Republican John McCain is keeping up the drumbeat pressuring Barack Obama to join him in a series of town hall meetings before the respective parties' national conventions.
He accepted a proposal from the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, Calif., and the Lyndon Johnson presidential library in Austin, Tex., for town halls in July. "The American people deserve a great debate about the future of our country, and we hope that Barack Obama will join us for these important events at these historic venues," his campaign said in a statement.
He also scheduled the next of the series of 10 he has proposed for every Thursday for next week in Minnesota -- and challenged Obama to show up. And his campaign manager, Rick Davis, wrote a letter to his counterpart in the Obama campaign, David Plouffe, saying a counterproposal isn't enough.
The Obama campaign just responded with a statement of its own, saying it had offered to hold a town hall on the economy in July and one on foreign policy in August, besides the three officially sanctioned debates, Sept. 26 in Oxford, Miss., Oct. 7 in Nashville, Tenn., and Oct. 15 in Hempstead, N.Y.
“That package of five engagements would have been the most of any Presidential campaign in the modern era -- offering a broad range of formats -- and representing a historic commitment to openness and transparency," Plouffe said in the statement. “It’s disappointing that Senator McCain and his campaign decided to decline this proposal. Apparently they would rather contrive a political issue than foster a genuine discussion about the future of our country."
McCain, in town halls Thursday afternoon in Nashua, N.H., Thursday night in New York, and today in Pemberton, N.J., is arguing that such events are far more useful for voters than the gotcha campaigning going on, when every slip of the tongue is blown out of proportion.
McCain benefited by having the New York one shown on Fox News Channel, but Democrats are accusing him of misleading viewers. His campaign billed the gathering as one of Democrats and independents, but Fox News acknowledged at the end of the broadcast that the audience was made up of invited guests and supporters. The Democratic National Committee sent out a clip of that clarification.
"Once again John McCain's campaign is trying to mislead the American people," DNC Chairman Howard Dean said in a statement. "Senator McCain should understand that after seven years of a President who has divided Americans and pursued a scorched earth policy full of misleading propaganda campaigns, we need a leader who understands he is the President for all Americans not just his supporters. Copying the Bush campaign model of stacking events with his prescreened supporters is not the transparency Americans are looking for. If that is Senator McCain's idea of straight talk, the American people are in for a long and disappointing campaign season."
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.