bonuses for those willing to work in the nation’s most troubled schools.
“If Sen. Obama continues to defer to the teachers unions, instead of committing to real reform, then he should start looking for new slogans,” said McCain, whose pledge to give spending discretion to school principals received applause.
League president and CEO Marc Morial said the presidential hopefuls were asked to specifically address the League’s primary concerns: jobs, housing, and small business. “We think the conversation has to be changed, and that is, when you engage with presidential candidates it’s not just about what they want to talk about, it’s what we want to talk about.”
McCain’s remarks also underscored the two candidates’ differences on economic policies, particularly tax proposals. “[Obama] supports proposals to raise top marginal rates paid by small business and families, to raise tax rates on those with taxable incomes of more than $32,000, raise capital gains taxes, raise taxes on dividends, raise payroll taxes and raise estate taxes.
That’s a whole lot of raising, and for millions of families, individuals, and small businesses it will mean a lot less money to spend, save and invest as they see fit,” said McCain, adding that his plan will “preserve the current low rates as they are,” double the personal tax exemption for every dependent, and offer individuals and families a “large tax credit” to buy health insurance.
Before McCain had even finished his speech, the Obama campaign had issued a statement taking issue with McCain’s presentation. “Sen. McCain’s campaign continues to take the low road today with more dishonest attacks that have been proven false repeatedly by independent news outlets like Factcheck.org. While Sen. McCain’s distortions say little about Senator Obama’s plan to give 95% of families a $1,000 tax cut, they speak volumes about a candidate willing to repeat attacks that are simply wrong,” said Obama campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor.
McCain’s comments come the day after his campaign manager said, “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck,” in response to a statement Obama made during a town hall meeting in Missouri. McCain didn’t make mention of Obama’s comments during his Urban League appearance.
Obama will address the group on Saturday afternoon, and according to the League will have an opportunity to comment on the League’s “Opportunity Compact, the organization’s plan to increase opportunities for underrepresented populations.”
On the first day of the conference, Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, lamented the state of the nation’s cities. He said, “For the first time in our history, we are